Among the many ways the new Dodgers ownership group has separated itself from predecessor Frank McCourt in a little more than one year on the job has been its willingness to invest in both the team and ballpark—a combination that has produced a pennant contender on the field and a spike in attendance at Dodger Stadium.
The owners, headed by Mark Walter, have now also proven to be better at sharing than McCourt.
Los Angeles agreed yesterday to allow its Dodgertown moniker to be used at the team’s former spring training base of 61 years in Vero Beach, Fla., four years after McCourt rejected a similar request from Minor League Baseball, which converted the site into a sports training and destination complex in 2009. Former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, who heads a group that purchased a majority stake in the site’s operation in November 2011, announced yesterday that he reached a licensing agreement with the team that allows him to call the famed complex “Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida.”
“We appreciate the extraordinary cooperation of Dodger president Stan Kasten and the Dodger organization in recognizing the significance of this unique site,” O’Malley said in a statement. “We also are grateful to Major League Baseball for working with us, perpetuating the history and tradition of Historic Dodgertown and what it has meant to the game for decades.”
The new name is certainly an improvement on Vero Beach Sports Village, which is what Minor League Baseball reluctantly introduced the 65-acre complex as in April 2010, following 10 months of failed negotiations with the Dodgers over trademark rights. McCourt chose to keep Dodgertown for the Dodgers, and used it as part of the team’s failed marketing campaign–“Dodgertown, all are welcome” – while encouraging their minor league affiliates to pick up on it as well.
The negotiations ultimately delayed Minor League Baseball opening the Vero complex, the first of many setbacks during its more than two years of operating Vero Beach Sports Village at a loss. “I was prohibited from marketing it at all,” Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner said at the time. “That was the dilemma and frustration: While we’re messing around trying to get the license, we’re missing month after month of putting it out in front of people . . .
“It has cost us—cost us big-time. But we survived that and will probably survive worse.”
Ultimately, MiLB could not survive the initial setback (the facility operated at a $1 million loss in 2010) or a down economy. In Novemeber 2011, MiLB formed a partnership with O’Malley and his sister Terry Seidler, along with former Dodgers pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park. Each of the five entities has an equal stake in the complex.