Dodgers Show Off Renovation Plans, Talk Maintaining Brand
The '19 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises conference hit the road for its final day on Thursday, and the first stop was Dodger Stadium. Attendees got a look at MLB's third-oldest ballpark ahead of an offseason that will see it get a $100M facelift. Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten and Dodgers Business Enterprise President Tucker Kain sat for a Q&A on the state of the club and the pending upgrades to the league's largest venue. While plenty of change is coming to Dodger Stadium this offseason, the upgrades will not take away from the retro feel that has come to identify the 57-year-old venue. Included in the renovations are a new center field plaza, elevators (which are already being installed) and bridges that will connect the ballpark’s pavilions. Kasten noted the plaza will provide a true main entrance for the first time, and fans will be greeted by an existing statue of Jackie Robinson, as well as one to be added next year of Sandy Koufax. But Kasten said fans will still get the classic view from home plate looking out over the San Gabriel Mountains. “Our postcard view, with everything we’re doing next year, is not changing. ... We’re very proud of maintaining that postcard shot.”
MAINTAINING THE BRAND: The Dodgers this season will lead MLB in attendance for the seventh straight year, and Kasten said, "When we came in here, we talked about the Dodger brand and what the Dodgers mean, not just here but across the country. ... We are the franchise of Jackie Robinson. There is no franchise that has had the impact on popular culture or society at large as the Dodgers. So, we talk about that all the time. ... We can talk about the tangible quality of Dodger pride. And motivating people here has just never been a very big challenge." Kain added: "The culture of innovation that the Dodgers have built -- we’ve done everything we can to foster that and create internal challenges that will manifest themselves on the field. In every position, we’re challenging people to continue to carry this brand forward and take it to the next level. That’s got to be done through thinking outside the way we’ve traditionally always done things."
NO ISSUE WITH NETTING: Extended netting has been a very public issue for all MLB teams this season. Following an incident with an injured fan this summer, the Dodgers last month added netting down the lines. Kasten said there have been "very few" complaints from fans about the netting. He said, "I have more experience with this than average baseball executives because I was in the NHL. We had a tragedy where a child was killed and we immediately extended netting to the bends in the boards. What I learned there, as passionate as hockey fans are, it took them about 30 seconds to get used to it."
OPENING OWNERSHIP'S DOORS: The Dodgers last week sold minority stakes to two U.S. businessmen, and Kasten was asked whether the club would ever offer shares of the team to the public. He said, "We’re a very small ownership group. We’re very cohesive ... Over time, we’ve let some people in. We really take our time with this. Yeah, pieces are available, under the right circumstances. ... We let people in if we feel they can contribute and make our ownership stronger. So yes, pieces are for sale, but there’s no plan to go sell a big piece. ... Season tickets are way cheaper, if you want to do it that way."