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Monday, May 23, 2022

Dodgers Tour

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By DANIEL TAUB

Staff Reporter

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the Getty Center Dodger Stadium?

The Los Angeles Dodgers, for the first time in the more than four decades the team has played here, is opening its ballpark to public tours in the hopes that it will become a favorite stop for tourists.

Dodgers officials would like to see at least 100,000 people each year tourists from around the world, as well as local residents pay to go through Dodger Stadium’s dugouts, clubhouse, press box, announcer’s booth and diamond when games are not being played there.

“You have a chance to come down to the field, to sort of look into the locker room, go into the press box go into areas you can’t have access to in any other way,” said Barry Stockhamer, vice president of marketing for the Dodgers. “This is really designed for both the domestic and international fans. And we think there will be a lot of interest from Dodger fans locally who have never seen these areas.”

The tour is one of the ways the Fox Sports division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which bought the Dodgers for $311 million in March 1998, is trying to wring additional revenues from the organization. Other new moneymakers include increased advertising, higher ticket prices, a wider variety of merchandise sold at stadium stores and a new museum. The team also is planning to rent out the stadium occasionally for large parties and events on days when games aren’t being played.

Stockhamer would not say how much money the team expects to pull in from the tours. But with the Dodgers charging $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children for the tour and admission to the stadium’s new Dodger Experience museum, the team could make more than $500,000 a year if it gets the number of visitors it expects. And because operating expenses for the tours would be limited to paying the salaries of tour guides, the profit margin for them is likely to be high.

“In some cases, we will use our existing staff that is here,” Stockhamer said. “It’ll depend on the demand of the tour buses, etc., and we’ll make adjustments as needed.”

No tour companies have yet committed to putting the Dodger Stadium tour into their packages, but team officials are in the process of marketing it to local operators and companies that give tours of L.A. to visitors from overseas.

“It really just launched April 1, so it’s a little premature to get a good reading of things,” Stockhamer said. Nevertheless, he noted that an increasing number of bus tours are making stops at the park and the team is hoping to convince many of them to stay for full ballpark tours. Individual tourists can also show up on their own and take the tour something that is being advertised at Dodger games, during radio broadcasts and elsewhere.

“Dodger Stadium is certainly not going to become the No. 1 visitor attraction in L.A.,” said Carol Martinez, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But I think when you’re on a tour and seeing a bunch of different places, it’s a good experience. And it’s a very historic ballpark. There have been a lot of concerts that have taken place there. The Beatles have performed there.”

The tour’s main shortcoming, Martinez said, is that Japanese ballplayer Hideo Nomo who was closely followed in his home country and who attracted Japanese tourists to Dodger games during the summer is no longer on the team, having been traded away last season.

“It would’ve been a better market with the Japanese player,” agreed Ken Hasunuma, supervisor of the downtown L.A. office of Japan Travel Bureau International. “Our groups actually do go to Dodger Stadium, but it’s just that they kind of do it for the gift-shop purpose. But if they’re going to start doing a tour, we can start sending our clients up there more frequently.”

Hasunuma said his firm scheduled a special tour of Dodger Stadium about a month ago to a group of 60 Japanese students. “The students really liked it, and the teachers were happy about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have major plans for more moneymaking ventures. After the season ends in October, the team will be adding luxury suites to the stadium’s middle tier, or club level, and expanding the number of seats at the dugout level. The expansion is not so much intended to add more seats as it is to make existing space more desirable and thus more expensive for patrons.

The construction might temporarily interrupt tours. In the meantime, though, Dodger officials are looking to exploit the value of a historic structure that otherwise would remain empty during off hours.

“The stadium itself becomes its own attraction,” Stockhamer said.

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