The Artful Dodger
By Kevin Roderick –
In 50 years, more than 176 million fans have entered the turnstiles at Dodger Stadium, the mid-century modern ballpark nestled in Los Angeles’s Chavez Ravine. Taking a page from stat-happy baseball, we run the numbers on the past five decades of this architectural and sporting icon.
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- When owner Walter O’Malley moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, he envisioned the as-yet-unbuilt Dodger Stadium with water features, Disneyland-style trams, and 80,000 seats in "an outdoor cathedral of trees." He settled for 56,000 (unobstructed) seats and scattered palms.
- O’Malley neglected to put public drinking fountains or electrical outlets in the clubhouses, so the park opened on April 10, 1962, without either. They were added later.
- The stadium’s terraced parking lots can accommodate 16,000 cars and, thanks to Union 76—the park’s biggest financier—originally featured a gas station onsite.
- To reshape mountainous Chavez Ravine, a fleet of Euclid graders moved 8,000,000 cubic yards of earth.
- Construction took 375,000 board-feet of lumber, 40,000 cubic yards of con- crete, and 13,000,000 pounds of steel rebar. Work crews cast and cured more than 25,000 concrete pieces onsite in special beds for the 124-foot-high grandstand.
- Set side by side, the park’s American Seating Company chairs would stretch for 33 miles. Installation required 546 tons of cast iron and three tons of aluminum nuts and bolts.
- The park’s architect, Emil Praeger, also designed floating concrete breakwaters for the Normandy invasion in World War II. He was a consulting engineer on a 1940s renovation of the White House and was chief engineer on the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York state.
- The stadium’s highest-tech improvements have been to the field itself: Bermuda grass, grown on sand, is tended by a computer-managed irrigation and drainage system installed after the 1995 season. In a 2003 Sports Illustrated poll, Dodger Stadium was ranked by Major Leaguers as the "best-quality playing field."
- Alterations in the 2000s widened concourse walkways, shrank the field’s extensive foul territory, and more than doubled the number of restrooms and concession stands. But a visitor from 1962 would still recognize the pastel palette and the iconic butterfly awnings over the right- and left-field pavilions.
- The original hexagonal scoreboards above the outfield stands—the world’s largest when they were installed in the ’60s, according to the Dodgers—held 17,000 light bulbs each. Since 2003, though, a giant DodgerVision video board has loomed over left field, and a new scoreboard that mimics the original towers sits in right field.
- A new group of owners, including Los Angeles basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson, bought the team in 2012 and have vowed not to alter the facility’s style.