Janet Marie Smith’s vision is all over this World Series: she helped renovate Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error BOSTON — They might be the true stars of this World Series – 106-year-old Fenway Park and 56-year-old Dodger Stadium.They are two of the three oldest stadiums in the majors (Wrigley Field opened 104 years ago). But the iconic venues have never looked better in their long histories. And Janet Marie Smith is the conservator they have in common.“This is fabulous. I really love it,” Smith said at Fenway Park for the start of the World Series. “It’s like being back with family.”If that’s the case, Smith has family all over the major leagues. She worked for the Atlanta Braves to turn the Centennial Olympic Stadium into Turner Field. She led the Camden Yards project in Baltimore that sparked a new era of urban ballparks. The Dodgers’ senior vice president for planning and development since 2012, Smith has overseen the ongoing renovations at Dodger Stadium that began with a $100 million investment in 2013 and will enter a new phase as the 2020 All-Star Game approaches.And Smith spent eight years in the same role with the Boston Red Sox – critical years for the stadium. Before it was “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” (the label as ubiquitous as Dunkin’ Donuts signage now), Fenway Park was a crumbling relic from a bygone era that had been in danger of being replaced for decades.“Both the Dodgers and the Red Sox have passionate and knowledgeable fans and that is a real treat,” Smith said. “I love both places because – don’t think you’re going to go in and be the expert. I don’t care how long you’ve worked in baseball and how much you’ve thought about urban projects and renovation. When their fans have been going there for dozens of years, they’re going to let you know what’s what. And that’s important to us.”Rescuing Fenway Park with a $285 million renovation project was much different than modernizing Dodger Stadium, Smith said.“Dodger Stadium was never threatened the way Fenway was threatened,” Smith said. “If you think about it, Fenway Park was first proposed to be eliminated in the ’60s during the round-park era. There were proposals to do a domed stadium, shared with football down by where the convention center is now. More recently, the Yawkey Foundation spent over a decade working on what they called the ‘New Fenway’ over on Boylston Street. So I think the very act of saving a park that had been on the chopping block for so long made this a newsworthy story. Dodger Stadium, maybe it got old and tired somewhere in there, but it was never threatened in the same way.”center_img Limited by Fenway’s urban footprint, Smith and her team got creative – especially, with one bold change. She put seats on top of the Green Monster.“I think good ideas have lots of fathers and this one was no different,” Smith said. “To be honest, it was an idea that had been kicking around for some time (including a proposal by a Fenway fan club that fought to save the stadium). We just happened to be in position to implement that.“It’s funny. When we put those in, we thought in many ways it would be a litmus test of how the fans would react to change at Fenway. And even the most purist of preservationists realized if Fenway was going to survive it was going to have to change. It was just such a joy how Red Sox Nation embraced the changes.”Since the Monster Seats debuted in 2003, the embrace has gone beyond Red Sox Nation. The seats are the most unique in baseball and have become an expensive bucket-list item for baseball fans. According to SeatGeek.com, if you wanted to sit at the Monster Seat barstools – an appropriate choice in the town where everybody knows your name – for a World Series game, it will cost you upward of $1,500 per seat.“The Monster Seats … are spectacular,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said. “If you look at them, they look like they were built with the original stadium. They blend right in.”That was Smith’s charge when Kasten brought her to L.A. after the Guggenheim group took control of the Dodgers.“We made a point of saying, ‘Look we know what we have that is special, unique, different’ and that is the tableau from foul pole to foul pole – the bleachers, our palm trees, the San Gabriel Mountains,” Kasten said. “That’s classic, the most beautiful scene in sports. I know what they call this stadium (Fenway Park). But ours is certainly the nation’s most beautiful stadium.“So everything we did kept that in mind. … All of the things we’ve done kept that tableau and kept it as comfortable and familiar as it has been for any fan who has been coming since 1962 while now becoming a real 21st century experience, which has been our goal.”And now, Smith is getting another project. With the All-Star Game coming to Dodger Stadium in 2020 for the first time in 40 years. There are plans for another mini-makeover of the venerable stadium in time to host the event.“I’m waiting for Stan to unleash me on that,” Smith said with a smile. “Certainly having the All-Star Game in Los Angeles after all these years gives us a good excuse to take a deep breath and think about what’s next.”Kasten and Smith are not ready to talk in specifics, but the pavilions will almost certainly be a big part of the renovations, particularly the space in straight-away center field.“One of the things Stan has had us focus on intensely is the batter’s eye and how we can improve on it,” Smith said. “We have the prettiest park in baseball. Everyone says that, right? I think we do. … So to have this sort of duck-blind in the middle and scaffolding wrapped in a tarp – we feel like we can do better.”The announcement of an inaugural class of “Legends of Dodgers Baseball” (Steve Garvey, Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela) signals a plan to further honor the team’s history – as was done with the addition of a Jackie Robinson statue in 2017.“We’re looking into a lot of things,” Kasten said. “It’s a complicated calculus. But we have a lot of time. You saw what we were able to do in one offseason in 2013.”The National Anthem is played before the Dodgers’ 2018 Opening Day game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on March 29, 2018. Another round of renovations are on the horizon for the venue, which will host the 2020 MLB All-Star Game. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)Children sit in and look out from the Green Monster seats above the left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston, one of the innovations Janet Marie Smith oversaw during her time working for the team. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)last_img

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