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Comment of the Day: Don’t dismiss the Downtown Dodgers too quickly

Jul 14, 2011, 3:15 PM EDT

Dodger Stadium

I’ll admit, I’m still kind of steaming over that downtown Los Angeles Dodger Stadium thing I went on about this morning.  But I’ll also admit that, from a “could it happen” perspective, I may be looking at this too narrowly.

My thinking (actually my outrage) is based on the fact that no solvent Dodgers owner would ever consider moving the team out of Dodger Stadium. Why? Because a solvent Dodgers owner owns the park, owns the parking, has no competition from outside food or drink vendors or any of that stuff, and thus has no incentive to move downtown where everything would have to be shared with developers, other retail, etc. But of course the insolvent Frank McCourt and a new but as yet unidentified Dodgers ownership don’t have the same incentive structures.

Against that backdrop, someone I know who knows lots of someones in California business sent me an email a few minutes ago trying to explain the downtown L.A. dynamic to me.  I’ve reproduced it below, and it makes a compelling argument for the “why would the City of Los Angeles be behind the Dodgers moving downtown” angle to it all.  It’s hung on what’s going on with the L.A. Live entertainment complex, the Staples Center and the adjacent development.

I still don’t get why Major League Baseball would want to go this route. Getting around Frank McCourt’s ownership of the ballpark has to be easier than simply abandoning it and going in with some developers, right? But this goes a long way in explaining the non-baseball parts that are moving here.

L.A. Live is incredibly impressive.  And while yes, it got some love in terms of zoning or tax breaks or whatever from the city, it really was built with private capital.

L.A. Live fulfills the self image of L.A., and L.A. politicians, in ways that are hard to express.  It really is a combination of sports and entertainment and glitz all in one place.  The Grammy Museum is there.  People like J-Lo and Denzel Washington are regularly visible from the windows of rooms that I have meetings in.  The Lakers play there, and the role of Lakers tickets in the social hierarchy of L.A. cannot be over-expressed.  The thought of putting a baseball stadium right there, and adding a summer season (“the box seat Hamptons” to go with “the courtside seat Aspen” of the Lakers) excites a lot of rich and powerful people.

For the first time ever, there’s something attractive in downtown L.A. to draw people in.  Until now, the only things in downtown L.A. were politicians who felt lonely.  Do not underestimate the desire of those politicians to have a nice entertainment place nearby. Yes, it will take 10 years, but this move is a key chess piece in bringing the NFL back to L.A. Believe it or not, the Dodgers are like a rook or a bishop at best in that game — maybe a knight is more appropriate.

The fact that it’s bubbling now, as you point out, is to put more pressure on Frank McCourt.  But not only is it a credible threat, it is actually the plan. And when it is done, Dodger Stadium will be bulldozed, the NFL will be back in L.A., and Phil Anschutz will own the stadiums where basketball, baseball, football, and soccer are played in the #2 media market in America. L.A. Live is making lots of money. It’s got huge hotels, a dozen restaurants, three live music venues, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a shopping mall, the Grammy Museum…   just wait until there’s baseball nearby, sweet condos across the street, another urban shopping center built…  you know the drill.

Concrete will be poured.  Money will flow.  Mark my words.

  1. Old Gator - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    And I repeat: if they get this moving along quickly, they’ll have that miserable clown McCourt and his ditzy vampiress of a wife in a corner pocket long before McCourt gets finished dragging out the bankruptcy and attendant lawsuits. As in, well Frank, I wouldn’t count on the rental and concession income from the Dodgers to pay your legal bills if I were you.

    • clydeserra - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      ditzy like a fox. She is the winner in this soap opera.

  2. Richard In Big D - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    A bowling alley? Really?

    • stoankold - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      I hear that’s a key attraction for politicians and rich folk. I know every time I’ve been to a bowling alley it was brimming with the rich and powerful.

    • marshmallowsnake - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      I am an avid bowler…but I do not go to major city downtown’s to bowl…

      • bigleagues - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:37 PM

        Ehhhh . . . I think you have to see the bowling alley’s that they are building in some of these big cities. When we go to Fenway, we sometimes like to hit Lucky Strike Lanes before or after a game. Hot women, great drinks, food and top notch lanes.

