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Dodgers hope for smooth opening

Executives will find out whether stadium upgrades make a difference to fans in team's home opener today.

April 04, 2014|Mike Hiserman
  • Some fans encountered difficulty reaching Dodger Stadium in a timely manner during last week's Freeway Series. The team is working to avoid a repeat of the problem for Friday afternoon's home opener.
Some fans encountered difficulty reaching Dodger Stadium in a timely manner… (Jon SooHoo / Dodgers )

A capacity crowd will be ready for some baseball as the Dodgers play their home opener Friday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants.

Whether the Dodgers were ready for all of those fans will be determined by what happens before, during and after the game.

Along with spending for the product on the field -- the richest collection of talent in baseball history -- the Dodgers have invested more than $150 million the last two seasons on the ballpark itself, upgrading the infrastructure and adding some fan-friendly features.

However, the extent those enhancements will be fully appreciated probably depends on what people experience as they attempt to park, enter the stadium, eat, visit the restrooms and use their cellphones.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 05, 2014 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Dodgers championships: An article in the April 4 Sports section about renovations to Dodger Stadium reported that the franchise had won three World Series titles in Brooklyn and three in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won one World Series championship in Brooklyn and five since their move to L.A.

During last week's Freeway Series against the Angels, thousands of fans were stuck in gridlock outside the stadium after the game had started. There were also complaints about delays entering the stadium at games and at an event for season-ticket holders on the day before the Series opener.

As she walked the stadium grounds Thursday, Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers' executive supervising the renovations, acknowledged some of the problems fans have experienced and said the Freeway Series exposed issues that needed to be addressed.

"In the old days, it was the team that needed to practice," she said. "Now it's us."

Traffic flow and parking are challenges the franchise has been grappling with for years, Smith said. "Everyone has tried," she added, referring to other ownership groups. "But we are really trying."

There are five main entrance and exit routes from the stadium parking lots -- one more than there have been in recent years. Team officials decided to reopen a route using Scott Avenue off Stadium Way, a move that pleased some residents of the area and angered others.

Smith said the Dodgers are encouraging fans to use "The Dodger Stadium Express," a complimentary shuttle service from and to the Patsaouras Transit Plaza near the east portal of Union Station. The shuttle is free with a Dodgers game ticket, $1.50 without a ticket, and service starts 90 minutes before game time and ends 45 minutes after the final pitch. Parking at Union Station is $6.

The most obvious changes inside the stadium are around the outfield areas, where fans with tickets for seats in the field, loge, club, dugout and pavilion levels have access to expansive plazas beyond right and left field. Each area has a team store, a bar and a variety of concessions. The plaza in right field is home to the new Tommy Lasorda's Italian Trattoria, which offers pizza, sandwiches, a pasta platter and even Lasorda wine -- at $9.50 a glass.

A new walkway allows fans with tickets on the field, loge and club levels to circle the field inside the stadium for the first time, with potential stops at lounge areas overlooking both bullpens.

Throughout the 52-year-old stadium are reminders of the club's rich history, with photo and memorabilia displays, replicas of World Series rings -- the three from the Brooklyn years are outside the stadium, the three from Los Angeles are inside -- Gold Glove awards and monuments acknowledging Dodgers whose numbers have been retired. There are also large children's play areas.

"Fans now expect more than to just get their tickets scanned and go directly to their seats," Smith said.

But can fans expect, for the price of their parking and game ticket, everything to run smoothly?

Smith sounded a little like Don Mattingly might when talking about his team.

"We hope so," she said. "That's why it was good to have those exhibition games. So we know where we are."

--

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

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