Dodgers Stadium, the epic challenge of baseball’s first temples

From the Los Angeles stadium to today, building techniques have changed and sport venues have become modern and sustainable.

It’s an icon of American sports. An infrastructure that has become a symbol and tells the recent history of a country and of one of its most beloved sports. And also an example of one of the great public works built in Los Angeles since the 1960s that made it the city it is today.  The Dodgers stadium is all of the above combined. Inaugurated in 1962 it is the US third-oldest stadium still in use and the home of the Major League team Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was initially designed to be expanded and hold up to 85,000 seats, but city hall never varied its initial permit that limits seats to 56,000, and so each time new seats are added, old ones are removed. Its longevity is due mainly to the owners care for their stadium and maintenance they put in it. It gets a new coat of paint every year, and a full time team of gardeners cares for the field.  But it’s its past, more than its present, that is striking, for it tells one of the greatest American success stories and love of the sport.

How the Dodgers Stadium was born

In 1957 tycoon Dodger Walter O’Malley announced he wanted to build a baseball stadium in Brooklyn, New York City. But the project does not take off, so O’Malley leaves New York for California.  At the time, LA did not have a major league team yet. So O’Malley purchased the minor league team Los Angeles Angels, promising to grow it and give it its own stadium. In those years LA was experiencing a population and urban boom, and the land earmarked for the stadium was instead reserved to houses and schools by the Federal Housing Act of 1949. To get around this obstacle and let O’Malley build in the Chavez neighborhood, a referendum was held and once the motion passed the Dodgers, as the team was not called in honor of its new owner, were able to buy 352 acres of land and begin construction of their stadium.

A majestic public work for the citizenship

Building such a majestic stadium in Elysian Hills, as the area is called, was certainly no easy task. Work began on September 17, 1959, on a project designed by the team’s owner and the civil engineer Emil Praeger. The biggest challenge was the mountainous nature of the terrain that forced workers to literally move mountains.  By the end of construction, 8 million cubic meters of dirt and rock had been moved, and the most advanced machines of the time were used to level the hills around the stadium. The stadium itself was basically carved into the rock after the peak of a mountain was leveled. Some 40,000 cubic meters of concrete and 13 thousand tons of reinforced steel were used to build the theatre holding the seats.

Stadiums, these grandiose monuments to the passion for sport

Over the years, construction methods and techniques have deeply changed and a project like the Dodgers Stadium, with its huge impact on the community. Today stadiums are monuments to sport and inspired by the most modern principles of environmental sustainability. The Webuild Group, which over the years built many large stadiums, such as the Olimpico in Rome, and the Stadio Meazza San Siro in Milan, realized for the 2022 Football world cup in Qatar one of the most modern football temples.

The Al Bayt Stadium, built in Al Khor, holds 60,000 people. Its structure, shaped like a bedouin tent, was put together in such a way it can be disassembled and donated to developing countries that need sport infrastructure. The stadium was awarded the GSAS 4Stars, one of the highest sustainability standards, by the Gulf Organization for Research & Development. The award is predicated on a broad-based concept of sustainability. In addition to traditional energy criteria, efficiency and safety, other elements are included, such as the ability to reuse the structures, the preservation of the local flora and fauna, the development of local resources and economies, the respect of local culture, roots and traditions. This is the new frontier of these modern infrastructures transformed into monuments to sport.