Before this year, I had been to Dodger Stadium twice.
The first time I went to Dodger Stadium, the smell in the parking lot was so bad that I literally took some fruit roll-ups that I had been carrying as a snack and stuffed them into my nose. The outfield scoreboard was a dimly lit thing that looked ashamed to call itself a scoreboard. There was no security to speak of and the place was basically empty with a crowd totaling somewhere underneath 30K, but it still took forever to get in and out of the parking lot.
The second time was less memorable, though it was notable in that the crowd was noticeably louder when a beach ball landed on the field than they were for any particular play during the game. The unlit parking lot was not attended by attendants and the "attendants" who were there were literally evil looking people. Like they looked like they wanted to commit crimes throughout life and later happily descend into hell.
You couple that with a few bad apples, and I haven't exactly been anxious to get back to Chavez Ravine, despite my living just up the 5 in Burbank.
So yeah, I have my take on Dodger Stadium.
All that said, I went again on Thursday and Saturday and I'm pleased (as a person who thinks inanimate objects and places should take pride in their appearances a little bit) to say that Dodger Stadium, while retaining the qualities of an old timey time ballpark, is notably cleaner and less smelly (though the food really isn't much to speak of), and overall, a perfectly fine ballpark to visit as a visiting fan (though I didn't see many Padres fans around).
Now granted, on Thursday in particular, I was sitting in very nice seats thanks to a vendor who wanted to show me (and my day job work team) a good time. Section 109, Row A. Essentially the field level, just behind where the really rich seats were. The usher was extremely friendly and the people in the very nice seats just weren't as loud and obnoxious as they might be in other rowdier parts of the ballpark. After an few innings, I went up to the Stadium Club with our group and we got treated to the all you can eat buffet.
The all you can eat buffet at the Stadium Club looks impressive. It's all stylish with imitation Eames chairs and stuff like that. And the food looks and is described as being delectable, but it's really not. The service is top notch and the view isn't bad, but the best thing on the menu is the Dodger Dog. And that's just a steamed overlong hot dog when it gets down to it.
I tried the tri-tip, the cod, the pork chops, a (way-too-spicy) coleslaw, a pizza with bacon and like raisins or something on it, the cheese, the yams with marshmallows that were pretending to be churros... I basically tried a bunch of stuff and, while I could see why the food was expensive, it just didn't taste very good together. There's something poetic in that. It's not unlike the Dodgers players themselves. You just get the most expensive ingredients and slap some fancy marketing on top and hope for a World Series.
Dodger Stadium Club Food Review: Put a ton of pricey crap on a pizza crust. Hope it works. Not unlike actual team. pic.twitter.com/JIfpR8mYn2— Gaslamp Ball (@gaslampball) July 12, 2014
In any case, the Dodger Dog and nachos I had during Saturday's game were more than ballpark enough for me. Maybe that's why the current Petco Park food offering works. Ballpark food can't be too fancy, but it's OK for it to be delicious (Hodad's, Phil's, Lucha Libre, etc).
The new lighting and scoreboards were really remarkable. My six year old was transfixed watching the between inning games on them. They lit the place up amazingly. They have some version of a Pad Squad thing going with between innings hosts. The Kiss Cam is a thing there as is a hat shuffle that has not just three, but four hats to choose from, and at one point, the hat hiding the ball passes the ball to a different hat. The Seven Nation Army rally graphic is pretty interesting to watch. But despite all the fancy graphics on the scoreboards and the billion dollars worth of baseball talent on the field, there were still plenty of beach balls being bounced around and paper airplanes floating from the upper decks. The beach balls were all from the 99 cent store. I know this because they all said "99 cent store" on them. Creative marketing?
Elliott eating a pretzel. Being surrounded by Dodger Fan not getting in the way of his culinary baseball enjoyment. pic.twitter.com/cs2IPqRH7l— Gaslamp Ball (@gaslampball) July 13, 2014
On the way out on Thursday, I spotted Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Actually, "spotted" is a little inaccurate. I was walking and almost bumped into him as if he were somebody that I could somehow not see. I credit it with not truly believing he was real. Me being somewhere very medium sized and Kareem being over seven feet tall made it so that even being a good fifteen feet apart from each other on the concourse, I had to crane my head up to look up at his face and his chin touched his chest as he looked down and smiled pleasantly. It may be that my mind was properly blown from the experience, but I would've sworn that his entourage was a pair of middle aged Mexican women. The things you notice, I guess.
Here's the other thing I noticed. On my way to the car after Saturday's game, while wearing a Padres hat, I was very pleasantly helped along by no less than 5 different security guards, ushers and parking lot attendants. It wasn't a Go on, git sort of help along. It was very genuine. People stopping. Asking if we knew were our car was. Telling us to be careful which side of the lot we were walking on because LA drivers can be crazy. Some gentle ribbing from a cop asking if the kids enjoyed themselves even though the Dodgers won. The fans were perfectly fine in that they just generally ignored us.
It was, dare I say it, the most pleasant walk I think I ever could have imagined going through the Dodger's Stadium parking lot. Fruit roll-ups stayed safely stowed away and away from my nostrils. I know Frank McCourt still owns the parking lot, but at least he's not actively shitting all over it like he was before. Cars were amicable to one another on as we left the place. It was weird in how non-threatening it was and summed up a nice visit despite the Padres losing both games I attended.
So, if you're like me and you'd only most recently been to Dodger Stadium during the McCourt years, I'd say go again, but just stick to the hot dog and garlic fries. If you want nice ballpark food, then Petco Park is your place.
My updated Ballpark Baggin' List... Not much has changed over the years though I finally did get to see a game in Anaheim a few years back.
Telephone Park, S.F.
Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA
Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX
LeLacheur Park in Lowell, MA
C.O. Brown Stadium in Battlecreek, MI
Raley Field in Sacramento, CA
Knight's Stadium in Fort Mill, SC
Kino Stadium in Tucson, AZ
Tony Gwynn Stadium
Packard Stadium at ASU
Cal State Fullerton