Friday September 12th, 2014

From halos hovering over the Angels to the team's proximity to the happiest place on earth, the world of Disneyland surrounds Angel Stadium of Anaheim in every possible way. It's fitting, then, that the Walt Disney Imagineering team had its own section of the ballpark to let Mickey Mouse-style dreams come to life.

"When we did that project, we worked for the Walt Disney Corporation," Earl Santee, Populous architect, told SI.com. "We said, 'Here is a spot,' and the Imagineering guys came up (with the design)."

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And as you’d expect from any Disney-inspired project, the Outfield Extravaganza rock pile in centerfield contains much more than just a pile of boulders. Shooting water cannons and geysers and fireworks conjure up emotions from movies such as The Lion King in the terraced hillside-like design.

"Disneyland and Disneyworld, that was their world," Santee said of the Imagineers. "The quirky part of Angel Stadium is the outfield. We set that aside for them and they came up with the look and feel."

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Beyond Walt Disney's folks grabbing a section of a baseball stadium, Angel Stadium as an entity also has a bit of a quirky past. The fourth-oldest MLB park still in use, the stadium sits only about three miles from Disneyland as a baseball-only venue, seating 43,000. But it wasn't always just for baseball. Before the 1980 NFL season, architects moved in and designed a way for the mezzanine and upper decks to enclose the venue, boosting capacity to 65,000 to make it the home for the Los Angeles Rams. But in 1995, the Rams bolted Anaheim for St. Louis, and a $100 million renovation to convert the stadium back to baseball only — and with capacity at about 45,000 — began in 1997. Construction continued through the season and was finished in time for the 1998 baseball season.

Prior to football, the leftfield had remained open, offering views outside the stadium beyond the Big A scoreboard. That gigantic A had to give way for more seats when the Rams moved to town, sliding into the parking lot and morphing from a scoreboard to a well-known marquee. When the football additions in left were demolished in the late 1990s, the thought of moving the Big A back into the venue resurfaced. But the new home was working out just fine.

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Plus, all that new space in the outfield gave the Imagineering team ample room to play, giving Angel Stadium of Anaheim a distinctly Disneyland-styled quirk.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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