Could Long Beach offer put new wrinkle in Angels’ stadium talks with Anaheim?

by in News

While Long Beach is the latest suitor to court the Angels, the baseball team began early stage negotiations in January to remain in Anaheim, its home since 1966.

The team has a loyal fan base and sells more than 3 million tickets annually, but city and team officials have struggled in recent years to find any success in their lease talks.

With an approaching deadline for the Angels to opt out of a long-term agreement, the two sides held talks from about 2013 to 2016. But they broke down several times and it took the election of a new mayor, Harry Sidhu, in November to restart formal negotiations.

The Angels had exercised their opt-out clause in October, with officials saying at the time they were exploring all options in pursuit of what’s best for the team and its fans. That started the clock, giving them through the 2019 season to settle on a new lease or find a new home.

But last month, Sidhu led the council in offering the team a one-year extension to allow time for good-faith negotiations.

That’s exactly what frustrated Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno when he heard about Long Beach’s overtures toward the Angels. He had proposed that while agreeing to the lease extension, both sides should pledge not to talk with anyone else during negotiations. But he couldn’t get the votes.

“The basis of negotiations is you don’t want to be used as a bargaining chip,” Moreno said Tuesday. “And it seems as if in every iteration we’ve been used as that.”

When discussions with Anaheim were stalled in 2014, the Angels met with Irvine and Tustin officials about building a new stadium, though those talks came to nothing. Tustin had planned to offer land on a former Marine air base, but city leaders had no inclination to spend taxpayer money on a potentially $500 million to $1 billion stadium.

Critics have characterized the current Angel Stadium lease as quite generous, with high thresholds before profit sharing with the city kicks in and no annual rent paid because of an $87 million up-front payment toward stadium renovations made in the mid-1990s, when Disney owned the team.

But others point out the ancillary revenue such as sales and hotel taxes that Anaheim gets from having a pro sports team call the city home, and some note that the 45,000-seat stadium is the fourth-oldest in Major League Baseball, in need of maintenance and upgrades estimated at up to $150 million in coming years.

The city’s other home team, the Ducks, were recently locked in for decades to come at the Honda Center under a deal city leaders have said could point the way for Angels talks.

With an eye to continuing the exploding development in Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle, which surrounds the hockey arena and the baseball stadium, officials agreed to sell parking lots around the Honda Center to Ducks management for $10.1 million to be developed with entertainment, restaurants, hotels and offices.

A similar development deal with the Angels could help pay for renovations or a new stadium while making the area even more of an entertainment destination.

An earlier proposal – ultimately rejected – would have allowed Angels owner Arte Moreno to develop the 155-acre stadium site – including parking lots – under a 66-year lease, potentially for $1 a year.

Anaheim officials last week hired an appraiser to determine the value of the city-owned stadium and surrounding land, both with and without the team in residence.

What Long Beach may offer the Angels besides a waterfront location remains to be seen, but Anaheim officials hope it won’t prove a stronger draw than their long history with the team, the potential of development rights and whatever else the two sides can negotiate.

“It’s no surprise other cities would try to lure the Angels to leave,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement. “Having a Major League Baseball franchise is a big benefit to any city. We are confident that the best place for the Angels is and always will be Anaheim, and the one-year extension we granted gives us the time to work out the details and craft an agreement that benefits our residents and the city.”