The Los Angeles Dodgers will open their 2013 season Monday against the World Series champion San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, which underwent $100 million worth of improvements during the offseason.
The upgrades -- including new high-definition video boards in left field and right field, wider concourses and expanded restrooms -- will make attending a game "a lot more comfortable, a lot more entertaining and a lot more fun," said team president and CEO Stan Kasten.
The new video boards feature what the team describes as the highest pixel densities in Major League Baseball. Both displays are designed in the hexagonal shape of the stadium's original scoreboard and are each approximately 2,488 square feet. The active viewing areas will be 66 percent larger than the previous board.
A new sound system directed to each seating section will minimize echoes.
Between two and four rows of seats were removed from the back of the field, loge, reserve and upper reserve levels to provide more walking space on each concourse, along with more wheelchair locations and "drink rails" for fans who leave their seats during the game to walk around the stadium.
Also removed were 426 club seats along the foul lines to improve sight lines. The various seat removals will reduce the stadium's capacity to "just under" the previous capacity of 56,000, according to Janet Marie Smith, the team's senior vice president of planning and development, who oversaw the improvements.
All restrooms on the top deck, reserve and loge levels were completely renovated and enlarged. Men's restrooms have twice the number of fixtures required by code, and women's restrooms have 50 percent more fixtures than required.
The restrooms in the pavilions were moved to under the pavilions. Family restrooms have been created on all levels.
The amount of positions for fans in wheelchairs was increased on the loge, reserve and top deck levels. Each position has a companion seat and is positioned so fans have improved views of the game, even if someone in front of them stands up.
Children's play areas were built on the first base and third base sides of the reserve level. Five-foot high sculptures of the team's retired numbers are outside the entrance to the upper reserve level. Life-size replicas of bobbleheads and MVP, Cy Young and Gold Glove awards are at the entry plazas on the reserve levels.
A new retail store was built at the Top of the Park location behind home plate. It will be open daily, along with the Top of the Park ticket office. A second retail store was built on the reserve level on the third base side.
What is described as a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network and cellular antenna system to support cellphone and Internet connectivity from mobile devices is expected to be completed in June. A new electrical power grid with seven new substations was added to accommodate the Wi-Fi network and cellular antenna system.
One objective of the renovations was "to make the park feel safe from the moment" fans arrive, Smith said. Kasten said lighting has been added to the parking lots, and the team has added security staff and implemented new safety procedures that he declined to detail.
"There's not a safer stadium anywhere because we spent a lot of time on the facilities and the procedures to keep everyone safe," Kasten said.
Today marks the first time that since 2011 that the Dodgers will have opened the season against the Giants, their longtime rivals. Bryan Stow, a Santa Cruz paramedic who was wearing Giants apparel, was left brain-damaged in a beating in a Dodger Stadium parking lot following the 2011 opener in what former Dodger general manager Fred Claire called "the saddest chapter in the history of Dodger Stadium."
Kasten expressed confidence that "every fan will feel safe at Dodger Stadium," including those wearing apparel of the visiting team.
The renovations haven't changed what fans have "loved about Dodger Stadium," Kasten said.
"The look and feel inside the ballpark is going to be just as familiar as it's ever been," Kasten said.
Like with most every season, there will be new food options at Dodger Stadium.
The new concession stands are LA Taqueria on the reserve level, whose menu includes fish tacos, "street style" carne asada and pork carnita tacos, and the Elysian Park Grill on the reserve and upper reserve levels, which will offer a "Dodger Blue Heaven Burger," Santa Fe turkey burger and the new Brooklyn Dodger Dog, described as "an East Coast take on the classic Dodger Dog."
Opening day entertainment will begin at 12:15 p.m., including a performance by the Blue Man Group. Dixieland and mariachi bands will perform in the new plaza areas throughout the stadium.
The Dodgers' 1963 and 1988 World Series championship teams will be recognized during the pregame ceremonies. The U.S. Marine Crops Mounted Color Guard, stationed at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, will present the colors riding on Palomino-colored wild mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management's Adopt-A-Horse program.
A giant flag will be unfurled on the field by 150 uniformed personnel from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard during the national anthem.
The game is sold out. Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Auto and stadium gates will open at 10 a.m. For the first time, there will be several carts that will assist in transporting the disabled, senior citizens and families with young children from the parking lots to the ticket gates.
The team is recommending use of transportation alternatives serving Union Station that will connect with the Dodger Stadium Express shuttle bus service, which for the first time will use a dedicated bus lane on Sunset Boulevard from Union Station to Elysian Park Avenue.