21 April 2006

How the Dodgers Can Afford to Sell Better and Cheaper Hot Dogs

Two nights ago I went to my first Dodger game of the season. They lost, largely thanks to a couple of really boneheaded errors. It wasn't a particularly good game and the Dodgers did, as usual, what they could to make it a not particularly great experience. But I'm a sucker. I love baseball enough that I had a good time in spite of the fact that I didn't come close to getting my money's worth.

I splurged on the seats - 50 bucks. As seats at Dodger Stadium go they were pretty good; just slightly to the right of home plate in the loge section. Still, the stands at the stadium slope so gradually that I was a lot further away from the action than I was last year when I sat in some $38 seats that were much higher up in Yankee Stadium. In the equivalent section in Dodger Stadium, you might as well be watching from a blimp.

At one point my friend Bill and I went to get food for the four of us who were at the game. We lost an entire inning waiting in line at an extraordinarily inefficiently run concession stand - and it was one of the "express" concessions. Then we paid $34 for four really awful hot dogs, a bag of peanuts and a bottle of water. Earlier, we'd bought three beers for $25.50. Well, hell, let's add up the whole evening:

$200 for four tickets - oh, and another $24 because I bought them online there was a $6 per ticket "convenience charge." Just who's convenience does that mean? It was probably more convenient for the ticket seller to have me buy the tickets online than otherwise. It was certainly more convenient for the Dodgers. So - $224.

$10 for parking.
$25.50 for three beers.
$34 for Bill and my run to the concession stand.
$32 more for other food and beer at various points during the game.

The four of us spent $322.50 to go to a baseball game.

I know that they have to pay their overpriced ballplayers salaries, but still... that's insane.

What's to be done?

I have a suggestion, at least for the Dodgers. It ought to appeal to Frank McCourt, who before he was a baseball franchise owner was a property developer. (I can't believe he hasn't thought of this already. I wonder what, if anything, is stopping him?)

Find somewhere else for the Dodgers to play for a few years, then tear down Dodger Stadium.

In its place, recreate Ebbets Field - the Dodgers old homeground in Brooklyn - along with the old Brooklyn neighborhood around it. There's plenty of room at Chavez Ravine to do all that, and the Dodgers own the land. The new Ebbets Field will, of course, be one of these old-fashioned, new-fangled stadiums with better sightlines and all the mod-cons. Have it seat, say, 38,000 or 40,000 people - which is plenty. Stock the fake Brooklyn around the stadium with shops, restaurants, bars, a nice hotel or two, theaters, maybe a California baseball museum. Tack on some very high end condos. Build short, old-fashioned looking trolley lines to the stadium from all four different directions, from areas where there is available parking already and either don't allow any private cars into the area at all, or at least restrict them heavily.

Consider that this is all on a lot right next to downtown Los Angeles, with great views out over the city, with a park around its perimeter, and with close access to and from three major freeways. This is some of the most exceptional, and valuable, land left in any urban area in the country. It is also land that lies around unused from October through March, and even when it's in use, in terms of revenue producing time, it's only used three to four hours a day.

Boosted by the proceeds from the sales and leasing of commercial and residential real estate - 24 hours a day, year round - and probably some cuts of the new businesses that are attracted to the area - the Dodgers could pay for their high-priced players, improve what's on offer at the stadium (Like get some decent food. Would anyone who really likes hot dogs possibly eat a Dodger dog if they didn't have to?) and probably lower prices.

They could finance the development easily. With the land they already own in Chavez Ravine and also in Florida - where they own a great deal of land in Vero Beach, around their spring training facilities - there isn't a financial institution in the world that wouldn't happily make the loans to a project like this.

The trick is that the Dodgers have to stop thinking of themselves as strictly a sports franchise. It's a money losing business model for all but a very few teams. The New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs - some of baseball's only profitable franchises - are not simply baseball teams. They are, in essence, content providers to big media groups; cable TV revenue is the only thing that keeps them in the black.

