The Dodgers have made plenty of noise by shooting off fireworks during every Friday night home game this season. But, on the subject of a $500 million stadium construction project, the baseball team has been very quiet – at least with neighbors in Echo Park and Solano Canyon. In April 2008, team owner Frank McCourt, accompanied by Mayor Villaraigosa, announced the ambitious, half-billion dollar project to transform the 300-acre property into a year-around destination in time for the stadium’s 50th anniversary in 2012. The Next 50 plan includes a museum, restaurants, shops, parking garages and a “green necklace” of 2,000 trees. All this, McCourt said, will allow the stadium to “flourish for another 50 years.”
So far this year, however, team officials have not brought up the project with many nearby residents. At an annual pre-season meeting with neighbors, the Next 50 project “was just not discussed,” said one person who attended. In a separate meeting with the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, a Dodger executive basically said there was no rush to complete an environmental review on the project, said a person in attendance. “I think they are going to have trouble meeting the  deadline,” said one stadium neighbor.
But, even if they are running behind to meet the 2012 target date, the Dodgers continue to work on what some residents fear will become a sports-themed City Walk. Last fall, the team announced a partnership with the William Morris agency to find out what corporate sponsors would be interested in slapping their brands on different pieces of the property. “The expansion is intended to transform the ballpark into a year-round destination for dining, shopping and recreation – and could also serve up numerous branding opportunities,” said the Los Angeles Times.
In April, McCourt moved his Boston-based real estate company to Los Angeles and named Geoffrey Wharton, who has extensive experience in real estate development, to head the firm. Wharton’s major responsibility: “concluding the entitlement process and overseeing construction of the Next 50 plan,” said a Dodger press release. In late May, Councilwoman Janice Hahn asked that new restrictions on digital billboards and super-graphics be delayed so that community and business groups that want them in certain areas, “including Dodger Stadium,” can apply to become so-called sign districts (However, it’s not clear if Dodger Stadium has requested to become a sign district).
The team is also asking fans to back up their project. A section on the Dodger web site includes a place where fans can sign up to become Next 50 supporters and asks if their names can be displayed publicly.
Where are the Dodgers in the planning process and when will work start? The Eastsider asked the Dodgers for an update back in May. In response, spokeswoman Amy Summers said, “We just don’t have an exact time line right now, but should as the season progresses.”
Rendering from Dodgers web site; bottom photo by kla4067 via Flickr