Angels opt out of stadium lease, prepare to threaten to make themselves homeless in 2020

Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has opted out of his stadium lease, meaning the team is free to leave Anaheim after the 2019 season. This is very interesting, though probably not in the way that you might at first assume.

First off, the Angels are almost certainly not going to leave Anaheim after next season, if for no other reason that there’s nowhere to go. None of the other MLB-less options (Montreal, Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, etc.) are appealing demographically compared to Orange County; and it would take way more than a year and a half to get even a temporary stadium ready elsewhere in Southern California. (Talks about a new stadium in nearby Tustin collapsed in 2014 after Tustin officials realized how crazy much it would cost.) The only reason Moreno pulled the trigger now, team officials made clear, was that this was the only window the team had for opting out and renegotiating its lease, since the team’s lease said it was either yesterday or wait till 2028.

Just last year, though, Moreno had said that he wouldn’t trigger the opt-out now. So what changed?

“We’ll sit down with the new mayor and city council,” [Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey] said. “We also are going to look at all our options.”

Ah yes, the new mayor. Tom Tait, who has been the main obstacle to giving Moreno a whole mess of land that he can develop and use the proceeds to renovate his current stadium, is term-limited out after this year. So presumably the Angels owner smelled a better negotiating environment around the corner with a new mayor (and three new councilmembers) and figured he’d roll the dice.

That new mayor and council, though, would be well-advised to consider that Moreno isn’t in all that great a negotiating position himself. In opting out, he’s left himself without a guaranteed place to play in 2020, which means Anaheim elected officials would be fully within their rights to say, “How about you pay us more, and sign a lease extension to boot? If you don’t like it, I’m sure there are some lovely high school ballfields you can play on the season after next.”

That almost certainly won’t happen, if only because the “Anaheim council tells Angels to move out” headlines would look terrible. (Though maybe less terrible if the Angels finish in fourth place again.) But it is important to remember that lease leverage works both ways, and as we’re seeing with the Oakland Raiders mess, it’s not always easy for a team owner to follow through on threats to take his ball and go home. Garvey said yesterday that “we do have options” for a new home, but wouldn’t elaborate, which is a pretty transparent bluff after the Tustin debacle.

Anyway, the council has no one to blame for this opt-out but themselves, since they (or their predecessors, I guess) gifted Moreno with this option back in 2013 in exchange for absolutely nothing. One hopes at least they won’t double down on the stupid by negotiating themselves into a corner the minute the team owner points a gun at his own head and says, “Give me a new stadium or I’ll shoot!” It’s going to be a very interesting day after election day in Anaheim.


21 comments on “Angels opt out of stadium lease, prepare to threaten to make themselves homeless in 2020

  1. I have a great idea – since just about everyone refers to the Chargers as the “San Diego Chargers” still…..how about the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles move to J̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶M̶u̶r̶p̶h̶y̶ Qualcomm Stadium and become the “Los Angeles Angels of San Diego formerly of Anaheim, California”

    • Outside of the Padres objecting for obvious reasons couldn’t Qualcomm be used as a temporary venue if by some chance Anaheim grows a pair and tells em to GTFO?

      • The Padres would certainly object, since they have exclusive territorial rights to San Diego. I guess the Angels could always play at the L.A. Coliseum with the Wally Moon screen re-erected, since they share L.A. County with the Dodgers, but that’s still not much in the way of leverage.

        • They’d be better off trying to move back into “Chavez Ravine”, though I doubt the Dodgers would give them a better long term lease than they’d get in Anaheim.

        • Left field at the Coliseum was 251 feet when Moon played. But that was before the track was removed. When the Dodgers played an exhibition game there in 2008, left field was 201 feet. However, that game drew 114,000 people. Project that over an 81 game schedule, you’re talking over 9 million fans. So hello Los Angeles Angels of the Coliseum!

          • If this was the NFL they’d already be advocating for that because it’s the same logic that makes them think a permanent team in London would draw great because the handful of special event games they’ve done there have sold out. It’s funny because a concert or the circus will draw great for a single night but nobody will say “You should totally move the circus here permanently.”

  2. They should at least demand the name go back to “ANAHEIM Angels” if they’re going to give out money

    • The last time they tried that they got the current name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If they insist of the Anaheim Angels I’m pretty sure they’ll be the Los Angeles Angels d/b/a Anaheim Angelsmout of spite

      • The current name is just “Los Angeles Angels” and has been for the past 3 seasons.

  3. Two things that amuse me about that article’s comment section.

    1) A majority seem to be fine with Angels Stadium as it currently is.

    2) There are people stupider than I who think NY can sustain a 3rd baseball team….just….wut?

  4. Professional sports team owners should get out of the business of owning the teams and create a new business model where their goal is to just coax cities into building new stadiums, team or no team. Just build damn it! Full speed ahead!

    • I believe Quebecor already had this idea: https://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/dan-delmar-quebec-citys-centre-videotron-field-of-dreams-a-nightmare-for-taxpayers

      • Though it worked out OK’ish for Kansas City after they finally gave up trying to land an NBA or NHL team and just went all in on the year round arena thing.

        https://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/blair-kerkhoff/article140697023.html

  5. Just to point out the obvious, the Angels were #6 in MLB in attendance last season despite not being anywhere near #6 in MLB in product quality. It seems playing in the current stadium is pretty attractive in its own right, so the city has effectively all the leverage.

    • Having been to many stadiums throughout MLB, Angels Stadium is indeed in the top tier of fan experience/comfort. It’s location close to multiple freeways is another plus.

        • This is true. However, not everywhere in greater Los Angeles has a baseball stadium–because LA isn’t SimCity and baseball stadiums aren’t airports.

          Anyways, most of California, except maybe Sacramento, seems fairly averse to giant public subsidies to build stadiums so it’s not like everyone is falling over themselves to build the Angels a new stadium. Thus the threat would be to leave greater LA which given the level of attendance in greater LA and the level of attendance everywhere else seems a pretty laughable threat.