Dodgers to add shops, a museum and garages

Times Staff Writers

The Dodgers today plan to unveil their most extensive stadium renovation yet, a project that would transform the area behind the outfield to an entrance promenade featuring restaurants, shops, club offices and a Dodgers museum and add two parking garages to help replace the 2,000 spaces lost to construction.

In a letter sent Wednesday to season-ticket holders, owner Frank McCourt and President Jamie McCourt said the improvements would "give the stadium a chance to remain viable and perhaps see its 100th birthday."

The Dodgers would not confirm the project cost or other specifics, but a news release from the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put the cost at $500 million. The McCourts purchased the Dodgers -- and their stadium and surrounding parking lot -- for $430 million four years ago.

The McCourts' letter did not detail the renovations, but the plan would enact a vision Frank McCourt outlined when he bought the team in 2004 -- to transform at least part of the parking lot into an area offering dining and shopping for fans who arrive early and stay late, avoiding pregame and postgame traffic.

The Dodgers would generate additional revenue as well, not only on game days but from year-round use of the new facilities. The Dodgers briefed civic leaders and community groups this week on the project, targeted for completion in 2012.

City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, said the project would surround the ballpark with a ring of greenery, with parks and plazas "almost like a campus setting," so fans could walk from a garage onto a tree-lined walkway leading to an entrance, or to the retail cluster.

"They are not just dropping a box in a middle of a parking lot," Reyes said.

The garages could present a challenge to fans who complained last year after the Dodgers altered longtime parking and traffic rules. The Angels sued the city of Anaheim over proposed development of their stadium parking lot two decades ago, arguing that fans preferred surface-level parking to multi-level garages. (The Angel Stadium garages never were built.)

However, according to a source familiar with the project, the Dodger Stadium garages would have tiered entrances and exits to ease traffic flow, with new underground parking complementing the garages.

Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. In their letter, the McCourts said they were committed to the stadium "for the long haul" but made it clear it could not survive deep into the new century without these new attractions.

"The viability of a 50-year-old ballpark comes into question when you realize that, come next year, Dodger Stadium will be the third-oldest in baseball," the letter read.

Once the two New York teams move into new stadiums next year, the only older ballparks in use will be Boston's Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, and Chicago's Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914.

The plan requires City Council approval, which is expected to be a formality. Villaraigosa, Reyes and City Council President Eric Garcetti, whose district includes many of the streets used to enter and exit Dodger Stadium, will appear at today's news conference.

"This is a project that will green the area around Dodger Stadium and reduce its carbon footprint while spreading out the traffic impact on the neighborhood," Garcetti said.

The Dodgers added 1,000 parking spaces last winter by removing landscaping in the outer areas of the parking lot. Michael Kogan of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park said his group would work with Garcetti to try to restore some of the greenery that he said buffered the neighborhood.

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Andy LaRoche, sidelined since tearing a ligament in his right thumb March 7, went one for six for double-A Jacksonville in the first game of a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday.

LaRoche, who did not play in the field, lined a single to right in his first at-bat and came around to score. He also grounded out three times, flied out and struck out in Jacksonville's 15-9 win over Montgomery.

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Infielder Tony Abreu, on the disabled list with what's being called a strained groin, had an MRI exam early Wednesday and was to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache and the Dodgers' medical staff later in the day.

The team is growing increasingly frustrated trying to find the cause of the pain that has sidelined Abreu most of the spring. Abreu, who had his 2007 season interrupted by an abdominal problem, underwent hernia surgery in October.

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With the Dodgers coming off a 1-4 trip, Manager Joe Torre tinkered with his lineup, holding out second baseman Jeff Kent and elevating slumping outfielder Andruw Jones, who is still recovering from flu-like symptoms, to the second spot in the batting order for the first time since 2004.

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Times staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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