Anaheim’s new mayor and City Council are starting a fresh round of negotiations with Angels baseball, hoping to reach an agreement before the team’s lease for the city-owned stadium expires.
A proposal the City Council is expected to consider Tuesday, Jan. 15, would extend the Angel Stadium lease through the end of 2020 so the two sides have time to hash out a new deal.
After more than 50 years playing in the stadium that bears their name, the Angels in October exercised an opt-out clause; the team would otherwise have been locked into the lease for another decade. Since 2013, negotiations between the city and Angels management have broken down several times, with the last official meeting in 2016.
Past talks have revolved around development rights to 150 acres of parking lots around the stadium and how to pay for the estimated $130 million to $150 million in maintenance and upgrades the stadium will need over the next 20 years.
Mayor Harry Sidhu, who took office in December, said in a statement Thursday that he met with Angels owner Arte Moreno last week.
“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. We need a plan to make that happen, and we need time to make that happen,” Sidhu said.
Moreno, in his first public remarks on the issue in some time, said in a statement: “After meeting with Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, we realized a one-year extension will give us adequate time to work collaboratively on a long-term relationship.”
While neither side has commented in recent months on specifics of what they hope a new lease might include, city spokesman Mike Lyster said, “We’re going to look at everything from rehabbing the stadium all the way to building a new stadium.”
But it’s unlikely that refurbishing or rebuilding the fourth-oldest venue in Major League Baseball would be financed by taxpayers. Instead, observers say a deal signed in November with Honda Center management is a likely guidepost for the direction Angels talks could take.
Under that deal, Anaheim Arena Management by Henry Samueli will buy city-owned parking lots around the arena at their appraised value of $10.1 million and will be able to develop them. Other key points included making profit-sharing with the city kick in sooner and having arena officials take over management of the ARTIC transit station. The deal also keeps the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center for at least 25 years.
“As you look around the country, the model for stadiums now is kind of these mixed-use developments, public-private partnerships where you kind of leverage stadiums as part of these larger developments,” Lyster said.
The stadium property is already zoned and permitted for more than 5,000 residential units and 3.1 million square feet each of office and commercial uses.
Disagreement over development rights around Angel Stadium helped blow up negotiations in 2014.
The previous year, the City Council approved some discussion starting points – a final deal could have looked quite different – that included allowing Angels owner Arte Moreno’s company to lease and develop stadium parking lots for 66 years, potentially for as little as $1 a year.
Other talking points were whether to give the Angels full control of the team name (meaning it could drop “Anaheim”), to raise the threshold at which the city gets a share of stadium ticket sales, and nixing the city’s annual $600,000 stadium maintenance obligation. The recent Ducks agreement keeps the city at the front of the name.
The suggested $1 a year drew fire from some, with then-mayor Tom Tait calling the proposal “outrageous” and bashing it as a “flawed deal” in an op-ed.
In 2014, the Angels briefly talked with Tustin and reportedly reached out to Irvine about relocating, but neither city offered to fund a new stadium, a considerable expense that a consultant in 2014 pegged in the hundreds of millions.
This week, new councilmen Jordan Brandman and Trevor O’Neil said the Honda Center agreement would be a good starting point for Angels talks, with Brandman adding, “I think we can get a lot more than Tom Tait got out of the Ducks deal.”
A 2014 independent appraisal valued the land around Angel Stadium at about $225 million if the team were to stay and $325 million if the whole property were available to develop. The city is getting a new appraisal done.
The Angels create little direct revenue for city coffers. The team keeps parking fees until they hit $6 million, the city collects $2 per home game ticket after 2.6 million tickets are sold, and it’s obligated to chip in for stadium maintenance.
But a 2013 city report calculated having the team in Anaheim generates more than $120 million a year in economic benefits.
And while its dollar value is elusive, Angels fan loyalty is not to be underestimated. Councilman Stephen Faessel and former Councilwoman Kris Murray both have said when they last campaigned – Murray in 2014 and Faessel in 2016 – they frequently heard from residents who worried the team would leave.
“‘Steve, keep the Angels baseball,’” Faessel said people told him. “‘They’re important to Anaheim.’”
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