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Op-Ed

Dodgers: Full stadium, empty parking lot

Swallow hard, Dodgers fans, and stick it to Frank McCourt by leaving your cars at home when you head for the game.

May 02, 2012|By David Kipen
  • Dodgers fans walk through the parking lot to Dodger Stadium prior to the home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Dodgers fans walk through the parking lot to Dodger Stadium prior to the… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

My cousin Jimmy didn't use his Dodgers season tickets all last year. He's an L.A. kid, runs the Mar Vista hardware store my Uncle Dick founded, and he loves the Dodgers so much that he has two sun-faded Dodger Stadium seats bolted to the floor of his living room. These face the television, which is not what anybody would call small. Jimmy has watched his Dodger games on that TV ever since the McCourt money scandals broke. He refuses to set foot in the stadium until it's safely out of Bostonian hands.

In less than a week, at 7 p.m. Monday, the Dodgers will play their first home game under new ownership. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's good enough for Jimmy. Frank McCourt will still own a chunk of the parking lots, and Jimmy is a purist.

But I have a plan to get him to the ballpark. Actually, it's more of a vision than a plan. It will only require the cooperation of several transit agencies and about 28,000 fans. But it's worth trying, because what would be even better than the Dodgers shellacking the hated Giants is a full stadium surrounded by a half-empty parking lot.

I'm high, right? This is Los Angeles, right? The town that ripped out the Red Car tracks? That rebuilt the quake-damaged 10 Freeway in less time than it usually takes to vote on a new stop sign? That's flouted every green campaign to shame it onto public transportation and would sooner walk barefoot across midsummer mall blacktop than even think of carpooling?

Yes. That Los Angeles. Because, alas for humanity, hate is stronger than shame, and Frank McCourt is the most hated man in Los Angeles. We won't forsake our cars to assuage our carbon guilt or attain energy independence from the petro-dictators of the Middle East. But to keep McCourt from milking one more nickel out of our beloved boys in blue — not to mention us, in the form of parking fees from $15 to $35 — I have every confidence that a whole lot of Southern Californians will swallow hard, breathe deep and step into a bus or train with their neighbors.

To be fair, McCourt may be a perfectly nice man, although the smart money would go with otherwise. The new owners may actually be the Good Samaritans and dog-petters and big tippers that their childhood friends insist they are, though people don't generally amass $2.15 billion by selling lemonade.

But because they're worth that much, for one night they can spare the hundreds of thousands of dollars they make off parking fees every game. They could probably even spring for free public transportation for fans, as AEG is promising to do for trips to its proposed downtown football stadium on game days.

Even without a subsidy, getting to Dodger Stadium on Monday without a car would accomplish two very useful things — three, if you count sticking it to McCourt. It would put the new owners on notice that Dodgers fans are not to be trifled with. Not only do we want to win, we want to do it in the most beautiful ballyard on God's green earth, and anybody who mucks around with Dodger Stadium will taste ashes and go broke doing it. The Dodgers are a public trust, just like our beaches and, come to think of it, our daily newspaper, and a public trust can be bought and sold but never owned.

Maybe more important, a full stadium and a half-empty parking lot would demonstrate to the world, to disdainful urban planners and, most of all, to ourselves that Angelenos will get out of their cars (or at least park them farther from their destination, and more cheaply) in service to a higher purpose. And if we can make common cause to jerk Frank McCourt's chain, and send a message to Guggenheim Partners, maybe we could even do it to make Los Angeles a more livable city.

Of course, if MTA's Art Leahy reads this — another L.A. kid, who grew up in Highland Park and for years drove a city bus — he'll probably swallow his gum. Half a stadium full of people, on top of the intrepid few who already ride his buses and trains to the game? Sounds like a lot of overtime, or embarrassment, or both. But wouldn't it be worth the risk, to give us a glimpse of how our city could work?

Pipe dream? Sure. But imagine this: It's two out and two on in the bottom of the ninth Monday, and the Dodgers are trailing the Giants by two. Matt Kemp lofts a long one to the short porch in left field, over the bullpen wall, past the palm trees and into the parking lot — and not a single car is there to stop it.

Imagine the ball rolling all the way past the parking kiosks. Imagine it hanging a right past the Police Academy, over the hill next to Elysian Park where my Uncle Al always parked for free, picking up speed on its way into Solano Canyon where so many of Chavez Ravine's old families fled just ahead of the bulldozers, down to majestic Union Station where trains wait to carry all the suburban fans home, under a chain-link fence and finally into our poor, bricked-up, undying river, and out to the blue Pacific.

I'd settle for half the parking lot, of course. But imagine if we skunked McCourt completely. I do believe my cousin Jimmy would walk all the way from Mar Vista to see that.

David Kipen is the founder of Libros Schmibros, a lending library and used-book shop in Boyle Heights. Kipend@gmail.com.

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