Inside Arte Moreno’s Angels-to-Tustin threat and why it may be backfiring

I have an article up this morning at Vice Sports on Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno’s threat to move his team to an abandoned air base in Tustin, and how it’s not going entirely according to plan. The upshot: Moreno is trying the tried-and-true gambit of getting different municipalities to bid against each other for his team’s presence, except that so far nobody is interested in playing, with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait’s insistence that Moreno share profits from any development on city-owned land being followed by Tustin officials chiming in that, hey yeah, that sounds like a good plan for us, too.

In researching the story, I got to talk to Tait yesterday, and he stressed that he’s not too concerned about the Angels leaving Anaheim, since stadium-sized available plots of land are hard to come by in Southern California at the price Moreno wants ($1), and leaving the area entirely would be insane for a franchise that just landed a $3 billion cable deal. On the subject of why so few mayors take a stand like he did, meanwhile, he had this to say:

“They gave us a study that it creates $200 million of economic activity and $5 million of taxes a year, which is flat-out wrong. [But some people] might believe that study…

“It’s like a coordinated PR campaign that I want them to leave. I get kids asking me at schools why I want the Angels to leave. So it’s a lot of pressure.”

Moreno still has options, of course, among which is simply waiting for a more amenable dance partner to show up: As I note in my Vice piece, Tait is facing an opponent in the upcoming mayoral election who publicly accused him of risking a repeat of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn in order to “make a quick buck on more generic development.” But it’s at least a positive sign that a couple of municipal officials are looking at what their city would get in return for stadium subsidies, not just what it takes to make sports owners happy. Maybe if we’re lucky it’ll catch on, and — what’s that, SaintPetersblog, in your report on the latest in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium mess?

[Hillsborough County Commissioner] Hagan also said St. Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman “has to protect his city and do what’s best for his constituents,” but also “he sees the big picture and the opportunity St. Pete has to really do something special (by redeveloping Tropicana Field).”

That, of course, raises the question, if Tropicana Field is more valuable as something other than a baseball stadium…wouldn’t the same go for land in Tampa?

Maybe, just maybe, we have the beginnings of a mini-trend here. If those goldurn schoolkids don’t ruin everything.

3 comments on “Inside Arte Moreno’s Angels-to-Tustin threat and why it may be backfiring

  1. A chain always breaks at the weakest link, and sports owners will keep on looking for that link because it’s worth so much to them. As Neil has noted, Mayor Tait’s opponent almost certainly would try to give Moreno what he wants. Maybe Tustin’s current administration won’t give in – but there’s always a new administration. And there are always cities with pliable or just plain stupid people running them, who will find a way to do what they want to do. So, Moreno will keep on testing until he finds someone to give him what he wants. It may take a while, but how long would you be willing to wait for a potential quarter-billion dollar payoff (or maybe more)?

  2. Immature school kid don’t vote, if their parents are swayed by them to vote for someone who panders to the lowest tactics of politics – emotionalism – is why diversions like big league sports owners consider their regular customers as sheep to be herded.
    Bahh, bahhh, bahh, we want our fix!
    BTW – Robert Wagner was reelected after both franchises left NYC, Tait can bring that up.