Rafael Gutierrez of Oxnard spared no expense for this year’s opening day.
He and his friends planned to have a blast at Elysian Park before the game: They hired a party bus, a brass band and a taco maker.
But like other fans, Gutierrez on Monday morning faced a sobering surprise: dozens of police officers fanned across Stadium Way, prohibiting fans from parking or stopping their cars to unload. On several surrounding streets, parking was limited to two hours.
The crackdown was part of a city-led effort to control the unruly tailgating that’s long affected the area around Dodger Stadium.
Security has been a sensitive issue since the 2011 beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow, but this year, city officials took a tougher approach — with more than 200 officers — following numerous neighborhood complaints involving heavy drinking, public urinating and loud music.
Gutierrez agrees there needs to be some police presence, but he and many Dodger lovers found Monday’s actions heavy-handed.
“We couldn’t even get off our bus all at once,” he said. “We had to sneak out, one by one, and run into the park.”
They left behind their tables, tents and chairs. Their taco guy, who came separately, gave up and turned back.
“I live for this day,” the 24-year-old said, pointing to the Dodgers tattoo on his leg. “But this is so disappointing. We have no food and barely managed to grab a tiny cooler with some ice cream.”
For many who bleed Dodger Blue, opening day has been an long-held tradition. Fans take the day off work and come out in droves, dressed in blue and white to barbecue, dance and drink alcohol (some discreetly, some not so) from dusk until game time. Last year, nearly 50 Mexican brass bands hired by fans spread across the park lawn, playing their tubas and guitars.
On Monday, fans estimated the crowd was only about a third its usual size.
Officials said the day went smoothly, and their presence made a big difference. They issued about 60 citations for drinking in public and made no arrests.
“The park was still open and people enjoyed themselves,” Sgt. Vincent Aguirre said. “But the message was clearly delivered that drinking will not be allowed.”
Of course, many fans found ways around those restrictions.
They also managed to get by without nearby parking. Some left their cars up to a mile away and hauled their grills and folding tables on their backs or on dollies. Others had relatives drop them off or they took cabs or Uber to the park.
“No matter what, they can’t stop us,” said Erika Arias, 28, of South Gate. “We love the Dodgers too much.”
Some, however, questioned whether they would return next year.
Cesar Perez and his wife have been coming from Palmdale for several years. They bring their son, 11-year-old Andrew. The family sat quietly around their picnic blanket, staring at the long row of police cars a few feet away.
“You know who’s most affected by this?” Perez said, pointing to his son. “He is. This was a special family tradition I wanted to pass along to him, but why would I want to bring him now? So he can sit here and be profiled by police?”
For many fans, the frustration went beyond tailgaiting woes. They say loving their favorite team has been tough.
First, tailgating was stopped in the stadium parking lot and now the park is restricted. This year, the price of parking went up $5. Most can’t even watch Dodgers games from home unless they subscribe to Time Warner Cable.