Dodgers to stay in place for 25 years

Dodgers to remain in stadium for 25 years

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt made good on a pair of promises he made to the Los Angeles community last year when he purchased the fabled team.

The Dodgers will remain in Chavez Ravine and stay in the hands of the McCourt family for at least the next 25 years.

Both stipulations were part of a major $250 million refinancing of the team that effectively removed all the debt on the franchise and shifted it to the 300 acres of property that includes and surrounds the ballpark that opened in 1962 and is undergoing a facelift.

"We took advantage of favorable financial conditions to pay off the acquisition loans that we had used to purchase the Dodgers," McCourt, a Boston real estate developer, said during a conference call on Thursday. "It also infused a significant amount of capital into the franchise."

L.A. Real Estate, which is also owned by McCourt, obtained the proceeds on the stadium via a private placement and intends to pay off loans used to purchase the franchise. That includes the $71 million owed to the team's previous owner, Fox Entertainment Group, plus it clears McCourt's property in south Boston for redevelopment.

The funds, secured by Bank of America Services, essentially shifts the debt burden of the franchise from the ballclub itself to the Chavez Ravine property, which was ceded to the late Walter O'Malley by the city and county of Los Angeles as impetus for the team's move from Brooklyn in 1957.

McCourt said the new loans were issued at a 5.6 percent interest rate for a 25-year period and thus are not due until 2030. He added that there are prepayment provisions in the loan, but that the payments are so favorable he intends to keep paying and fulfill the terms of the note as stipulated.

"This reaffirms the commitment that I've made since I arrived in Los Angeles to own the team for the long-term and to play baseball at Dodger Stadium," McCourt said.

At the time of the sale, McCourt told Dodger fans that the team would remain in Dodger Stadium and that he only intended to make improvements to the 43-year ballpark. He also said that the Dodgers would maintain a player payroll around $100 million to remain competitive and that ticket prices would remain stable.

Since then, the team won it's first National League West title since 1995 last season and, at 20-13, led the division by a game over Arizona going into Thursday's action.

Last winter, the team concluded a $20 million renovation on the stadium that included 1,600 new luxury box seats close to the field. A second phase of renovation is expected to be conducted during this coming offseason.

Because the Dodgers have an agreement with the county that no more than 56,000 seats can be sold for any given game at Dodger Stadium, the team had to take 1,600 lower-priced upper deck seats out of circulation.

Still, according to the Team Marketing Report, the Dodgers' average ticket price of $19.94 this season is ranked 17th among the 30 Major League teams.

Fox bought the Dodgers in 1998 from Peter O'Malley, whose father purchased controlling interest of the then Brooklyn team in 1950, when Branch Rickey sold his shares in the franchise and took over operations of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Dodgers won all their World Series titles under control of the O'Malleys -- 1955, '59, '63, '65, '81 and '88.

The Dodgers were 509-463 under the stewardship of Fox, but never won a postseason game. That dubious 16-year streak ended last October when the Dodgers defeated the eventual NL pennant-winning Cardinals at Dodger Stadium in Game 3 of their division series. St. Louis won that series in four games.

Under the McCourts, the Dodgers are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Brooklyn's 1955 seven-game World Series win over the Yankees all this season.

When McCourt purchased the team, it was reportedly losing $50 million a year. This year, after restructuring the team's local television deal with Fox, upgrading the stadium and refinancing the existing debt, he says the team should break even.

Because of this quick financial turnaround, McCourt was able to secure the $250 million from U.S. institutional investors in long-term senior notes, which were given a triple-A rating by XL Capital Assurance Inc.

McCourt said he would also review development of the land around the stadium now mostly used for parking, but that would be a long process involving environmental impact reports, plus county and city approval.

"We will be looking at the real estate and what might be done with that," McCourt said. "But fundamentally, what we're saying to folks is that we're committing to play baseball on that real estate for the long-term."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.