By Bob Nightengale |
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the world’s leader in attendance, drawing more fans than any venue in sports, and leading Major League Baseball in attendance for six years running.
They’re the only team in baseball that has reached the postseason the past six years, winning six consecutive National League West titles and back-to-back pennants.
The franchise is worth $3 billion, second only to the New York Yankees, generating more than $500 million in annual revenue.
Yet, in the offices at 1000 Vin Scully Ave., it’s not enough.
Tucker Kain, who has spent the past eight seasons as the Dodgers’ CFO and was promoted this week to become president of the business enterprise, told USA TODAY Sports that he has been given full authority to rip up the blueprint.
This doesn’t mean they are whipping out the checkbook for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. And Dallas Keuchel isn’t coming West.
No, this means that Kain, who arrived eight years ago when Mark Walter and Guggenheim purchased the team, can design new ways to assure that the 3.8 million fans that come through the turnstiles each year, will keep on coming.
There are four football teams in town, including USC and UCLA, two NBA teams, two NHL teams, two soccer teams, and two MLB teams with the Angels in Orange County, all in competition for those entertainment dollars.
The Dodgers’ mission now, owner Peter Guber says, is to hand the keys of the franchise over to Kain and let him do anything he envisions to keep the Dodgers as kings of the hill.
Think an entertainment district on the vast land surrounding Dodger Stadium. Think about a high-speed underground system tunnel leading to Dodger Stadium before the 2020 All-Star Game. Think about night clubs and sports bars inside Dodger Stadium. Think real-time information on your smart phones where you too have the same analytics at your disposal as manager Dave Roberts. Think about a stadium experience where you can change seats, even move into different sections, every three innings during a game.
“He has to find a way furiously to curate new audiences at the young level and connect with them,’’ Guber tells USA TODAY Sports. “He has to go out hunting where the elephants are. He has to speak their language because the new generation of fans consume games in a different way.
“It’s not so much people interested in the statistics of baseball, but Fortnite, League of Legends, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, the immediacy of the environment, the gamification, fantasy, gambling and the social aspects of the narrative.
“If you don’t grow new tomatoes, you’re not going to have much marinara sauce in the future.’’
Kain, 36, who negotiated the Dodgers’ record $8.3 billion TV deal, says he’s exhilarated to be able to take this historic franchise and stadium into the new frontier.
“We came in and inherited a team with a history and legacy that was paved by guys like Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax,’’ Kain said. “Now, we want that legacy to move forward. We need to continue to evolve and shift as fans engage in the game and consume differently. Creating a different environment creates opportunity.
“We’re figuring out a way to create more personalized fan experience to make sure have the experience that’s valuable to them, and potentially unique to them.’’
The Dodgers have watched the popularity of the Colorado Rockies’ rooftop bar at Coors Field. They’ve toured the battery area at SunTrust Park in Atlanta and Ballpark Village in St. Louis. They’ve studied the Oakland A’s creative ticket policy that provides season-ticket holders the opportunity to change tickets each game.
The Dodgers say everything is under consideration, but in a few years, vow that fans will be able to do everything but sit in the dugout and make pitching changes.
“My own view is that if we don’t challenge our incumbency,’’ says Guber, who also is co-chairman and owner of the Golden State Warriors, “somebody else will. If we don’t take a risk, somebody will.
“It’s like the concept of analytics and metrics that were kept in a deep dark vault only for the Billy Beane group to set them free. You can take the secret out of the sauce, but you still have to have the sauce.
“We want to turn the audience from passengers into participants. This is show business. We’re going to take chances. If we don’t take them now, when?
“Kain is the perfect guy to take those chances. He’s driving the bus. The idea is mobility. The millennials don’t want to stay in the same place.
“He’s going to have them flying into the clouds.
“I can’t wait to see.’’