A rendering of Dodgers Stadium after renovations, including LED boards. (Photo by Los Angeles Dodgers)
Sports and passion go hand in hand. Fans develop special relationships with their team. Whether attending every game a season, or making a yearly pilgrimage to walk through a venue’s gates fosters the connection, fans end up making a bond with not only the team, but the stadium that houses it.
While this connection between fan and stadium can be great for establishing loyalty, it can lead to problems when it’s time to renovate, or change, the venue. This year, some iconic brands are involved in renovation or construction.
Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers chose the renovation route, pumping $100 million into the 50-year-old Dodger Stadium. The National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings have opted for a different route. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is hard at work on plans for a multipurpose, $975-million stadium to replace the Metrodome.
Both stadiums have storied histories and passionate fans, and there are reasonable explanations for making completely different decisions.
A lot is changing at 1000 Elysian Park Ave. in Los Angeles. After a tough few years with fan injuries and team ownership scandals, Guggenheim Group has secured ownership and re-vamped the roster.
Keeping the same stadium, but adding much-needed safety features, technology upgrades, and amenities, was just one way to remind the fans that it’s the same Dodgers brand they’ve come to know and love.
“We’re blessed with having this historic, iconic brand that has a unique relationship with its fan base,” said Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten. “Those people have come to love this stadium in a way that people don’t have a connection with with other stadiums.”
“We were trying to walk that line and keep a balance between maintaining the things that people love while still giving them the modern experience,” he added.
The Dodgers brought on Janet Marie Smith as Sr. VP of planning and development in part for her history with renovating iconic facilities. She had been heavily involved in the updates made at Fenway Park in Boston.
“My biggest asset to Dodger Stadium is the fact that I know it as a fan, first,” said Marie Smith, who used to attend games in the 80s.
Architects for the renovation include Boston-based D’Agostino Izzo Quirk, and Los Angeles’ Levin & Associates. Mia Lehrer + Associates took care of landscape design around the facility.
Besides the history of the stadium with the brand, the capacity of the stadium played a role in the decision to renovate as opposed to demolish. The number of seats in the stadium will stay the same at 56,000.
Though every level of the building is being touched by renovation, the footprint of the actual stadium will not significantly increase.
The Minnesota Vikings represent the other side of the spectrum. Plans for the new stadium, being referred to as The People’s Stadium, are well underway with construction beginning in the fall. Plans to demolish the Metrodome are scheduled for a tentative January 2014.
The Metrodome, built in 1982 for $55 million, is the only stadium to have hosted MLB’s All-Star Game, two World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Final Four NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. It has held concerts by legends and hosts dozens of community events each year.
So why blow up ‘the Marshmallow’ — the nickname bestowed upon the venue by Minnesota fans in honor of its inflatable roof?
According to Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair at Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) that owns and operates both the Metrodome and the new building, renovating the dome was never really an option.
“It was pretty clear that the basic configuration that we have here at the Metrodome was not going to be able to be retrofited to meet the needs of the NFL football experience,” she said. “All the new stadiums just have a lot more public space, a lot more amenities within the facility for fans and premium seatholders, and also general amenities for the public.”
The Metrodome is about 975,000 square feet. The new stadium is estimated to be 1.5-1.6 million square feet. And though the new stadium will be set up to host the same number of fans as the Metrodome at 65,000, The People’s Stadium will have the capability to expand to a capacity of 73,000 for a potential Super Bowl.
HOMAGE TO HISTORY
Whether stadiums undergo renovation or a team decides to build an entirely new facility, there is always the question of how to respectfully pay tribute to the past.
For the Dodgers, it’s all about educating future fans on the club’s past.
“We have little areas combining history with retired numbers and oversized rings, baseball themes,” said Kasten. “We’ll combine history and things of interest for kids.”
Marie Smith added that there will be oversized bobbleheads on the Reserve Level. The Club Level will include artwork and photos from the Dodgers archives that fans have never had an opportunity to see.
At the People’s Stadium, a Vikings Hall of Fame is in the works.
“That will also be a way to commemorate the Metrodome and all of the many years — which were good years in many ways — of football held at the old ‘Dome,” said Kelm-Helgen. “It will kind of be a bridge that can celebrate what had been there and the long history of the Vikings and the community and what it means to Minneapolis.”
The Hall of Fame space would be open year-round, as well as a team store and public plaza.
The stadium’s design will help establish a new fan relationship. HKS, the company that designed Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis served as the architect for the People’s Stadium.
“We’re going to have a large public plaza that will really bring the neighborhood and downtown to the stadium, and there will be all kinds of walking paths, bike trails and sidewalks that lead us to those neighborhoods,” said Kelm-Helgen.
The new stadium will also be multipurpose, with the ability to accommodate soccer and baseball, as well as concerts and other events. With the opportunity for more events and more community inclusion, Kelm-Helgen said she thinks the neighborhood will rally around the new venue.
Interviewed for this story: Stan Kasten and Janet Marie Smith, (323) 224-1301; Michele Kelm-Helgen, (612) 335-3319