Angels threaten to leave Anaheim, Anaheim responds by giving team three more years to do so

Everybody who had the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the “next MLB team to rattle the move threat saber” pool, come collect your winnings!

The mayor of Anaheim came away from Tuesday night’s city council meeting convinced that Angels owner Arte Moreno is looking to leave the city the team has called home since 1966.

But Angels President John Carpino said the team would use a three-year extension on the opt-out of its current stadium lease to explore ways to remain in Anaheim, not bolt.

“Based on the city council’s actions, we’re hopeful a deal can be made and we can stay in Anaheim for many years to come,” Carpino said before the Angels’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night. “We want to be part of a community and deliver a high-quality fan experience.”

Count me among those who didn’t see this coming at all, but it certainly makes sense from Moreno’s perspective: He has a stadium that’s about to turn 50 years old, and though it got extensive renovations in 1998, that’s still the kind of thing that gets all the other kids laughing and pointing at the owners’ meetings. So, sure, threaten to leave Anaheim, if you think it’ll get you either a new stadium or more publicly funded renovations to your old one.

What doesn’t make sense is why on earth Anaheim is going along with this. A city consultant apparently told the city council that Moreno “has made clear in our discussions he has the resources and willingness to build his own stadium” and could move to Irvine, Irwindale, or several sites in Los Angeles. That seems dubious — a new stadium in the L.A. area could cost $700 million, plus land costs. And given how much of baseball revenue is tied up in cable rights fees — something Moreno has been pretty good at grabbing already, and can’t renegotiate for another 18 years anyway — you have to wonder if he’d really be up for spending close to $1 billion just to get a snazzier place down the freeway.

More to the point, though, even if Anaheim thinks that Moreno wants to move, why the hell are they giving him three more years to look around? The current Angels opt-out was for 2016, and there was no way that Moreno was going to get a stadium planned and built by then anywhere else. By pushing things back to 2019, though, Moreno’s leverage is suddenly restored, since the possibility of getting a stadium elsewhere by then is at least conceivable, if not necessarily likely. (To his credit, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait seemed to get this part, saying, “If they do leave in three years, you can trace it right back to the action of this council tonight.”)

Carpino told the L.A. Times that the team is exploring whether it would rather have another upgrade of Angel Stadium (estimated cost: $130-150 million) or a brand new stadium next to it (estimated cost: $600-700 million). No word yet on what Anaheim would be expected to kick in, though there’s apparently been talk about giving the team development rights to the parking lots around the stadium.

In any event, toss out the window any hopes that the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays battles would be the last baseball stadium controversies for a while. Anyone want to wager on who’ll be next? Toronto Blue Jays? Chicago White Sox? I can get you good odds on the Baltimore Orioles


17 comments on “Angels threaten to leave Anaheim, Anaheim responds by giving team three more years to do so

  1. I’ve gotta think that the cable contract has a big escalator if the team moves to the city of L.A. And today USC took over the LA Sports Arena site with the right to tear it down and build something in it’s place (with parking and infrastructure in place). The LA move threat is real.

    I do agree that it’s mind-boggling that Anaheim gave him the extra three years. Though would’ve been hard to imagine Anaheim forcing the Angels to play in Dodger Stadium or Petco Park after 2016.

  2. The LAA Angels, Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays all deserve new ballparks with a little bit of public funding. But it won’t change the fact that there is no public financing available for new facilities, private financing is not feasible in Oakland and neither the owners nor the two leagues are going to charitably donate new facilities (and deal with the precedent that sets up). If there is one city that should be expected to pay for new facilities on the public dime, it would be Oakland. MLB subsidizes the A’s and does not profit from them. The Raiders are ranked dead-last in franchise value in Forbes. But there is no public dime to be had, unfortunately. In other states where there tend to be just one big league team, the state steps in and pays. But in California, cities are expected to go it alone. All this points to the writing on the wall that nobody wants to read – moving the two teams to other cities. But to where? LA doesn’t have its act together (yet) and San Jose, the obvious solution for the A’s, has been designated a colony under control of the San Francisco Giants.

