EDITOR'S NOTE: Jon filed this brilliant idea a year and a half ago. It's worth taking another look at it, given the latest developments in the NFL-AEG saga. -- John Rabe
It would enrage traditionalists and preservationists, but Phil Anschutz could solve nagging problems with football in LA, the Dodgers, and the legacy of Chavez Ravine.
I don't know Anschutz, the billionaire who bankrolled Staples Center, L.A. Live, and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." I don't know how he reacted when he heard about the Dodgers sale. And I don't know if he got all 1% and cackled like Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons," rubbing his hands together. But I hope so.
What I do know is that maybe the most controversial real estate play in Downtown LA since Bunker Hill is now possible, and it hinges on three questions. Could Anschutz’s company, AEG, buy the Dodgers? Could the company move the franchise to a billion-dollar baseball stadium downtown? And – here’s the kicker -- could it be partially financed by selling the land where Dodger Stadium now sits to developers … who would agree to build affordable housing there, righting an historic wrong?
I know nothing about any such deal. It all spills from my head, which for the record is the same head that thinks the return of "Beavis & Butt-Head" is a highpoint of 2011. But it could happen, and here’s how.
Since Anschutz doesn't talk to the press, media outlets asked AEG president Tim Leiweke if AEG would bid for the team. Leiweke wouldn't say, which is usually code for, "We started working on that precise idea three months ago." Anschutz has already shown he’s willing to drop the cash necessary to build a pro football stadium downtown. The trouble is the NFL, which has repeatedly sucker punched Angelenos trying to bring back football. But if Anschutz buys the Dodgers, he no longer has to battle the NFL. Change the building design, and AEG gets 81 games a year in the stadium instead of 8.
That brings us to Dodger Stadium, which, I’m sorry, is outdated and often unpleasant. Yes, the views are majestic. But, the majestic part ends the moment you leave your seat. The atmosphere can be downright thuggish, traffic in and out of the stadium is frustrating, $15 parking is painful, and the restrooms feel like leftover sets from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
The preservation community would go ballistic at the suggestion of leveling Dodger Stadium, which is why AEG and the developers would have to convince the city that the project ultimately does far more good than harm.
Remember that before Dodger Stadium, Chavez Ravine was home to poor families, most of them Latino, and promises to build public housing on the site were broken. The developers could get support for the plan by reserving some portion of their units for low-income residents and families. There would need to be ironclad agreements ensuring that the new Dodger Apartments and Chavez Condos make up for the mistakes of the past.
There would still be a lot to figure out. Financing is tight and parking and traffic studies would be required. Politicians would need to be convinced. And it would require the biggest project labor agreement in the history of L.A.
Still, it could happen. Whether we like it or not.
(Jon Regardie is Executive Editor of the LA Downtown News.)