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Should taxpayers fund sports venues? Peter O'Malley's take

April 07, 2012|By Patt Morrison
  • Former president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Dodgers Peter O'Malley.
Former president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Dodgers Peter O'Malley. (Los Angeles Times )

You can keep your fantasy baseball. I've seen a baseball fan's fantasy -- Peter O'Malley's office.

The man whose family owned the Dodgers, of Brooklyn and of L.A., for nearly a half-century has, on one wall of his office, the bats from every championship Dodger team, bearing the names of every player on that team -- Koufax to Campanella.

He has a framed 1947 letter to his father, Walter O’Malley, from Babe Ruth. The return address -- just "Babe Ruth, New York."

He has a model of Dodger Stadium, built before the real one by some studio craftsmen, a gift from director-producer Mervyn Leroy.

I with its singular memorabilia, and with O’Malley, whose family sold the Dodgers in 1998 but was part of a group trying to buy the team back.

That group couldn’t best the record $2.15-billion winning offer, but the "true-Dodger-blue" O’Malley had a lot to say in my column about the team he virtually grew up with.

I also asked him about baseball’s freeway rivals down the road, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and their owner, Arte Moreno.

"Arte Moreno is a first-class owner. I wanted to talk to him during the [Dodgers sale] process, but the confidentiality agreement precluded that. I have extraordinary respect for Mike Scioscia. I’m a Dodgers fan, but I want the Angels to do well, also."

Nearly 20 years ago, in Los Angeles, Councilman Joel Wachs campaigned vehemently against public funding of sports venues -- a subject that’s arisen again, especially when it comes to a possible pro football stadium. So I put that same question to O’Malley: Should the public put any money into sports venues?

"Maybe some, but I think the overwhelming majority should be financed by the owner. There are benefits to the city of having an NFL team in Los Angeles, and because there are, even to those who are not football fans, you can make a good case for some taxpayer money. Super Bowls -- it’s not just a one-day event any more, it’s a major event for tourists, hotels, restaurants, shops. So yes, I could defend some, but at a minimum, of taxpayer dollars, but most should be privately financed."

As for Dodger Blue, it’s got its own private green now.

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