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Think New, Again

Times Staff Writer

Valet parking, patio dining, a new sound system, six more suites and additional advertising could be coming to Dodger Stadium in the next two years.

The Dodgers also could expand concession and restroom facilities, add escalators and elevators and build two new stadium clubs, one by moving the press box to the reserved level, according to a project description approved by the city planning department.

The proposed renovations would modernize the stadium and generate more money for the team, although the Dodgers on Thursday would not provide an estimate of construction costs or projected revenue. Although the Dodgers are expected to unveil the project within the next few weeks, club officials cautioned that plans are subject to change until then.

Owner Frank McCourt declined to comment, spokeswoman Kelly Mullens said. The Dodgers’ senior vice president for public affairs, Howard Sunkin, issued a statement in lieu of answering a list of questions.

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“The Los Angeles Dodgers have filed and received approval from the City of Los Angeles for a broad plan encompassing a series of improvements that the organization is contemplating over the next several off-seasons,” Sunkin said. “All enhancements are about continuing to improve the fan experience at Dodger Stadium, although specific projects and timelines have yet to be finalized.”

In documents filed with the city and approved April 21, the Dodgers said construction would occur “primarily during the off-season, with work commencing in 2005 and anticipated to be complete by April 2007" and said projects would be completed “as feasible, given schedule and budgetary factors.”

Dodger Stadium, opened in 1962, is the fourth-oldest stadium in the major leagues. In May, when McCourt refinanced his purchase of the team, he pledged to lenders that the Dodgers would play in the stadium for the next 25 years.

The Dodgers were losing $50 million a year when he bought the team last year, McCourt has said, and revenue-generating stadium amenities are critical to reversing those losses. But, when he announces the project, McCourt has to sway traditionalists opposed to altering the venerable stadium and skeptics wondering whether the additional revenue will be allotted to the player payroll or the bottom line, said David Carter, a Los Angeles sports business consultant.

“Depending on how it’s presented, it could be embraced or it could be the old Ronald Reagan line: There you go again,” Carter said.

McCourt invested $20 million in stadium renovations last winter, including the installation of luxury seats at up to $400 a ticket and an advertising display board that rings the front of the loge level. But some of the seats have poor sight lines -- a mistake McCourt has vowed to fix this winter -- and some critics have cited the ad ring as evidence of over-commercialization at the ballpark.

The Dodgers plan to install another such ring in front of the reserved level, according to the documents.

Advertising has so saturated the Washington Redskins’ stadium that fans now tag FedEx Field as “The ATM Machine,” Carter said, calling the tale a cautionary one for the Dodgers. Ultimately, Carter said, McCourt needs to be concerned about fans wary that ticket prices went up this season while the player payroll went down and the Dodgers struggled on the field.

“The fans will be very tolerant if the revenue goes to improve the ballclub,” Carter said, “which ultimately improves the fan experience.”

The Dodgers plan to add two stadium clubs, both on the club level, one along the third-base line and the other behind home plate, in the space currently occupied by the press box. The Dodgers would relocate the press box to the reserved level, but the plans do not indicate how many seats might be lost there or how those fans might be accommodated. The plan also includes six new suites, all on the club level.

The Dodgers propose outdoor food courts and dining areas on the loge and reserved levels, restroom facilities doubled in size and concession stands enlarged by about 70%. They also plan valet parking with a private stadium entrance, modifications designed to improve traffic flow in the parking lot and the addition of escalators near first base and third base and elevators near each foul pole.

In addition, the Dodgers want to renovate the sound system by installing speakers throughout the ballpark, not only in center field. They intend to expand the home and visiting clubhouses. And, as previously announced, the team plans to replace each seat in the park, with the exception of the pavilion seats.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Sprucing up the yard

The Dodgers have received approval from the Los Angeles City Department of Planning for a stadium renovation that is scheduled to be completed by 2007 and could include the following elements:

* Valet parking

* Patio dining

* Six new suites

* Expanded concession and restroom facilities

* Two new stadium clubs

* New sound system

* New escalators and elevators

* A display advertising board ringing the front of the reserved level

* Replacement of every seat, except pavilion seats


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