    • mrfloydpink - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      Just to be clear, not that this may change your opinion, it’s a hipster bowling alley. It’s really an early-60s themed lounge with sheeshy appetizers and fancy cocktails. Still a bowling alley, yes, but not exactly like most other bowling alleys.

  3. SmackSaw - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Homes built on Chavez Ravine will be worth billions.

    • yankeesgameday - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:53 PM

      No, they are just going to give it back to the homeless migrantv farm workers that were forcibly evicted from Chavez Ravine fifty years ago to build Dodger Stadium.

      • SmackSaw - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        Nah, they’re mostly dead by now. McCourt will own the land.

      • sundaysilence89 - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:54 PM

        No they won’t cause the people who lived there were already moved out before DS was even a thought.

        They were supposed to build for lack of a better term :”projects” up there but there was a whole commie thing that went with it so they bailed on that plan. I know because my dads family was one of the ones who were bought out.

    • 24may98 - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:53 PM

      Lenny Bruce did a routine called “Religions Inc.” and the land deal for Chavez Ravine is the closing punchline, as I recall it went like this ” . . . . !@#$%^&*!!! . . . . Chavez Ravine” (It’s well worth the 99 cent download at Amazon)

  4. 3greenowls - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I can see it now: a Lakers game, a Dodgers game, a concert, and whatever else is happening at LA LIVE!!(!!) with no public transportation in the middle of rush hour traffic.

    That sounds like an amazing time.

    • Richard In Big D - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM

      Can’t be any worse than a Rangers playoff game on a Sunday when the Cowboys are home. 135,000 seats share about 40,000 parking spaces in a freakin SUBURB!

    • SmackSaw - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      Los Angeles has subways. Wanna see a map?

      • 3greenowls - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

        No. Please take your link back.

        Citing that LA has subways (thanks for the map!) with no mention of the larger infrastructure problems is enough to demonstrate that you either a) have never visited the greater Los Angeles area, b) cannot detect sarcasm and/or c) have completely lost touch with reality.

      • jtorrey13 - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:26 PM

        As far as public transportation goes, it is a lot easier to get to L.A. Live via subway or bus than it is to get to Dodger Stadium. LOTS. (Though to be fair, they created the Dodger shuttle to bus people from Union Station to Dodger Stadium on game days, so it has gotten a bit better. But, that will be offset by the opening of the Expo line which will open up the Westside to get to downtown via train.)

      • SmackSaw - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:00 PM

        I live here. It ain’t as bad as most cities I’ve been to.

      • 3greenowls - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:04 PM

        Most cities don’t have a population approaching 4 million people.

    • cosanostra71 - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:35 PM

      only old people and the homeless use public transportation.

      • dad2twins - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:32 PM

        LA Live is better connected to public transit than Chavez Ravine is, but as jtorrey13 said above, the Westside, where LA’s many rich and (self-)important live is still not connected. And even if it were, to cosanostra71’s point, don’t expect the glitterati and the wannabes to ever step foot into any fully electric vehicle unless it’s a Tesla Roadster (or a golf cart). Beverly Hills, one of the most congested places to drive through, is opposing any more public transit through their city, because it might bring riff-raff who can’t afford to buy a sports franchise.

        Could the Dodgers move out of Chavez Ravine? The push to do so would really depend on how far Frank McCourt goes in hanging on to Dodger Stadium. If he becomes an unbearable landlord to the next owner, this idea will quickly move to reality. If for no other reason than to placate the next owner from moving the team out of LA entirely. But of course, we all know Frank’s a reasonable man who’s going to sell off all his Dodger-related assets at a reasonable price.

        Right. The Dodgers played at the LA Coliseum for a while until the current Dodgers Stadium was built, and they’ve played there for nostalgia and to remind everyone how ridiculous the dimensions were on occasion. So it’s not that far fetched to see Dodger Blue in Downtown. However, if I were a taxpayer in Los Angeles (city and county), I’d be wary of yet another stadium deal. This would follow other stupid efforts like the vaunted “Subway to the Sea” (est completion: 2030) and the current “NFL” stadium for an NFL franchise to be named later.