  3. I figured this was going to happen for a while. He was going to want a brand new stadium for the Angels, especially since he has the TV deal he wanted, and getting a new stadium would probably increase the amount he profits off the team even higher. Thus he can keep up his big spending while rolling in the dough at record amounts (at the expense of wherever the stadium goes, of course)

    His problem is that if LA can’t agree on a new stadium with the NFL, who says there is any chance in hell they could do so for a new MLB stadium? This is especially considering they already have one, and probably fear if they build one for the Angels, they would have to immediately do so for the Dodgers as well (unless they did what we haven’t seen in decades in baseball and have 2 teams share a stadium, which isn’t going to happen). In addition, who knows if MLB wants the team to leave, and is willing to see it happen? They might love having 1 team in LA, 1 in Orange County and 1 in San Diego, and are afraid of that being thrown out of whack.

    No matter what, things are going to get interesting here over the next few years.

  4. Berry, the A’s ownership group is the third or fourth richest in MLB. Oakland is down over 150 police officers. Somalia is safer than the flatlands of Oakland. And you think precious and limited tax dollars should go to billionaires’ new buildings to be entertained by millionaires. Lew Wolff “deserves” as much stadium as he can afford.

  5. @Joe- LW hasn’t asked for a dime from any city–he is proposing to invest $500M of private financing into his proposed ballpark in San Jose–where corporate dollars are plentiful….no different than what the ’9ers are doing in SV right now–MLB is the one trying to extort dollars from Oakland (like Miami) by not allowing the A’s to mover further away from the gints and into Silicon Valley–

  6. If Moreno can convince L.A. city/county fathers to give him a sweetheart lease on a publicly owned piece of land, then construction costs would be $450 – $500 million. Not chump change, mind you, but easily justifiable given the potential riches of moving back to Los Angeles.

    Aside from higher ticket prices and higher advertising revenue in a new venue, Moreno would have one revenue source in a new ballpark that is difficult to pursue at the old ballpark: naming rights.

    Naming rights in a brand new facility would be worth far more in a new ballpark than in a ballpark that has already had 3 names in its 50-year history.

    Furthermore, naming rights in a new Los Angeles ballpark would be worth more than naming rights in a new Anaheim ballpark.

    Given the recent sale price of the Dodgers, one would also assume that Moreno has calculated how much more investment would appreciate with a move 30-40 miles up the Santa Ana Freeway.

    Quite frankly, a move to L.A. is a no-brainer . . . UNLESS, as has been reported, Moreno gets development rights to the Big A parking lot for free.

    Development rights is the wild card that could keep Moreno’s Angels in Anaheim. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense for the Angels to stay in Orange County.

  7. Let’s visit the Forbes list:

    http://www.forbes.com/mlb-valuations/list/#page:1_sort:5_direction:desc_search:

    According to their estimates, the Angels brought in $239m in revenue last year, to the Dodgers’ $245m. In order to pay off $500m worth of stadium — and that sounds light to me, but let’s go with it — Moreno would need about another $40m a year in new revenue. So just to break even, the Angels would have to leapfrog the Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs and tie the Phillies for the highest-revenue team in baseball other than the Yanks and Red Sox.

    I suppose that’s conceivable, especially given the naming-rights issue as you mention. But I’d hardly consider it a no-brainer.

  8. For the Angels to leave Orange County would be suicide. Their entire fan base is in that County and the Dodgers dominate in the LA and Ventura Counties.

    By moving to LA, the Angels would be in direct competition with the Dodgers for fans while losing their rich upper class fan base in OC.

    Moreno should look at Irvine as a possible place to relocate the team. It would place the team in far more central location in OC to attract fans from ultra rich southern part of the county.

    Also there are more corporations in Irvine than in Anaheim or other parts of OC. He could privately finance the place and sell seat licenses and make a nice profit. There is more than enough land in Irvine to make it happen.

    The current location is not a bad one and staying there may not be a bad option either. But if Moreno is paying with his own dime 100% then Irvine is his ideal spot.

