Dodger Stadium's New Signage Creates "Blue Heaven" Atmosphere
In 1958, when the Dodgers pulled up stakes in Brooklyn and moved approximately 2,500 miles to Los Angeles, the team’s culture changed from being “Da Bums” and second fiddle to the Yankees (and, sometimes, even the third-best team in Gotham behind the Giants, who had yet to move to San Francisco), to having a commanding role in the L.A. sports scene. From Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s tenacity on the mound, to Kirk Gibson’s epic home-run blast in the 1988 World Series, to phenom Yasiel Puig’s explosive rookie season, the Dodgers have added immeasurably to baseball lore.
Although it may not have the voluminous history of Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium ranks among the pantheon of baseball shrines. A trip to the West Coast with my mother in the 1980s included a trip to Dodger Stadium. Although the “in by the third, out by the seventh [inning]” cliché about the team’s distracted fanbase was close to correct, the atmosphere at “Chavez Ravine” remains the most transcendent ballpark experience I’ve encountered.
However, the team’s legacy had recently encountered a rough patch. Former owner Frank McCourt’s revolving door of team executives and managers, as well as a messy – and very public – divorce, and an embezzlement scandal with a team-affiliated charity run by a McCourt associate, tarnished the team’s on-field success and off-field image. Also, the severe beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow by two rogue Dodger fans after a game there brought an onslaught of negative publicity.
The team’s new ownership, Guggenheim Baseball, principally operated by financial-services magnates Todd Boehly and Mark Walter, turned the page by investing aggressively in stadium renovations, which included an ambitious new signage and environmental-graphics design program. Baltimore-based Ashton Design assumed the project’s design phase. The company’s portfolio includes the original signage and graphics for Baltimore’s Camden Yards, as well as components of a 2012 renovation, as well as Fenway Park’s entire sign package.
“Every stadium is different, and every owner has a different vision of how he wants his stadium to look,” Ronnie Younts, Ashton’s creative director, said. “The Dodgers wanted the stadium’s identity to retain its original 1962 [the year Dodger Stadium opened] identity and restore the park’s mid-century aesthetics, while honoring the team’s Brooklyn legacy.”
The project’s results? An ideal integration of fun and function. For the stadium-concourse walkways, Fiberglass Farm (Belfast, ME) built a series of mega-sized, coated-fiberglass “bobbleheads” that are installed on a 1,200-lb., integrated, concrete-filled base and movable via forklifts.
“Fiberglass has tremendous durability; it weathers better than metal or coated urethane,” Mike Hurley, Fiberglass Farm’s owner, said. “More team owners and school officials are investing in these bobbleheads as a fun way to enhance fans’ experiences.”
Triangle Sign and Service (Baltimore) built the retired-player numerals that dot the upper-deck plaza, as well as concession-stand lightboxes and stairwell directional signs. The shop has worked in tandem with Ashton Design on Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Atlanta’s Turner Field. Robert Kaye, Triangle’s executive VP, said nothing was changed from the original design intent to what was fabricated. Ashton provided the artwork as Illustrator or .EPS files.
Triangle built 10 sets of 5-ft.-tall numerals from 0.125-in.-thick aluminum; fabricators routed the faces on a MultiCam 3000 CNC router, shaped them using Petersen Cidan computerized metal folders and secured them to a 2 x 2-in., steel, interior-tube frame. Triangle decorated the numerals with satin-finish Akzo Nobel acrylic-polyurethane paint inside a custom paintbooth.
They fabricated the reserve level and top-deck concession-stand signs’ metal frames by routing and forming them similarly to the numerals. For the faces, Triangle machine-cut Spartech’s Sta-Tuf® V3 high-impact thermoplastic alloy, and applied epoxy-bonded, routed, painted acrylic letters.
“Stadium-project turnarounds are usually tight,” Kaye said. “For this job, we had four weeks. But the visibility of these jobs always makes the challenges worthwhile.”
As with most grand-scale projects, the job involved a veritable cast of thousands. Other contractors involved included:
• Art Mortimer, a well-known, Southern California muralist, who painted several murals, such as the field-level entrance that proclaims, “Welcome to Blue Heaven on Earth”, and a “Welcome” message (subtitled in Spanish, Korean and Japanese as a nod to the Dodgers’ multicultural devotees), which is painted outside the field-level concourse, which highlights the team’s six World Series championships, and several others that commemorate team milestones or complement wayfinding graphics.
“We considered hiring a digital-print provider, but we thought handpainted murals provided a classic, more permanent look,” Younts said.
• So Cal Signs & Graphics (Torrance, CA) fabricated and installed loge- and reserve-level directional signs and numerals, as well as overhead-ID and directional signage within the clubhouses;
• Jones Sign Co. (DePere, WI) fabricated four, sponsorship-ad signs that stand 60 ft. tall on either side of the stadium’s scoreboard; the gigantic, Dodger Stadium sign that spans 125 ft. across the stadium’s deck; and the plaza sculptures that replicate the Dodgers’ two-tiered, “LA” logo;
• Urban Neon (Holmes, PA) fabricated the concession-ID signs at the top and sides of the new buildings, as well as the concession-stand menuboards and magnetic-insert panels;
• M & M Signs and Graphics (Chantilly, VA) fabricated the Dodger logo panels, as well as renditions of the team’s historic hat and jersey panels.