March 29, 2013 - From the April, 2013 issue

Dodger Stadium Architectural Team Met Opening Day Challenges

This is TPR’s second in a series of interviews with Los Angeles Dodgers management (Stan Kasten and Janet Marie Smith) and the architectural and design team (Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates ArchitectsTommy Quirk of DAIQand Mia Lehrer of Mia Lehrer + Associates). The latter were employed to execute north of a $100 million of stadium improvement and enhancements. The following interview of Tommy Quirk focuses upon DAIQ design and supervision of the new Dodger clubhouse and related Dodger team facilities. March interviews on TPR website.


Tommy Quirk

The team is the primary focus of the fan experience; the fans are here to see the ball team. But then the experiences around the game are basically what we were charged with addressing. In every case, we were asked (even our firm that’s doing mostly work related to the ball team) to think about all of the spaces and the procession of spaces as you enter a facility. -Tommy Quirk

Tommy, as the principal of one of two architect firms (DAIQ and Levin & Associates) retained by the Dodgers to upgrade Dodger Stadium, let’s begin with your history with baseball parks in concert with Dodgers President, Stan Kasten, EVP for Business, Bob Wolfe and SVP for Planning, Janet Marie Smith.

Tommy Quirk: Well, we first met Stan, Bob, and Janet at least 16 or 17 years ago when we were engaged to work on Turner Field in Atlanta. This was right after the Olympics. My partners and I, Chuck Izzo and Bruno D’Agostino, had at that time about 20 years of experience doing retail centers. Janet had come to us looking for some help in designing a public space that would create a public plaza as a kind of entering event to the ballpark. We didn’t actually start off with any input whatsoever in the design of the stadium. But we were engaged to create public spaces and to create an experience for the fans at Turner Field that suggested a similar sort of public experience that fans had at Eutaw Street in Camden Yards, which is an extension of a public street.

Turner Field, Atlanta

The challenge in Atlanta is that the ballpark is basically located in the middle of a parking lot. So we were trying to create public spaces adjacent to the ballpark that you would enter into on your way there. After that, our participation in the project expanded to other public spaces within the ballpark, where we worked with the stadium architects to carve out different fan experiences such as the Chophouse restaurant in centerfield, the Braves Hall of Fame hall of fame areas where artifacts were displayed, and Scouts’ Alley, a kids’ areas. Basically, we worked with Stan, Bob, and Janet to create a web of fan experiences around the ballpark, independent of the game itself.

Please elaborate on how the goal of enhancing the fan experience independent of the game—Camden Yards’ Eutaw Street, Turner Field, Fenway Park, and now Dodgers Stadium—is accomplished.

Tommy Quirk: I think in a time when all baseball parks were downtown and integrated into neighborhoods, there was a fan experience that began long before you actually got to the park. This is still true of Fenway Park and some other downtown stadiums—since Camden Yards this has all been recreated. But during the period where downtown ballparks had disappeared and the great concrete bowls of the 60s and 70s were built, in a lot of ways the experience was removed from the city. So all of the fan experiences that occurred as you arrived by subway, walked, came to the neighborhood, went to the local bar or restaurant before you got to the ballpark—all of those kinds of fan experiences had disappeared from being related to the ballgames themselves.

Boston and Chicago never really lost this neighborhood experience at Fenway Park or at Wrigley Field since most people still arrive to those games by public transportation. The challenge in places where most people arrive by car, and Dodger Stadium is one of those places, is that you want to try to create a web of experiences around the game that enhance the whole experience of going to the game. Yes, watching the game is a primary experience; you really want to see people play baseball. But the beauty of baseball is that there are periods during the game that you can talk to your companion and walk around, and it doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the game. The way the game is set up, during the change of innings you can talk about what happened in the previous inning, you can speculate about what’s going to happen. Baseball is beautiful in that way that almost no other game is.

Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, when it housed the Dodgers, certainly was part of a vibrant neighborhood; its successor park in Chavez Ravine, on the other hand, is not an urban-centric park. How will the plans and physical improvements being made this offseason enhance the Dodger fan experience outside the Stadium?

Tommy Quirk: Well, that is the main challenge, and it’s the goal that was set for my firm and for Levin & Associates, the other architects working on the project. Our design challenge is to enhance this web of experiences in and around the ballpark. That involves designing new bathrooms, new concessions, new kids areas, and an area where memorabilia is displayed.

There are long-range plans in the landscaping design to move the experience out from just within the ballpark into the landscape around the ballpark, creating individual places where certain experiences will take place. Some of those have been done for this year; some of those will be completed in succeeding years. But in every case, those experiences will hopefully recreate the kind of informal experiences that one would have had on the way to Ebbets Field or Fenway Park, where you can meet, talk, sit, and do things with your family. It’s not just getting out of your car, going to the game, and getting back in your car.

In your previous interviews (March TPR Interviews with Brenda Levin, Janet Marie Smith, and Mia Lehrer) we’ve talked about the high-tech infrastructure that’s been put in for the video screens, sound systems, new concessions, and dining experiences. But our firm’s focus has been primarily dealing with the team clubhouses.

