Among the promises Frank McCourt made on the day he took over the Dodgers in 2004: He would maintain the Dodgers' player payroll within the top one-quarter of major league teams, and he had no plans to consider selling naming rights to Dodger Stadium.
The business plan he filed with Major League Baseball tells a different story on both counts. In two largely similar versions of the plan, the document explains how he plans to reverse the Dodgers' financial losses in part by slashing payroll--from $100 million in 2004 to $85 million in 2006--and limiting annual growth to about 4%.
The document also notes the "iconic status of Dodger Stadium" and says "there may be initial resistance to re-naming the ballpark."
"The Dodgers' ability to remain competitive will rely in part upon the development of this revenue stream," the document reads. "A well thought out naming rights deal presented in this context will be accepted by the Los Angeles market. The success of the ' Staples Center,' ' Edison International Field' and ' Qualcomm Stadium' demonstrate the marketability for, and acceptability of, commercial naming of sports venues in the broader southern California market."
In the six subsequent years, McCourt has made no move to sell naming rights to Dodger Stadium. This year's opening-day payroll was about $95 million--ranking 11th among the 30 major league teams--or about $83 million, exclusive of payments to former players.
The business plans were presented by Jamie McCourt in the Dodgers' divorce trial. Jamie McCourt's attorneys have maintained she was an integral part of the Dodgers' transition team amid the ownership change from Fox.