Field of Schemes
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April 25, 2008

Dodger Stadium to get $500m "necklace"

So much for the economic downturn making sports team owners shy of starting new construction projects. Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt announced yesterday plans for a $500 million expansion of Dodger Stadium, to be completed in time for the ballpark's 50th anniversary in 2012. Dubbed the "Next 50 Plan" - as in, keeping the stadium around for another 50 years - it wouldn't actually change the existing structure, but rather would build out new facilities into the existing parking lot, including a promenade filled with shops and restaurants, and a "green necklace" of landscaped walkways.

The idea here, obviously, is to do what the Boston Red Sox have done with Fenway Park: Add new ways to separate fans from their wallets without building a whole new stadium. The question is whether the Dodgers can sell enough tacos and Clayton Kershaw souvenir jerseys to pay off $500 million in construction debt. As L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes:

The additions are all connected to a single goal: to extend the amount of time a typical visitor spends at the stadium. McCourt wants Dodger fans to arrive at the park earlier, to stay later and maybe even to drop by on days when no game is scheduled.
The success of the plan, then, won't be hard to gauge. If there are scores of Angelenos milling around the stadium grounds on, say, a Saturday afternoon in January 2013, snapping up foam fingers and Russell Martin jerseys, then McCourt's ideas for updating the landmark will look prescient. If Dodger fans bolster their reputation for showing up in the third inning and beginning the walk to their cars in the eighth -- and not even thinking about the stadium during the winter months -- we'll be justified in wondering whether that $500 million was worth it.

Also in question is whether McCourt will ask for any public spending as part of the project - while he's said the expansion itself will be paid for privately, he also said he hoped the city would "tweak and adjust subway lines" to add a stop at the stadium and provide "bus access in the interim." Deadpans the Times: "It remains unclear who would pay for such transit."

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