Envisioning a Ballpark
Chavez Ravine was a difficult site because of a network of washes, gullies and gulches that were interlaced with hills and twisting roads. Elevations in the ravine ranged from 400 feet to 700 feet above sea level.
In order to compensate for this rough terrain, more than 8 million cubic yards of earth was moved to reshape the area. The steeply terraced bowl of the towering hillside site became an integral part of the main grandstand structure and located the stands on a slope in the shelter of the U-shaped hill.
Next, the Northern face of the rock and sandstone hill was cut down and shaped into a rough amphitheater and benches were cut into the sloping floor to support the stadium foundations and pedestals. To control erosion, a two inch-thick concrete was sprayed over the area. The 124-foot-high grandstand has three major cantilever tiers built on 78 precast bents.
“It’s still the most beautiful ballpark in the major leagues,” said Dodger Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said. “Over the years, the backdrop beyond the outfield has increased in beauty and the landscape is so inspiring, especially at twilight on those cool summer evenings. There isn’t anything to distract a baseball fan when coming to a game at Dodger Stadium. The ballpark is surrounded by beauty and everyone can focus on the game. Even fortysomething years after it was built, the stadium is a tribute to Walter O’Malley’s vision.”
When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958, there were many suggestions about the design of the new ballpark. O’Malley left New York after an exhaustive 10-year campaign to replace Ebbets Field, a cozy but aging facility in the middle of a Flatbush neighborhood which had a 32,000-seat capacity and parking for 700 cars.
As the Dodgers’ legal counsel, O’Malley penned a letter on Oct. 14, 1946 to Emil Praeger, a distinguished Navy captain who developed the original design of the concrete floating breakwater during World War II. Praeger, who was in charge of all engineering projects for the Department of Parks in New York City, also played major roles designing the renovation of the White House and the Los Angeles Public Library.
Of a potential new ballpark in Brooklyn, O’Malley wrote: “They say everything happens in Brooklyn, but here is something that didn’t. Your fertile imagination should have some ideas about enlarging or replacing our current stadium …”O’Malley letter to Capt. Emil Praeger, October 14, 1946
Praeger didn’t get a chance to build a ballpark in Brooklyn, but O’Malley received a sneak preview of Praeger’s capacity when the two teamed to build a 5,000-seat facility at the Dodgers’ spring training headquarters in Vero Beach, FL. Holman Stadium, which opened in 1953 and remains the centerpiece of the modern-day training complex, was the first major improvement on the Dodgertown property, a former naval air station.
During his negotiations with New York officials, O’Malley also met with Los Angeles representatives after the 1956 World Series. On a May 2, 1957 helicopter tour, O’Malley was shown the land where he immediately envisioned freeway access from all directions. The Dodgers traveled to Japan following the 1956 World Series. O’Malley was inspired by the ground-level seats at Korakuen Stadium and would incorporate “Dugout” seats in his Dodger Stadium plans.