For some reason, despite being located in America's largest urban area, the Dodgers haven't been able to make enough of a profit from cable TV. They do need to do more to boost their media presence in Spanish, and even Japanese, Korean and Chinese language markets; but it's still not likely to put them in the position of the Yankees.

What the Dodgers need to do is to recreate themselves as part of the entertainment division of a big property development company. When I worked for business magazines in Hong Kong, the first thing I'd look for whenever I heard about a new, huge deal going down, was the property angle. Scratch the surface of any major business deal in Hong Kong - whether it was a manufacturing center, a port facility, even a high-tech or communications venture - and you'd find that at it's heart, it was all about property development.

At the moment the Dodgers are way under-utilizing some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If they were making the kind of money that they could be, if they were simply one part of a much larger enterprise - something that would attract tourists from all over the world, as well as locals on a regular basis - they could make the sort of improvements that I, and most of my baseball loving friends - would love to see - and eat.

9 comments:

Foolio said...

Screw you. Dodger Stadium rules -- a classic example of mid-60s modernity. The Mets, a truly laughable franchise, is building a new Ebbett's Field in the Shea Stadium parking lot, so your idea is redundant as well as a slap to the face of a great old stadium...now the second oldest in the National League.

Bob Timmermann said...

Dodger Stadium is the third oldest stadium in the NL now.

RFK Stadium is older than Dodger Stadium, but younger than Wrigley.

By all of one day.

Arianna said...

Puh-lease! Dodger Stadium is still one of the best deals around. The $20 seats in Loge or Reserved provide great sight-lines and even the $6 tickets are nice (great view of the hills behind the bleachers).

You can dispense with the parking fee (and the 90 minute struggle to get out after the game) by parking on Sunset and walking up Elysian Park Blvd. It's also a great way to burn off that Dodger Dog.

If you want a Yuppie baseball experience, there are plenty of parks in this country for you. If you want a Brooklyn baseball experience, go to a Cyclones game.

Viva Dodger Stadium!

DodgerJon said...

The Dodgers no longer own the Vero Beach property-- that was sold to the city of Vero several years ago. The Dodgers lease Dodgertown for $1 per year... hence their ability to easily view Arizona as a new spring training center.

While I enjoy seeing games in Pittsburgh or Baltimore, I think the stadium in Chavez Ravine is GREAT. Sure, you could add 'plusses' to it (better outfield seats; improved dining options), I'd hate to see it razed.

D said...

Eric,

Leave Brooklyn in New York where it belongs.

Will said...

Maybe if McCourt rebuilds Ebbets Field he can take a page from Moreno's playbook and rename our boys The Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles? Pffft.

Sorry your experience left you so eager to go faux-nostalgia for the sake of a cheaper beer... though I'm not quite sure I understand the whole concept of how spending bazillions on a re-do will somehow result in less unaffordable concessions.

I'm with Arianna. You can find me in a six-buck Top Deck chair an hour before the first pitch with my Dodger Dog and my beer and everything's perfect at my favorite place in L.A.

Wouldn't. Change. A. Thing.

valjean said...

"The New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs - some of baseball's only profitable franchises ..."

I know what you're getting at with references to media franchises, but sadly (?) the Yankess and Sox actually lost money last year. The only teams in the black (well, after the TV revenue is passed around ...) were mid-salary types who have reasonably successful seasons (e.g., Cleveland, Houston, etc.).

WonderWoman said...

Funny, when I attend a Dodgers game, which is often, I spend $12.00 a ticket, $10.00 for parking, $1.00 for a bag of David’s sunflower seeds, for a grand total of $23.00. I make sure to eat dinner before heading there, because really, who wants to eat Stadium food? My only requirement is a well-played ballgame, with hopefully, a Dodgers’ victory and I’m a happy camper. Guess some of us aren’t so needy. It's my Blue Heaven and I wouldn't change a thing.

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