When team officials decided to give Dodger Stadium a $50-million face lift, the prime objective was generating more revenue to compete with their baseball brethren.
The off-season renovation project, overseen by Catellus Urban Development Group, came in on time and under budget, breathing new life into the 38-year-old stadium for today's home opener against the Cincinnati Reds.
"We're in a situation where our stadium is the [fifth-] oldest in baseball and we couldn't really compete with the new ballparks in our division," said Derrick Hall, senior vice president of communications. "We were the most antiquated of the bunch.
"So with the premier seating sections, which is really a very small percentage of our fan base here, we did that so in turn we can keep the other prices down."
Only Boston's Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, Chicago's Wrigley Field, 1916, New York's Yankee Stadium, 1923, and Milwaukee's County Stadium, 1953, are older than Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962.
Three of the Dodgers' four National League West rivals are playing in state-of-the-art stadiums. The Colorado Rockies opened Coors Field in 1995, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Bank One Ballpark debuted in 1998 and the San Francisco Giants christened Pacific Bell Park this week. And the San Diego Padres figure to have a new home within three years.
Said Hall, "The one thing that we tried to do was make sure we did not change the look or feel of Dodger Stadium."
When fans file in today, they won't be overwhelmed by the finished product. More likely, they'll be pleasantly surprised, even if the changes affect the high roller more so than the average fan.
The Dodgers tore out some of the club level and put in 35 luxury suites, most of which are already sold out for the season at prices ranging from $125,000 to $300,000. However, some are available on a per-game basis.
The Hollywood set is sure to be a mainstay of the newly installed Dugout Club behind home plate. Nine rows of padded seats were added, putting the first row only 58 feet from home plate. That means the crowd will be closer to the catcher than the pitcher is.
The Dugout Club juts out to the point where fans literally have to look back to see who's on deck and what's going on in dugouts. These tickets, which go for $225 in the first two rows and $195 for the remaining seven rows, are virtually sold out for the season.
Also, three rows of new padded field-level seats, which run from $23 to $40 and run flush with the dugouts, have been added down the foul lines. The Dodgers had previously used that space for temporary playoff seating.
The Stadium Club, a restaurant-bar solely for the use of season-ticket holders, also underwent renovations, and conference rooms and a business center were put on the club level's private concourse.
Yet even with the club level losing seats, Dodger Stadium's capacity of 56,000 remains about the same, what with the added seats behind home plate and down the lines.
But do the added seats, which eat up foul ground, make Dodger Stadium more a hitter's haven than the pitcher's park it has traditionally been?
"It's definitely going to make a difference," closer Jeff Shaw said. "Whenever changes are made to the field or around the field, it's going to affect the game. The question is, how much?"
Catcher Todd Hundley agreed.
"More balls are going to be out of play, and you like that as a hitter," he said. "I wouldn't say it's going to be more of a home run hitter's park, but hitters will get more opportunities."
What about the backstop, and hecklers, being so close this year?
"It really doesn't matter [defensively]," Hundley said. "I mean, there will be less room back there [for balls to bounce around], but you still can't relax.
The Dodgers, the last NL team to open the 2000 season at home, have not seen their renovated stadium yet. In fact, they had to move winter workouts to USC's Dedeaux Field while the tractors and forklifts were having their way with Chavez Ravine. So the Dodgers have yet to see how balls will play off the new synthetic-surface track surrounding the playing field. It replaces the red-earth track that clogged the stadium's 5-year-old irrigation system.
Still, Hall said, all in attendance at Dodger Stadium, not only the players and the gold-plated fans with the new seats, will feel a difference.
"We stepped back and said, 'We're doing things for the premier ticket-holders, but now what can we do for everybody else?' " Hall said. "We wanted to make sure that the other fans were not slighted in any way, so we kept the prices for over half the stadium at six bucks a ticket--we wanted to keep it that way. We kept parking at the same price, we kept food at the same price and we added some new [concessions] around here like Krispy Kreme, King Taco and Subway, which are going to be huge favorites here. So it's worked to their advantage as well."
Times staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.