While Dodger Stadium benefited from a generous land grant from the city and infrastructure subsidies detailed in Dodgers Move West (also, see Stadiums and Eminent Domain), the team erected the iconic building with its own $23 million. Since 1962, they poured over $100 million into various renovations (and have now played more games there than in Ebbets Field). In April, the Dodgers announced plans for a $500 million extensive renovation of the structure and grounds (The Next 50) scheduled for completion in 2012. The update will preserve the pre-cookie-cutter “West Coast” feel of the original design while adding a 360-degree green walkway to replace some of the surrounding parking lots now moved to underground parking garages. It also adds a grand vista behind the home plate seats and a promenade entrance into centerfield.
Much has been written about stadium subsidies with the typical public share running around 70 percent. Why does most or all of the money come privately in some situations? By this, I’m not asking about what drives subsidies, per se, but what’s the “political economy” driving differences in the private/public split across cities?
The private-leaning outcome is so rare in the U.S. to make it more of a case study comparison than a systematic data analysis. In San Francisco and L.A., maybe the number of alternative forms of entertainment (including natural endowments) make the population (or threshold share of it) unwilling to support major subsidies. Why is private-leaning the default position in the English Premier League? That one is harder to answer and may draw more from historical standards of public-private mix for such things.
The Dodger Stadium renovations will establish a retail area (and, if rezoning approved by LA) an adjacent housing area in an attempt to establish an entertainment hub beyond game days as well as before and after games — “Dodgertown.” As SE writers and readers have observed, such projects often fail. St. Louis recently tried a similar idea without much success. There almost has to be some kind of organic reason supporting people hanging out in or living in the area, otherwise people just prefer to drive in and out for games. Dodger Stadium may have the necessary underlying situation for the idea to pan out — lots of people who live relatively close. Anyway, the Dodgers are the ones on the line.