A byproduct of the pandemic-truncated 2020 season was that no fans got to see the $100 million upgrades to Dodger Stadium. That changes Friday with the home opener, though not quite in its fullest form just yet.
Around 15,000 fans will be allowed in for games to start the season, between 25-30 percent of capacity at Dodger Stadium. That could change by June 15, the date California Governor Gavin Newsom tentatively set on Tuesday to fully reopen the state “if vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated; and if hospitalization rates are stable and low.”
But even with limited capacity, fans will be able to fully traverse around Dodger Stadium for the first time since it opened in 1962, thanks to a new center field plaza and four new elevators (two each near the left and right field foul poles). The headliner is the new center field entrance, which serves as entry into the park but also has been called the new front door of the stadium.
The highlights include memorabilia spread throughout the stadium, including the 2020 World Series trophy on display, two new sports bars on either end of the center field plaza, under the pavilions, each one with a ceiling-high window into the respective bullpen. But there are also the home run seats in the front of the pavilion plus standing room and accessible seats in the back of the pavilion.
“There are three distinct kids areas in center field, with casual play equipment. We want to make certain that not only is there a place for families to come and for young kids to get their jitters out and enjoy being at Dodger Stadium,” said Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers executive vice president of planning and development who has also overseen the creation of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the renovation of Fenway Park. “We send a clear message that this is a family-friendly place, and the kind of atmosphere here is one for all generations to enjoy.”
On a very general level, most of the additions sort of surround the action, giving people different options depending on their preference or perhaps interest in the game. All while keeping the iconic nature of Dodger Stadium, the third-oldest ballpark in the majors, intact.
“If you’re sitting in the bowl, you won’t notice really anything different,” said Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten. “It will be as comfortable and familiar as it has been for 60 years.”
Among the new additions in the center field plaza, just along the right field side, is Shake Shack, which like Dunkin Donuts, entered into a partnership with the Dodgers.
Next to the visitors bullpen pic.twitter.com/CXo2vKnRki— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) April 7, 2021
But given the current restrictions on capacity, Shake Shack and some of the new restaurants won’t be open right away, though fans will still be able to walk around and through the entire center field plaza, which is connected to both sides of the ballpark.
Kasten said he hoped all the features of the center field plaza will be fully available some time between May 1 and June 15.
Since I don’t have a good camera, here are a few links to media from others who were at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday for you to peruse.
April 7, 2021
Here is another thread with several photos from Matthew Moreno at Dodger Blue. This is the first tweet:
New Dodger Stadium “front door” in center field. pic.twitter.com/h4pMPcDFTl— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) April 7, 2021
Here’s video from Nick Hamilton as well:
A sneak preview of the new state of the art sports bar at Dodger Stadium.— Nick Hamilton (@NickHamilton213) April 7, 2021
In left field pavilion with an inside view of the #Dodgers bullpen pic.twitter.com/i1tN2xnJQd
- Bill Shaikin at the Los Angeles Times profiled Janet Marie Smith, who said, “We weren’t looking to create a theme park. We were looking to create the kind of amenities that other ballparks have, but in a way that respected the original architecture of Dodger Stadium.” Shaikin’s story also has video.
- J.P. Hoornstra at the Orange County Register wrote about how Dodger Stadium has been upgraded for the future but still looks like the past.
- If you are at Dodger Stadium this weekend, the Dodgers are trying to streamline the concession process by directing people to Dodgers.com/food, trying to avoid some of the delays and concourse backup seen this weekend other ballparks.