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Stadium makeover is unveiled

Among the renovations planned for Dodger Stadium by 2012 are two parking garages, a museum, shops and restaurants.

April 25, 2008|Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writers

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt unveiled plans Thursday for a historic makeover of the 275-acre Dodger Stadium site in Chavez Ravine, describing new features designed to transform the ballpark by 2012 into a year-round destination for dining, shopping and recreation that will be fan- and environment-friendly.

Speaking at a morning news conference in the Dodger Stadium outfield, McCourt outlined a sweeping $500-million project that would include parking structures, a Dodgers history museum and a landscaped plaza behind center field connecting to shops and restaurants.

"It's not just for the fans," he said. "It's for the entire community."

McCourt said the improvements would allow the 46-year-old landmark -- the second-oldest park in the National League after Chicago's Wrigley Field -- to flourish for another 50 years.

The privately financed makeover would cost more than the $430 million McCourt paid for the team and stadium four years ago.

He challenged civic leaders to follow his investment by extending bus and subway lines to the ballpark.

"The ultimate way to improve access to Dodger Stadium is public transit," McCourt said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he would be happy to work with the Dodgers on finding ways other than driving to get people to the stadium.

"That clarion call, that challenge, I like that," Villaraigosa said at the news conference. "Isn't it amazing that we built a public transportation system and it never connected to Dodger Stadium? Wouldn't it be great if we said, 'This city is going to also rectify the errors of the past' and do something to change that? I like that idea. Let's get working on it."

McCourt said the loss of about 15 acres of parking, or about 2,000 spaces, would be offset by the construction of two parking garages -- a first for Chavez Ravine -- and additional underground parking. The renovations would include a dedicated bus lane running directly to a transit plaza next to the stadium.

McCourt said he hoped local leaders would "tweak and adjust subway lines" to add a Dodger Stadium stop and provide "bus access in the interim."

City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, said the ballpark renovation "hopefully can stimulate a whole new transit system that gets us in and out of this great place."

It remains unclear who would pay for such transit. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a $1-billion deficit over the next 10 years, spokesman Rick Jager said.

There are no plans to redirect a rail line toward Dodger Stadium, he added.

City transportation officials last month said they were exploring ways to reroute a DASH line to the ballpark but that there were two issues: money and the inconvenience to regular riders.

However they arrive at the stadium, fans would find new, environmentally friendly features that drew praise from Joel Reynolds, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's urban program.

Citing the expanded use of water- and energy-conserving fixtures and the planting of 2,000 trees, Reynolds said Dodger Stadium has the potential to be "the most environmentally sustainable stadium in the country." He also cited the environmental benefits of preserving rather than tearing down the stadium itself.

By creating new public gathering spots such as the outfield promenade, museum and top-of-the-park terrace, the Dodgers are seeking to bring customers out early, keep them there late and even attract visitors on non-game days.

"It's increasingly clear that fans want these types of amenities," said David Carter, a sports marketing consultant and executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute.

Barry Prevorne of Moorpark, who shares season tickets and estimates that he attends 25 games a season, said he would consider visiting Dodger Stadium in the off-season.

"It depends on what kind of facilities they put there," he said.

"I live 45 minutes away. So if the facilities are worthwhile, I might come out. If it's not worth 45 minutes, there's no way. A game? Of course I'm going to come."

McCourt said the Dodgers filed paperwork Thursday to acquire the necessary permits for the stadium improvements and that he hoped work could begin after the 2009 season.

The Dodgers already plan to renovate the stadium's loge level, as well as the home and visiting clubhouses, during the next off-season. McCourt said the club was also considering installing high-definition scoreboards.

McCourt has spent at least $110 million in stadium improvements in the last four years, including at least $70 million since last season upgrading the field level.

The owner said the economic downturn would not affect his plans.

"Economies go up and down, they're not static," McCourt said.

"We look at this thing in a very, very long-term, also generational fashion. We're not making these decisions based on what the economy is like today. We're making these decisions as huge optimists in the future of the Dodgers."

He declined to comment on whether he would pursue additional projects on the rest of the site, and refused to say whether he would rule out residential development or the addition of an NFL stadium.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Times staff writers Steve Hymon and Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.

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