The new Dodgers ownership group has been very busy lately, adding Hanley Ramirez, Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino to the roster.
But all of those moves pale by comparison to today's big acquisition. In a coup, the Dodgers have obtained stadium designer Janet Marie Smith from the Baltimore Orioles, presumably for an architect to be named later.
Smith is best known as the driving force behind the massively influential Oriole Park at Camden Yards. She's also responsible for Turner Field in Atlanta and the recent renovations at Fenway Park.
So what does she have in mind for Dodger Stadium?
Smith moved to L.A. in the 1980s to head up efforts to revive Pershing Square. She lived in Silver Lake at the time and began to frequent nearby Dodger Stadium. That turned her into a baseball fan and led to her career in stadium design. So this is a homecoming. In the years since, she has since let it be known that she is a fan of Dodger Stadium, referring to it as “a perfect 60's building.”
Smith is known as a champion of downtown stadiums, and of weaving a ballpark into an urban fabric. The Dodgers are not going to move downtown any time soon, but there's a good chance that the new owners want to bring downtown to the Dodgers. Working in partnership with Frank McCourt, they may well attempt to develop the vast parking lots with shops, restaurants and condos. Smith would be an invaluable part of that effort.
Smith has considered this possibility before. In 1997, the L.A. Times opinion page asked her and several other designers what, if anything, could be built in Chavez Ravine. Here's what she wrote:
The popularity of in-town neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Echo Park, and the emergence of development around Union Station, City Hall and Chinatown support the notion that a properly planned, mixed-use development could co-exist with Dodger Stadium on the 365-plus acres of Chavez Ravine, comfortably providing needed parking for business, residential, entertainment and baseball alike.
If that's what she has in mind now, she and the Dodgers are keeping quiet about it. In a statement issued today, Smith says she intends to “restore and enhance the park in a way that honors its heritage and highlights its distinctive appeals, while still capturing what fans want and franchises need in a modern venue.”
Good luck. Start with the bathrooms.