The Unbuilt Brooklyn Dodgers Domed Baseball Stadium – 1956
There are many “might have been’s” in baseball. One of the greatest has always been what if the Dodgers never left Brooklyn?
This photograph of what looks more like a kiddy pool with a baseball diamond in it, is a low-tech model of the proposed all-weather baseball stadium the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to build. The Dodgers proposal was made ten years before the Houston Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium made its debut in 1965.
For years before they moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers owner, had complained about the functionality of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The ballpark had character, but O’Malley considered it old and too small with only 32,111 seats and parking for 700 cars.
In 1955, O’Malley enlisted architect R. Buckminster Fuller to design a domed stadium to possibly replace Ebbets Field. The stadium would be in the form of a large bowl and seat approximately 55,000 people. Over the stadium, supported on a light-weight aluminum truss structure, would be a thin plastic dome 750 feet in diameter. The dome would be 300 feet high at its center and it would weigh only 500 tons. Up to that time the largest dome ever built was the 365 foot diameter Dome of Discovery at the Festival of Britain in 1951.
New York City worked with the Dodgers to find a place to build their new stadium for them. On February 5, 1956 the city announced a proposed a $30 million sports center authority be established to build a a multi-purpose sports facility on the northeast corner of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Over 108 blocks of downtown Brooklyn would be rehabilitated.
The Dodgers were pleased with the proposed site. The ball club was willing to pay for the land and the construction of the stadium. The land would cost around $8 million and the stadium between $10 to $12 million to construct. If they could not outright own the stadium, the Dodgers agreed to be part of a bond issue or simply be tenants, just as long as they got their new stadium.
“It will be sad to Ebbets Field demolished but anyone familiar with its many limitations will understand that this fine old landmark will have to go, and soon,” said O’Malley in a press release on February 6, 1956.
The Dodgers requested that the city use its eminent domain power to acquire the necessary land. Robert Moses, Parks Commissioner and the powerful head of New York’s construction authority, responded by saying, “Title I grants for slum clearance are for the purpose of building new housing, not a baseball stadium. I’m sure we couldn’t get such a project through Washington.”
In April 1956 Moses shocked everyone who was involved in getting the Dodgers a new home when he proposed he was willing to build a new stadium for the Dodgers- in Queens. Moses offered the site of the old 1939 World’s Fair Grounds in Flushing Meadows. Moses was completely ignoring that Queens was far removed from the Dodgers fan base in Brooklyn.
O’Malley was put off by Moses proposal. But now O’Malley knew where the Dodgers stood with Moses. This was “take it or leave it.” Virtually no public works project could proceed without Moses approval and he was a man not known for his spirit of compromise. The Dodgers future lay westward.
On October 30, 1956 O’Malley sold Ebbets Field to Marvin Krattner and signed on to remain as tenants for three years with an additional two year option lasting until 1961. On February 1, 1957 the Dodgers purchased the Los Angeles minor league franchise and stadium of the Chicago Cubs. Los Angeles officials came to the Dodgers and courted O’Malley with a sweetheart deal to build a new stadium in Chavez Ravine. The Brooklyn Dodgers fate was sealed.
After O’Malley announced the move of the Dodgers to Los Angeles he gave his four main reasons for moving as; the age and functionality of Ebbets Field; the lack of parking; dwindling attendance and a New York City 5% amusement tax on admissions.
In 1958 the Dodgers were gone. On February 23, 1960 the demolition crew began to reduce Ebbets Field to a memory via the wrecking ball.
The proposed domed stadium didn’t save the Dodgers and there is still a big chunk of Brooklyn’s heart that is missing.