Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Dodger fans excited for new owner
By Ramona Shelburne
Roger Arrieta wanted to wait until Saturday afternoon when more people might attend. But after seven and a half years of Frank McCourt's reign as owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers ended so abruptly Tuesday night, he decided Dodger fans had waited long enough to celebrate.
So Arrieta, who operates the popular website "Mark Cuban Save the Dodgers," started hastily assembling a rally celebration for Wednesday night outside the Dodger Stadium gates.
"This is a day all of us as Dodger fans couldn't even imagine after all this drama," Arrieta told a group of about 50 fans who made signs and waved to honking cars driving by the stadium. "I really think people just wanted to come out and celebrate, to speak out about how they feel now."
Arrieta obviously favors Cuban, the popular owner of the Dallas Mavericks, as a buyer for the Dodgers. But he said he'll be happy with whoever the new owner is, so long as it is a person with enough financial resources to operate the team at an elite level.
"The goal of this was always to save the Dodgers," Arrieta said. "I would love for it to be Mark Cuban, but if it's Steve Garvey or Orel Hershiser or Peter O'Malley, that would be great too. We just want somebody who will restore the Dodgers to the team we all grew up with.
"What's been happening the last two years isn't right. A couple months ago, every joke at the ESPYs was about the Dodgers. Some of them were even funny, but that's not acceptable, that's not cool for a great franchise like the Dodgers."
Fans who attended the rally wore Dodgers jerseys and made signs that said, "Bye Bye No Bank Frank" and "Dodgers Win. Game Over McCourt."
Fans stayed away from Dodger Stadium in droves last season. The team's attendance fell a staggering 18 percent, though that's just the number of tickets sold. During many games, the stadium seemed far emptier than that.
"It was sad," said season ticket holder Lorena Ramos. "I have season seats in the upper deck. There were games when it seemed like there were only 20 of us up there."
She attended some of those games with her friend, Amanda Jurgensen. Many times, the women said, the stadium was so empty you could move around or buy tickets cheaply to any seat in the house.
"I had some of the best seats I'll ever have," Jurgensen said. "You could get field level seats for $10 for most games."
Why did fans seem to turn on McCourt so noticeably this season?
"He just got too greedy," Jurgensen said. "You can only push people so far."
Kristie Wold drove from Downey, Calif., to celebrate outside the stadium on Wednesday night. She had been a season ticket holder for 20 years until this season, when she decided to boycott games in protest of McCourt.
"There were so many games I wanted to go to, but it was more important to boycott and not give him (McCourt) any more of my money," she said. "I only went to two games this year, and only because I got the tickets for free from a friend. I didn't buy any concessions when I was there, and I didn't park inside either."
Wold said her disillusionment with the McCourts was gradual.
"First ticket prices kept going up, then beer was $10, then parking went up to $15, then they segregated the parking," she explained. "But what really put me over the top was when we found out Mrs. McCourt had a 24-hour on-call hairdresser. I'm not jealous. It's just that their lifestyle was so extreme.
"I understand it's a business, but when you can't afford to pay for decent players, it's not right to be taking money from the team for yourself."
Wold said she will return to Dodger Stadium as a season ticket holder, no matter who the new owner is.
"I'm already thinking about buying tickets for Opening Day," she said. "Wow, I'm getting goosebumps just talking about Opening Day."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.