04/19/11 11:52 PM ET
Dodgers hire Soboroff as vice chairman
Los Angeles business leader vows to improve fan experience
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Soboroff, who will begin his new role immediately and report to owner Frank McCourt, will be responsible for "leading efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium, strengthening ties to the region's community and philanthropic organizations, and expanding conservation and sustainability programs at Dodger Stadium," the release stated.
"Steve understands this city as few others do, and his contributions have made Los Angeles a better place," McCourt said in a statement. "Not only will he infuse great ideas and energy to the Dodger organization, but he will use his trademark 'get-it-done' approach to extend the Dodgers' positive impact on Los Angeles. It starts with a quality fan experience in the stadium, and extends throughout the Southern California community."
Soboroff, 62, is a former president of the city's Recreation and Parks Commission, former CEO of the Playa Vista community and current board chairman of the Weingart Foundation and the EXPO Center in Exposition Park. While serving as senior adviser to former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, he played a lead role in bringing the Staples Center to downtown L.A. and putting together the Alameda Corridor project.
"Step by step, I'm going to make things happen," he said. "This franchise is one of the great parts of L.A. and I want to help it lead L.A. in a number of ways -- from fan experience to philanthropic to the neighborhood communities to environmental and to sportsmanship."
Soboroff, a lifelong Dodgers fan who carries baseball cards of Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider and Satchel Paige in his wallet, plans to meet with fans and Dodgers stakeholders to hear their ideas for improving the fan experience.
"You will see me in every section of the ballpark checking things out, listening to fans, and taking strong actions in a number of areas. And I'm in a hurry," he said. "The Dodgers are one of the great professional sports franchises in the world, and an important civic institution in Southern California. Frank has empowered me to set a new standard when it comes to the fan experience and the Dodgers' impact on the Los Angeles community. ... The fan experience starts with a safe, comfortable, family environment, and extends from there."
Soboroff said he is not working with a contract, he has no equity stake in the club and isn't seeking any. Nor, he said, does he plan another run for public office, having lost a mayoral bid in 2001. He said his new role is "not about football or real estate development" but as a "public policy guy," he "can't think of a better place to make an impact" than with the Dodgers.
He said that he was one of the initial local community leaders McCourt sought out when he bought the club and he's positive McCourt will own the ballclub long term.
"That is a non-issue," he said. "I can read a balance sheet and an income statement. There are assets and there are liabilities, realized and unrealized. There is no question. Is Frank McCourt financially fine? Yes. Does he own everything free and clear? No. Does he have a few mortgages, does he have a lot of mortgages? Do I have a lot of mortgages? But his assets in relationship to his liabilities, believe me. You don't have to believe me, you'll see.
"Frank is going to make payroll and this team is going to have great players and have the money to have great players. There are assets behind this that I want to help realize the complete value for. The future here is great."
Soboroff said the Dodgers can be "leveraged" into improving aspects of Los Angeles life ranging from parenting to public decorum.
Soboroff, whose letter supporting McCourt last year was published by the Los Angeles Times, said he understands the Dodgers have a credibility issue.
"I hear you," he said. "I've got 45 years in this, give me a break, give me a chance. I'm not denying the frustration."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.