SBD/May 3, 2012/Franchises

Guggenheim Baseball Reduces Cost Of Parking, Promises To Up Dodgers' Payroll

Guggenheim announces parking at Dodger Stadium will now cost $10, instead of $15
Guggenheim Baseball Management, formally introduced yesterday as new owner of the Dodgers, announced it is reducing general parking at Dodger Stadium from $15 to $10, the first operational policy change for the arriving group. Team President & CEO Stan Kasten announced the creation of an e-mail address for fan suggestions: fanbox@ladodgers.com. Kasten also promised more opportunities for fans to watch batting practice, obtain autographs and see players greeting fans at stadium gates. Much of the questioning from the assembled press at Dodger Stadium yesterday centered on former Owner Frank McCourt and his stake in the stadium parking lot property. McCourt retains an economic interest in profits from potential development on the land, should it occur, but the Guggenheim partners repeatedly insisted that McCourt will receive no other money from any facet of the club, trying at many instances but failing to not mention him by name. Guggenheim partner Magic Johnson said, "The rumors -- we're quashing them now. Frank McCourt is not involved in any shape or fashion in the day-to-day operations of the club. I'm not talking about Frank McCourt anymore. We're moving this franchise forward. He is not part of the Dodgers any more. We should be clapping for that" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In L.A., Gary Klein notes Johnson attempted to make it clear yesterday that he is "more than a local figurehead for Guggenheim." He said that his responsibilities "would include sponsorships, marketing and other business-related areas as well as being an 'ambassador' for the team." He reiterated that he would "be a daily presence at Dodger Stadium, reporting to his new office Monday." Johnson previously held an ownership stake in the Lakers, but said that he "no longer has any business interest in the team." He added that he "would fulfill his ESPN contract as an NBA analyst through the playoffs but intimated that the broadcasting part of his multifaceted career would be put on hold as he became entrenched in the Dodgers" (L.A. TIMES, 5/3).

THE BASEBALL GUY: In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes it was "clear that while Guggenheim Chair Mark Walter is the ownership group's money man and former basketball star Magic Johnson its public persona, Kasten is its baseball guy." Walter said, "It would be incredibly stupid for me to tell him how to run a baseball team." Kasten added, "The blame stops at my desk. It doesn't go farther than me." Baxter notes that means everything from Dodger Stadium parking "to concessions, where Kasten is negotiating for a wider variety and lower prices." Kasten's "chief focus will be on improving the team's performance on the field." He "wouldn't say what he thought that would cost." But he did say that he "expects the payroll to 'be north' of where it is now." Kasten said that he planned to meet with GM Ned Colletti, "perhaps as early" as today (L.A. TIMES, 5/3). ESPN.com's Buster Olney noted the Dodgers "almost certainly will grow their payroll going into next season." The team's payroll is at $90M in '12, "slashed by about 25 percent in recent years, and can easily increase into the range for the superpower franchises" (ESPN.com, 5/2).

CHANGE IS GONNA COME: In L.A., Roger Vincent notes new Dodgers co-Owner Peter Guber yesterday "deflected questions about how he might like to see the parking lots around Dodger Stadium developed." The other owners acknowledged that real estate development in Chavez Ravine "might occur in the future, but, like them, Guber insisted that the first priority is to renovate and upgrade the Dodgers' aging stadium." Kasten "vowed to start with improvements to stadium operating systems including water and power." Guber "spitballed such ideas as 'fast-track parking' and enhanced service for cellphones" (L.A. TIMES, 5/3). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote there is "no way of knowing what kind of franchise owner Mark Walter will be," but the fact that he is "not Frank McCourt will mollify most people for long enough." When it "comes to its baseball owner, Los Angeles has had it with nice suits." The place has been "lousy with empty ones for too long. L.A. wants someone it can trust." After Fox and McCourt, L.A. "wants some dignity." Brown: "Dodgers fans can love Magic Johnson all they want, but it's the guy next to him, the other guy in the suit, who really matters" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/2). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes under the header, "Dodgers Owners Are Off To A Lively Start." Plaschke: "The new owners "lighted up the place Wednesday with raucous promise, defiant hope and only one certainty. Hang on to your blue, because it's going to be a wild ride" (L.A. TIMES, 5/3). MLB Network's Chris Rose said, “They did something very smart. In the L.A. Times, the new ownership group took this out a full page ad basically saying, ‘We are the new ownership group. This is the way we are doing things and it's all about you, the fans’" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 5/2). 

STOP THIS TRAIN: Dodgers announcer Vin Scully said at yesterday's press conference, "I’m fed up. I’m fed up to here. I go back to the so-called changing of the guards. When Branch Rickey handed the franchise to Walter O’Malley. And I was there when Peter O’Malley handed the franchise to Fox. And I was there when Fox handed it to Bob Daly and Fox. And I was there when Fox then handed it to Frank McCourt. And it has now been handed to the Guggenheim Baseball Management group. And I am telling each and every one of you right now, this is the last new ownership press conference I will ever attend." In L.A., Steve Dilbeck asked, "Is that just being realistic figuring if this ever does happen again, by then the 84-year-old Scully will have called it a career? A true vote of confidence in this new group? That he really is tired of the ownership carousel? That he was just being facetious? Or worse, a foreshadowing that he’ll retire after this season?" (LATIMES.com, 5/2).
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