Dodgers' McCourt unveils stadium makeover plan

Among the renovations, planned by 2012, would be a dedicated bus lane near the stadium and two parking garages plus additional underground parking.

By Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

April 25, 2008

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt unveiled plans today for a historic makeover of the club's 275-acre Dodger Stadium site in Chavez Ravine, describing new features designed to transform the ballpark into a year-round destination for dining, shopping and recreation that will be fan- and environment-friendly.

At the same time, McCourt challenged civic leaders to follow his $500-million investment by extending bus and subway lines to the ballpark.

"The ultimate way to improve access to Dodger Stadium is public transit," McCourt said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he would be happy to work with the Dodgers on finding ways other than driving to get people to Chavez Ravine.

"That clarion call, that challenge, I like that," Villaraigosa said. "Isn't it amazing that we built a public transportation system and it never connected to Dodger Stadium? Wouldn't it be great if we said, 'This city is going to also rectify the errors of the past and do something to change that'? I like that idea. Let's get working on it."

McCourt said that in addition to two parking garages and additional subterranean parking to replace the 2,000 spaces lost to construction, the renovations would include a dedicated bus lane running directly to a transit plaza adjacent to the stadium.

He also said he hoped local leaders would "tweak and adjust subway lines" to add a Dodger Stadium stop and provide "bus access in the interim."

City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, said the ballpark renovation "hopefully can stimulate a whole new transit system that gets us in and out of this great place."

McCourt said the Dodgers filed paperwork on Thursday morning to acquire the necessary permits for the stadium improvements and that he hoped to get approval by the start of the 2009 season. The project is scheduled to be completed in time for opening day in 2012.

Fifteen acres of the stadium's parking lot will be used to make room for the additions, resulting in the loss of about 2,000 spaces. But McCourt said there wouldn't be a net loss of parking during construction because of the extra spaces created by the reconfiguration of the roadways and parking lots.

The Dodgers have already received approval to move forward with the first phase of the project in the winter, which will be to renovate the loge level, as well as the home and visiting clubhouses. McCourt said the club is also considering installing high-definition scoreboards.

The improvements that will be made next off-season, he said, would be "comparable" in cost to those made this winter -- about $80 million.

McCourt said he wasn't concerned how the downturn in the economy might impact the returns on his sizable investment.

"Economies go up and down, they're not static," McCourt said. "We look at this thing in a very, very long-term, also generational fashion. We're not making these decisions based on what the economy is like today. We're making these decisions as huge optimists in the future of the Dodgers."

McCourt wouldn't say what else he saw in the future of the Dodger Stadium site, of which the stadium covers 16 acres and the renovations announced Thursday covering another 15. McCourt would not comment on whether he would pursue additional projects on the rest of the site and refused to say whether he would rule out residential development or the addition of an NFL stadium.

The NFL has long coveted the Chavez Ravine site.