Long Beach approaches Angels to explore possible waterfront ballpark
Long Beach officials have reached out to the Angels about the possibility of the team moving and playing in a new stadium on the city’s waterfront, city and team officials said Monday.
The city has not determined whether a baseball stadium would be feasible on the site or if it would be the best use for that property, let alone whether taxpayers would contribute to construction costs that would likely range from $500 million to $1 billion.
“We are in the early stages of our due diligence and are exploring a variety of options for this property,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “We have approached the Angels to express our interest and discuss the possibilities of this opportunity.”
The property is a 13-acre lot in downtown Long Beach that was a longtime host for the Ringling Bros. Circus, which led to it being nicknamed the “elephant lot.”
Long Beach officials first approached the Angels several months ago, after the team opted out of its lease at Angel Stadium in Anaheim last October. In January – following a mayoral election, the City of Anaheim voted in favor of a one-year extension to the stadium lease, giving both sides more time to come to a long-term solution. The team is now scheduled to play in Angel Stadium through the 2020 season.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said last week the team’s relationship with the city has been “very positive, a lot of good communication” since Harry Sidhu replaced Tom Tait as mayor in December. The team and the city have agreed to revive talks on a new or renovated stadium in Anaheim, with the city pitching Moreno on the Angels being one of the key ingredients in a mixed-use development that could be Orange County’s version of L.A. Live.
The Angels, last valued by Forbes magazine at $1.8 billion, have not explored relocating outside the region, and it is believed Anaheim and Long Beach are the only sites currently being considered by the team.
Significant details would have to be worked out for a move to Long Beach, most importantly the cost of a new stadium and who would pay for it, to say nothing of parking and traffic congestion issues. The city would also have to consider events already in place for the site, including the annual Long Beach Grand Prix, which runs along Shoreline Drive near the lot every April. There’s also the question of whether the Dodgers would or could legally challenge the Angels trying to relocate to L.A. County.
New stadiums typically require several years for environmental approvals, financing and construction, which would also raise the question of where the Angels would play immediately after their lease expires.
Sidhu said in a statement that it’s no surprise other cities would try to lure the Angels to leave since having a Major League Baseball franchise is a 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,” the statement said.
The Angels indicated they are willing to listen.
“As we have stated from the beginning, we must explore all our options to secure a long-term future for the Angels and provide fans with a high-quality experience in a renovated or new ballpark,” Angels president John Carpino said in a statement Monday night.
In January, Anaheim city councilman Jose Moreno said the city should make sure the team isn’t also negotiating with another city for a new home while talking with Anaheim, but the council majority opposed making that a requirement for extending the lease.
Sidhu met last month with Moreno.
“From that meeting, it is clear the team’s priority is to stay in Anaheim if we can work out a deal that benefits our residents, the city and the team,” Sidhu said in a statement. “We need a plan to make that happen, and we need time to make that happen.”
Negotiations with the Angels have been in fits and starts since 2013 and were basically nonexistent from 2016 until January. In 2013, Tait stood in the way of an Angel Stadium renovation agreement between Moreno and city negotiators, which led to the Angels exploring options for a new stadium in Los Angeles, Carson, Irvine and Tustin.
The Angels have been playing in Angel Stadium since 1966, making it the fourth-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, and they have made it clear that they want a new facility. The stadium currently seats 45,050, and the Angels have sold at least 3 million tickets every year since Moreno bought the team in 2003.
The Long Beach option was first reported Monday by the Long Beach Post.