      • bigleagues - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:42 PM

        A dense observation by someone who clearly doesn’t live in a dense population area.

  5. Bob Timmermann - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    The bowling at L.A. Live is actually pretty swanky and is designed for celebrities. Funky lighting and really expensive drinks are available.

  6. nategearhart - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    RE: Bowling alleys. While it’s nowhere near as “glitzy”, Kansas City has a fairly new entertainment district/downtown revitalization project (don’t get me started on my own personal opinion of it), and the bowling alley is a big attraction. And it’s expensive. The website is a labyrinthine mess that ends with you “filling out a contact form” so they can “get back to you with rates”. You know that saying “If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it?” That saying applies to the new bowling alleys now.

  7. dogsweat1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    It’s simple. Redo MCU Park at Coney Island.

    The New Ebbets Field…………

    • nategearhart - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:27 PM

      As unlikely as Craig thinks it is that LA will want the Dodgers to move downtown, I say it’s even less likely that they’ll want the Dodgers to move to Brooklyn.

  8. sdelmonte - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    And thus is baseball reduced even further from competition to event, from Something to See to Something to Be Seen At. Such attitudes have done a lot to take the fun out of pro basketball for me, as team accomplishment is replaced far too often by celebrity and “Who’s at the game.”

  9. jimatkins - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Craig- I know you aren’t an expert on bankruptcy, but couldn’t a court unravel all those shell companies, declare fracturing the Dodger empire a sham transaction, and have McCourt disgorge the entire Dodger team/stadium/realestate megaplex he bought in the first place?

  10. crankyfrankie - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Public transit is a great way to travel especially to the ballparks in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Aren’t all the McCourt shell companies community property anyway?

    • bigleagues - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:50 PM

      Coming from CT I drive to mass trans whenever I can.

      When going to Fenway I drive to a T stop and park there, then take the T to the Fenway stop. WAY cheaper and easier on the nerves than driving all the way.

      When going to Citi I typically drive because overall its just easier to get to Flushing Meadow that way coming from CT. But Yankees Stadium depends on whether or not its a play-off game or not. I’d rather take the train from Stamford to GC and the subway to the Stadium for a playoff game.

    • natstowngreg - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM

      …and Washington.

      Nationals Park was designed for easy public transit access. Walk a long block from the Navy Yard Metro, Half St. exit, and you’re at the Centerfield Plaza .

  11. APBA Guy - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    You all don’t see Selig’s evil hand in this?

    Step 1: build new stadium in downtown LA
    Step 2: sell Dodgers
    Step 3: move Dodgers to new stadium
    Step 4: MLB buys land around Dodger stadium from McCourt
    Step 5: Oakland stadium commission releases 8 year overdue report
    Step 6; Oakland moves 52-110 Oakland A’s to LA, hometown of Selig frat borther and current A’s managing general partner Lew Wolff

    It’s all so clear now…

  12. bigleagues - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:27 PM


    What your friend who knows LA business states makes EVEN MORE SENSE when you factor in the Commissioners presumed position on the Fox TV deal. CEO Selig wants the Dodgers to OWN their own regional network (which should be a no-brainer anyway for anyone other than Frank McCourt).

    But think about it. If Anschultz is going to own the facilities and the Dodgers are gonna pay rent and split concessions revenues, then owning the “Dodgers Entertainment Sports Network” becomes paramount to the franchise’ future ability to grow and succeed.

    Also, if the Dodgers don’t go downtown, there is always the courting of the Angels that MLB and LA politicians can dangle out as a motivation changer.

    As an aside, if you haven’t caught the season premier of Curb Your Enthusiasm, it includes a fictionalized Frank McCourt by the name of Joe O’Donnell (and played by Gary Cole aka Lumbergh from Office Space – a grand slam selection imho).

    And what’s even better is that the Joe O’Donnell name is is lifted from Larry David’s real life friend of Boston Culinary Group fame – who were among the bidders for the Red Sox – along with McCourt.


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