  9. To your point, Neil, there ARE revenue sources in Anaheim that may not be readily available in Los Angeles.

    In a best case scenario for the Angels, L.A. would offer a submarket lease on a public piece of property (such as Exposition Park) or even lease the team a 6-block site in a blighted area (perhaps the Central Avenue corridor east of Staples/LA Live). In either case, it would be difficult to imagine to city providing land for 10,000 parking spaces.

    If the Angels currently draw 10,000 cars per night at a conservative $10 per car, that is about $8 million in annual revenue, not to mention parking revenue from concerts, motocross, Harvest Crusade, etc.

    I still think the immediate jump in franchise value and the higher long-term revenue potential (incl. naming and advertising rights) in Los Angeles would justify the move north. At the end of the day, LA County has almost 10 million people; Orange County has less than one-third of that.

    In the SoCal media, the rumblings seem to suggest that the Angels will stay in Anaheim only if they can acquire development rights for next-to-nothing (Bill Shaikin, “‘Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’ could be no more.” LA Times, 8/30/13).

  10. SJ A’s, the city of San Jose sure is trying to spend tens of millions to acquire the land for Wolff. Whether Lew “asked” for it or not, it is still tax dollars spent for one of the richest MLB ownership groups there is. Meanwhile, the Almaden police substation and numerous fire stations are not fully staffed. I don’t live in San Jose, but I think that more tax paying San Joseans would want more police and fire protection than subsidizing billionaires and millionaires.

  11. Next up on the “need” new stadium or renovated stadium list —- Cleveland Indians.

    It *must* be the ballpark’s fault that they only drew 15,000 for a game this weekend while in the wild card chase. Right?? No??

    Actually the only thing I see wrong with Progressive Jacob’s Field is the lack of the Legends-type suite behind home plate. They have a small amount of submerged seats instead.

    Location is great. So, maybe they are next for the large scale renovation.

  12. “The LAA Angels, Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays all deserve new ballparks with a little bit of public funding. ”
    No. The teams & MLB can afford to build it all on their own. Profits were over $7.5 billion last year.

  13. If I were MLB commissioner, I would make sure that every team had a stadium below the median age.

  14. Thanks for covering this, we have had mindblowingly little coverage in our home town papers, for what is the biggest giveaway of public funding in Anaheim history-and given how crooked and/or stupid Anaheim’s leaders have been, that is saying something! I sat in that Council meeting astonished as the Mayor made the same arguments you just did, including showing Moreno would have to get a stadium lined up and ENTITLED by last month to be out in time to pull the trigger! Then watched the other 4 Council members AND Charles Black, the consultant supposedly representing Anaheim, dispute those findings with “facts” they cherry picked from thin air, while publicly attacking the Mayor.

    We did so much more than give Arte Moreno an additional 3 years to move. We also gave him-in a separate deal he gets to keep even if he takes the team elsewhere-development rights for ONE DOLLAR A YEAR to the 150 acres of taxpayers owned land, already entitled for over a million sq. feet of commercial, residential and hotel space-plus the option to discuss kickbacks on the taxes generated from the land. Oh and a public announcement that we are willing to wheel and deal on the name (drop that silly appendage “of Anaheim” since it is so unnecessary) while increasing the benchmark at which he has to pay rent so the small amount we make every now and then becomes even more rare in the future.
    Field of Schemes? You better believe it. Who is getting paid off here? Not the taxpayer, that is for certain!

  15. Why doesn’t Arte Moreno and Alex Spanos (owner of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers) develop a new, hybrid stadium – similar to the proposed Minnesota Vikings’ stadium? If both owners, and the City of Anaheim, agree to jointly fund a multi-purpose stadium that could bring Super Bowls, etc. back to Southern California, then why not?

  16. Gray, where did you get the idea that the Vikings stadium is going to be multipurpose? It’s going to be a football stadium, and they’ll be able to move some seats so you can play college baseball in it and have it not be too horrible. That doesn’t make it a baseball stadium, certainly not one that the Angels would ever consider.

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