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Baseball season starts in five days. Stadiums across the country are getting ready — but perhaps none with the flurry of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles where it’s a race against the clock to finish up a $100 million upgrade.
The stadium — in Chavez Ravine near downtown L.A. — is vintage 1962. It’s outdated and heavily used. Baseball fans complained about the long lines at concessions, too few bathrooms and congested parking.
But now the stadium has new owners and they’re putting a lot of cash into upgrading their facilities. This is the “most substantial investment that any team has made this year in any of their buildings,” says Janet Marie Smith, senior vice president of planning and development.
Smith can be counted as one of the investments — she’s the go-to architect for baseball stadiums across the country. Her past gigs include the Boston Red Sox home Fenway Park, the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field, and most recently, the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards. “Baseball in particular attracts all ages, generations, socio-economic differences, educational differences and we’re all here rooting for the same thing.”
Smith was hired in August and immediately got to work on planning renovations for the stadium. Crews are working 24 hours a day to be finished in time for Friday’s exhibition game.
And the projects on her list? Creating more bathrooms, for one. “I’m going to eat my hat if any lady has to stand in line,” she says. “Nobody goes to the game to stand in line.” Many of the improvements came from fan feedback. Smith has focused on making the stadium more family friendly. She’s updated technology like adding wifi, and making navigation inside the stadium easier. She’s also found ways to highlight the Dodgers’ history wherever possible through murals and displays.
With a shiny renovated stadium and a bunch of high-priced free agents on the roster, it promises to be a fruitful season for Dodger fans.