The recent violent incident at Dodger Stadium has been getting quite a bit of attention lately, as Kevin Roderick notes. In the past season or two, a handful of people have told me that they don't think it's safe to go to games, a concern that I had never heard before.
I believe that these concerns are somewhat overblown. Maybe I'm naïve, but I've never felt unsafe at Dodger Stadium. I attend roughly 10 games a year, many of them in the cheap seats, and I've always found the atmosphere to be warm, enjoyable, and friendly. Occasionally, there are some annoying knuckleheads around me, but never more than I've seen at other stadiums.
Dodger Stadium isn't the only LA-area sports venue that's had a violent incident in recent years. There were two extremely violent incidents that took place at Angel Stadium in 2009. Last December, there was a brawl in the Rose Bowl parking lot before the USC-UCLA game, which resulted in two stabbings.
So is this an LA problem? Or is this a larger problem in sports?
I believe it's the latter. With the amount of alcohol consumed at sporting events these days, I'm honestly surprised there aren't more incidents. NFL and college football games have parking lots that are littered with tailgaters and arrests are not uncommon on football gamedays.
Still, that doesn't mean we should merely accept that the occasional incident will happen at a sporting event. If I were the Dodgers, then I would make a few clear and tangible changes to promote a safer atmosphere on gamedays.
First off, Thursday night's incident was not the first to have taken place in the Dodger Stadium parking lots. The Dodgers have a large number of security personnel inside the stadium, but outside the stadium, there's often no one to be found. They should look to increase the number of security officers in the parking lots, and even consider moving some people from inside the stadium to the outside once a game ends. There should also be more security cameras so they could identify people like the individuals who were responsible for Thursday's beating. Also, some areas in the parking lots are not well-lit, and I think a few more lighting towers would help.
Additionally, the Dodger Stadium parking lots are enormous, and sometimes it's extremely difficult to find your car. This is particularly true in Lots 3 and 4 near the Golden State Gate, but it's also not easy in Lots 1 and 2 near the Sunset Gate (here's a map of the Dodger Stadium parking lots). Row markers in the parking lots would go a long way. Visitors would be able to write down the row in which they parked, and then proceed much more quickly to their vehicle when leaving the stadium. Having two giant baseballs in Lot 3 that says "3" doesn't help that much. There are a few times when I've spent as long as 15-20 minutes looking for my car near the Golden State Gate, and it feels like an eternity. It would make an enormous difference if I knew I was parked in say, "Row 32G" for instance.
As for issues inside the stadium, I'm surprised that the Dodgers don't have fans go through metal detectors. They do check bags, but they don't have the metal detectors that you see at STAPLES Center, Home Depot Center, and other venues. I don't like walking through them, but since fans are legitimately expressing concerns about safety, then it's a step that the Dodgers should probably take.
Finally, the Dodgers do have a hotline where fans can call or text ballpark security if there is an unruly fan seated in their general area. I haven't been to a Dodger game this season yet, but I've been told that a sign with that number is now permanent. If so, then that's an excellent step for the team to take. In the past, they've flashed the number of the videoboard a few times, but it's certainly easy to miss. I'd also consider putting a flyer or card of some sort with the number inside the game program that one gets when they drive into the ballpark.
I believe that the perception of a problem is much greater than the actual problem at Dodger Stadium. A large reason for that is the negative image of the McCourts. I don't believe Dodger Stadium is any less safe than any other baseball stadium. But the Dodgers cannot ignore that an incident took place in the parking lot on Opening Night this year and at the Home Opener in 2009. There are some things the Dodgers can do to improve the atmosphere, and making those improvements can only help change the perception and reduce the likelihood of another problem.