Over the last 48 seasons, Dodger Stadium has provided fans with many chills and thrills. Some in town can remember when the gates opened at the ballpark on April 10, 1962. Others recall Sandy Koufax’s brilliant play in the ’60s and his three no-hitters at the stadium. Kirk Gibson’s home run in game one of the 1988 World Series is legendary. It can bring tears to eyes of both young and old when recounted.
Many more exciting moments and memories abound on the hallowed field. But changes need to be made soon to revamp the venerable stadium.
In 1962, when Dodger Stadium opened, traffic congestion on the relatively new freeways was undoubtedly much less than today. Today’s population in Los Angeles County has grown more than 50 percent to 9.8 million people since 1962, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s more than 3 million local mouths to feed since opening day in 1962, yet Los Angeles basically has the same roads and freeways near the stadium. Today, many Dodgers fans find it’s become a real production to attend. Still, loyal customers keep going; buying hotdogs and peanuts and filling the stands.
As 2010 approaches, our city and proud Dodgers fans deserve better than status quo. We need light-rail lines built directly to Dodger Stadium depositing people near Gate A. Our citizens deserve a chance to become safe “trolley dodgers.” Just think how great it would be for businesspeople in the central business district to catch a short tram ride after work and attend an evening contest. Or, how about having an express from Hollywood linking the stadium? The Red, Green or Blue rail extensions would undoubtedly make the area more accessible and convenient for many die-hard fans.
Another improvement for our city would be to construct safe bike and walking paths, which people could readily use to attend games. Wouldn’t it be great to have a quality cycling path weaving from Staples Center to Gate A. Or how about one traversing the hills from Griffith Park to the stadium? Think of the added health benefits; the fun many Angelenos would have cycling to games with friends and family members on Sunday afternoons. Undoubtedly, the rail lines and bike paths would reduce gridlock in the area and enhance “Dodgerland” for many fans.
Today, the hilltop surrounding the stadium needs changes, too. Most Angelenos drive en masse on various freeways to the field 60-90 minutes before the first pitch is thrown. They pay $20, park in big black lots and then collectively return to their cars and drive away several hours later – leaving Dodgerland nearly vacant after contests. Angelenos miss out on any sense of community bonding. Many other major league ballparks are located in city centers – within walking distance of skyscrapers, upscale restaurants, sports bars and residential quarters.
Cleveland’s Progressive Field is a prime example of this showcase. Fans flock before and after Indians games to these spots that surround the field in downtown Cleveland. There is real energy, excitement and revenue generated on game days at these locations. The Dodgers hilltop severely lacks this hometown mingling and comradery.
It’s time for Dodgerland to change and become a master-planned area and help spur community interaction and business. Over the last decade there’s been talk and PR about improving the area with new residential units, fine eateries, shops and parking structures, but it just hasn’t happened. The McCourts alluded to that plan several years ago shortly after they bought the team. Now’s the time to initiate change to break ground, but with Dodgers ownership currently derailed, who knows when anything can happen? The improvements would provide sparks for Dodgers fans, our city and businesses.
I’d hate to think of the other solid option, which would end five decades of storied play at Chavez Ravine. And Plan B is: a new ballpark built off the hill in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. The central business district already has the big buildings, the restaurants, the rail lines and at least some dynamic energy.
No doubt, revamping Dodgerland or constructing a new field would be very expensive propositions. Both public and private funds would probably be needed. A $2 billion-$3 billion bond measure could be proposed, voted on and approved to help carry the lion’s share of construction costs. Change is ripe – no matter which path is taken – but it’s needed for our loyal fans and city soon. Twenty-first century trolley cars are needed by Angelenos to see their Dodgers. We should be able to hop on trams that wind to the stadium. But, more importantly, as fans travel, mingle and gather to watch new thrills and chills on the field – people could enjoy a greater sense of community bonding at Dodgerland.
Ted Lux, formerly from Cleveland, has been involved in real estate lending in the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years. He is author of the investment book, “Exposing the Wheel Spin on Wall Street.”
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