There’s a ’50s-era bowling alley in the region. After years in decline and under new ownership, it was renovated as a venue for local bands, a hangout to watch sporting events on widescreen TVs, and a place to wash down locally sourced goat-cheese date wraps with craft beers. A handful of bowling lanes were kept, making it still, technically, a bowling alley.
Monogrammed balls hefted by guys named Eddie and Milt and the waitresses in bouffants are long gone. When the millennials who patronize the place find a hipper hangout, the bowling alley will be scraped and a new building erected in its stead.
Dodger Stadium, like the bowling alley, is in its final act – with all the experimentation, futility, and theatricality that entails.
Like the bowling alley, Dodger Stadium, which will see another season opener on April 12, has had to be wrecked to be saved. At a game last season, adults waited in line with their dogs (canines, not frankfurters) at florid margarita pavilions and mobile rum bars. Kids with sticky mitts picked through polychromatic nacho goop eaten from miniature batting helmets, impatient for the full-length film, on this night “The Lego Movie,” to be screened on the field after the final out.
In the parking lot, dads and uncles chug beer out of cans. Broods of uncomprehending kids fidget in hot cars while the alcohol is preconsumed. Rows of empties in the parking lot bear silent witness to the sizable fan base unable or unwilling to pay $11 for a draft beer in the stadium. That night, the postgame movie kept the stadium from emptying in the eighth inning and allowed sloshed parents extra time to sleep it off before exiting onto local freeways.
Gone from Dodger Stadium are the downtown L.A. executives ducking out of work to catch the second game of a double-header. Gone are the geezers in Bermuda shorts and earpieces, keeping score and listening to Vin on their transistor radios. (Vin Scully, bless his heart, has outlasted them all, but this is his final year.) Gone is the interest of top-tier stadium advertisers.
There is nothing unusual or sad about this evolution. No piece of improved real estate – even Dodger Stadium – is inoculated from the three inevitable phases of the real estate lifecycle: growth, maturity, and decline. There is a rare fourth phase, but more on that later. For now, let’s just say Dodger Stadium needs you more than you need Dodger Stadium.
Alas, one can no more wish Dodger Stadium to be something other than what it has become than to wish for Bank of America or Arco to return their headquarters to Los Angeles.
If Dodgers games could be played in a sound studio, they would be, but television viewers, and the advertisers who covet them, insist on a stadium setting. A mix of curious tourists from baseball countries such as Japan and South Korea, fans of the visiting team and stumbling locals fill seats for the benefit of the television audience. Astonished glances are occasionally exchanged between strangers who remember it another way.
It seems the millennials who’ve gentrified places such as the Toy District and Silver Lake are not connecting with Dodger Stadium. The glamour of living in a flat carved out of a shuttered Nabisco factory on Industrial Street hasn’t yet had a trickle-down effect reaching Chavez Ravine.
While the communities around Dodger Stadium have slowly shed their corporate giants and many of their middle-class denizens over the years, the Platinum Triangle district around Angel Stadium in Orange County has grown in stature and prosperity. There, the stadium experience is a vastly more traditional one.
There is one additional stage in the lifecycle of a building. It is revitalization. If Dodger Stadium can somehow keep its team from decamping to a growing market such as Salt Lake City; Austin, Texas; or Charlotte, N.C., and stave off the wrecking ball for, say, 50 or 75 more years, it has a chance for a cherished fifth act as a vaunted exemplar of mid-20th century architecture and a shrine to the game – a West Coast Fenway.
But the odds are slim to none.
Jeremy Bagott is a senior commercial appraiser in Southern California for the Sacramento-based right-of-way firm Bender Rosenthal.
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