Complementing fan enhancing improvements is your firm’s design work on a new Dodgers team clubhouse. While not immediately observable by the fans on opening day, share what has been designed and constructed in less than four months.

Tommy Quirk: It has been a challenge because the existing clubhouse was designed in 1962 with only minor improvements at best happening in the succeeding 50 years, to the extent that in comparison with facilities built in the last 20 years, the Dodgers were at somewhat of a disadvantage in terms of their training facilities, their batting cages, and their conditioning spaces. The locker rooms themselves were small and out-of-date.

Dodgers clubhouse plan overlay

We basically have recaptured a lot of space under the seating bowl through some very ingenious structural responses that we’ve worked out with Nabih Youssef & Associates, our engineer here who’s been fantastic on this project. We’ve managed to probably double or almost triple some of the spaces available for the team’s use. That includes, as I said, new batting tunnels (both for the Dodgers and visitors), conditioning rooms with brand new exercise equipment and state-of-the-art medical infrastructure related to conditioning, new hydrotherapy rooms, locker rooms, showers, fantastic storage (they never had enough storage for what they needed), and new facilities for the clubhouse, landscaping, and grounds crew. It has been quite an experience, and the challenge has been, of course, to do all of this in a very compressed period of time. (More on the Dodgers clubhouse at True Blue LA).

For the Dodger Stadium architectural team (DIAQ, Levin, and Lehrer), what’s the degree of difficulty that comes from having less than one off-season to design and build out a new Dodger team clubhouse, enhance stadium public spaces, make nine new structures, and reengineer the stadium’s many entry and exit experiences?

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Tommy Quirk: I would say it’s been exciting and nerve-racking. But it’s been a great experience working with a group of architects who have each taken their different components of the project and worked together—I won’t say seamlessly because it’s always a little rough—but in an enjoyable way, working to get everything integrated into a whole. I would say that it was an ambitious scope of work to be done between October and April.

How long did it take at Atlanta’s Turner Field and Boston’s Fenway Park?

Tommy Quirk: Well, at Fenway we basically took ten years. I wouldn’t say there was ever a complete master plan, but there was a vision the Red Sox worked out at the very beginning, when the ownership took over, of what sort of things might be done to enhance the ballpark and the fan experience. Collaborating with them, we developed individual pieces of work that could be completed between October and April.

Frankly, it’s very difficult to compare what we’ve been challenged to do at Dodger Stadium with Turner and Fenway. Here we’ve had to collapse the scope of work into one year—most of it into one offseason.

If next year you were participating on a national architectural design panel recounting your Dodger Stadium experience this winter in Los Angeles, would you open or close your remarks by affirming that “nothing’s impossible?”

Tommy Quirk: I wouldn’t say you could do anything in five months, but you can do a lot. I think the scope was generous and aggressive, but we’ve all managed to achieve a great deal of what the original vision contained in the first year. I don’t think anyone ever thought it would all be achieved in the first year. What we’ve done is focus on what was achievable in the first year and teed up (to use a golf metaphor) the items that can be pursued in later years.

Last month, TPR’s featured interview with Janet Marie Smith, Brenda Levin, and Mia Lehrer elaborated on the driving vision and goals of the Stadium project. Please add your own take on what ownership’s instructions were and how the latter guided your firm’s work on this ambitious project?

Tommy Quirk: Dodger ownership’s vision has focused on the fan experience, enhanced through the physical qualities of the ballpark, which we can contribute to, as well as the investments in the team that they’ve made in terms of the players and everything else. The team is the primary focus of the fan experience; the fans are here to see the ball team. But then the experiences around the game are basically what we were charged with addressing. In every case, we were asked (even our firm that’s doing mostly work related to the ball team) to think about all of the spaces and the procession of spaces as you enter a facility.

Whether that is the public, meaning people coming through on a tour, or the press coming in to interact with the players, in creating spaces it was always geared toward making the interaction of the team with the public—that whole experience—better. (Stan Kasten and Janet Marie Smith expand upon new Dodger Stadium amenities).

The architectural team assembled has one experience in common: all of you have worked or studied in Boston-Cambridge. Does that necessarily mean that if the Dodgers play in the World Series this year, you may all be conflicted?

Tommy Quirk: That’s a trick question, David, because it depends, of course, on who they’re playing against! Yes, I have become a Dodgers fan having had this experience and having met some of the wonderful people working with the Dodgers organization. Of course, half the present team used to be Red Sox players. That said, if they play the Red Sox I personally might have some divided loyalties. I don’t want to say any more than that.

One last question: How would you hope the press would headline a featured story focused on the Dodger ownership’s investment of north of $100 million in the stadium and the build out in less than five months?

Tommy Quirk: Understanding what Stan and the ownership told the city about their goals when they bought the team, which were to try to recapture Dodger glory—to rebuild the team, the ballpark, and the fan experience—I would like to see a headline that says, if nothing else, “Dodgers Take First Step to New Heights.” Because they certainly have done that. They’ve laid the groundwork both in what we’ve done here on the ballpark and what they’ve done with the team to bring back everything that the Dodgers have meant to the people of Los Angeles but also to the people of Brooklyn. I hope they achieve that.

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© 2014 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.