Magic Johnson Lied to Dodger Fans About Frank McCourt's Role In Parking Lots
Updated below: Dodgers will lose millions on the parking deal, after they pay McCourt.
Magic Johnson stood up on a podium at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and flat-out lied to Dodger fans.
Johnson, the front man for the team's new ownership group, said that ex-owner Frank McCourt was "not involved in any shape or fashion" with the team. He also said McCourt would not get any of the parking revenues.
"He doesn't get a dime from the parking," Johnson said.
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False. In fact, as the Times' Bill Shaikin reported Friday night, the Dodgers will pay $14 million a year to a company half-owned by McCourt for the privilege of parking cars at the stadium.
Magic Johnson simply lied about that, as he continues to obfuscate
about his partnership with the most hated man in Los Angeles.
Asked on Saturday to explain Johnson's comment, in light of the $14 million parking lot lease, Dodger spokesman Joe Jareck said, "It's got nothing to do with parking. It's a lease deal for the land."
You got that? The Dodgers are leasing the parking lots from Frank McCourt, in order to park cars there, but it's got nothing to do with parking. That's what you have to believe in order to claim that Johnson was telling the truth.
This wasn't some stray remark on Johnson's part. The new owners have been lying about this issue continuously since their $2.15 billion bid was accepted in March. On March 29, three anonymous sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that the new owners "will not allow McCourt to reap any profits from parking revenue." Based on that, she wrote a story headlined "McCourt gets no parking lot money."
When confronted by Shaikin with the fact that the Dodgers are in fact paying McCourt for the use of his land, Mark Walter, the controlling owner, acknowledged on Friday that "McCourt would get some portion of the annual $14 million lease payments."
But that's not what he said on Wednesday, when he was asked the same question. At the press conference, he acknowledged that McCourt had an interest in future real estate development, but as for "Current operations -- parking -- not related to it."
He could have leveled with fans then, but decided instead that Dodger fans don't deserve the truth. Way to kick off your ownership.
Now, with numbers like $2.15 billion floating around, it's easy to forget that $14 million is a very high amount for the Dodgers to pay to rent their own parking lots. (Ask yourself: Who else is going to rent them?) Frank McCourt set the price back in 2005, when he was on both sides of the transaction. When Shaikin first reported on the rent payments in 2010, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist called the figure "way out of line" with what other teams pay.
"There's nothing anywhere that's anything like that in professional sports," Zimbalist told Shaikin in 2010. "I don't know of any team that pays anything like that to use its facility."
So now the Dodgers are stuck with a very high rent payment for the next 99 years. That's money that could go into scouts and player salaries. Instead it will line Frank McCourt's pockets, forever.
Asked to defend this arrangement, Jareck said, "It's all part of a very complicated deal. I think our fans will see very quickly that this ownership group will spend what it takes to win and any lease money will not have economic impact on the franchise."
He may be right. Maybe the new owners have done such a good job of lying and obfuscating about this supposedly "complicated deal," that fans won't care. And maybe if they put a winning team on the field, no one will mind that Frank McCourt is siphoning millions of dollars from the franchise every year.
But some fans probably care a lot. For those fans, there's a simple solution: Boycott the lots. Take public transportation. Get to Union Station -- by bus, by Gold Line, Red Line, Blue Line, Expo Line, Amtrak, Metrolink, or by car. Get on the Dodger Stadium Express.
As author David Kipen put it in the L.A. Times: boycotting the lots would "put the new owners on notice that Dodgers fans are not to be trifled with."
And don't be lured by the reduced price. That just shows they're scared.
Update: So how much revenue do the Dodgers get from parking every year? Thanks to the McCourt divorce, we don't have to speculate. We have the data. In 2006, the last year in which parking cost $10, the Dodgers brought in $9.2 million in parking revenue. (The figure comes from a financial summary included in McCourt's ill-fated pitch to Chinese investors for a global sports franchise.)
In 2006, the Dodgers were second in the majors in attendance, with 46,401 fans per game. So far this year, the Dodgers are sixth in attendance, with 39,591 fans per game. So it'll take quite a bit of work just to get back up to $9.2 million. But let's just go with that to be sporting.
Now, if Frank McCourt charges the Dodgers $14 million per year for the parking lot lease, let's see... carry the one... that leaves the Dodgers $5 million in the red on the parking deal. (And that's not counting the cost of parking attendants.)
That $5 million is more than Juan Rivera makes, more than Aaron Harang makes, and about 10 times more than Javy Guerra makes.
First posted at 7:49 a.m. on Sunday.
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