Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt got top honors at the Santa Monica Chamber’s State of The City breakfast last week, and the Mirror caught up with the sports giant soon after. McCourt talked about his successful relocation of the Los Angeles Marathon’s finish line to Santa Monica in 2010, his philanthropic endeavors and, of course, answered a few questions about the America’s favorite pastime (baseball).
Mirror: The “Stadium to the Sea” marathon is a brand new idea – were there a lot of hurdles to clear or much resistance in bringing the finish line to Santa Monica?
McCourt: Actually, we’ve had great success in uniting Los Angeles around the idea of a destination marathon that brings together our region and highlights the best of Southern California. Sure, there was a lot of work that had to be done to make it happen, but we had a great positive response from all four cities, including Santa Monica, as well as the federal government.
Mirror: I know you started ThinkCure to fight cancer and that you are a big contributor to the Dodger Dream Foundation – is that the kind of work you want to continue by focusing on the charitable opportunities of the Los Angeles Marathon?
McCourt: Thank you for asking about our charitable efforts. This is actually something that’s very important to me. I believe the Honda LA Marathon has the potential to be a huge fundraising vehicle. We expanded our charity program this year, with 60 charities now benefiting from the marathon. To date, several thousand runners participate on behalf of their favorite charity, but I believe we can do more. One day, I hope that everyone who runs the marathon will do so for a worthy non-profit. We really hope to make this happen in the years to come.
Mirror: The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce thanked you at the State of the City address for bringing vitality to the regional economy. How will bringing the marathon to Santa Monica boost the local economy?
McCourt: We’re really bullish on what this marathon can do for the local economy and I believe many business owners in Santa Monica are too. Among the 25,000 runners – and by the way we expect the marathon to reach capacity this year – a good number will be from out of town, so that means hotel stays. There will be many thousands of spectators, and they’ll need places to eat. Plus, they’ll be very close to the Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade, Main Street – it should drive a lot of retail interest. Not to mention that there will be beautiful shots of Santa Monica Bay beamed to viewers from around the world. That might lead to a few more visits down the line.
Mirror: March 21, 2010 is the marathon date, likely a much more climate-friendly choice than last year’s May 25 race – was this an important thing for you to change?
McCourt: The March date is important for a number of reasons. First of all, we want to be sure it is safe and comfortable for runners and spectators. It also fits with the international marathon calendar – giving both elite and recreational runners from around the world the best chance to participate. And while there’s never any guarantee about the weather, a Sunday in late March should give us pretty great odds for a beautiful Southern California day.
Mirror: Unlike other owners, you bought and still operate the Dodgers without any financial partners. How do you do it all?
McCourt: I am very fortunate to love what I do – and to have a great team supporting me. Obviously that starts with the team on the field, but it also includes a terrific team behind the scenes. Our front office – from the president and general manager on down – are the best in the business. We have great employees in retail, groundskeeping and other essential functions. And of course our team’s manager is very special. All in all, it’s never about the efforts of one person – it’s about the work we do, collectively, both on and off the field.
Mirror: So, you own the Dodgers and the Los Angeles Marathon. Are there any other big purchases in the local sports world you plan on making?
McCourt: We’ve got a lot going on with both the Dodgers and the Marathon. At the moment, I’m focused on preparing for a great race in March, and looking forward to Opening Day.
Mirror: For the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers they played against the Red Sox at the Coliseum – so your hometown team was up against the team you own – did you feel any loyalty issues?
McCourt: Although I’m from the East Coast, I am now an Angeleno through and through. Tommy Lasorda may bleed Dodger Blue, but I’d say I’m pretty well converted. I look forward to the day we hoist a World Series trophy here in Los Angeles. The fans deserve it!
Mirror Sports Editoramy@smmirror.com