Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Shaikin has a track record of generally smart reporting with a major blind spot when it comes to Angels owner Arte Moreno’s stadium demands, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that he’s written an extremely confused and confusing article about the latest iteration of funding stadium renovations in Anaheim. Let’s start by jumping to his recap of the previous plan:
Six years ago, the city and team cooperated on a study that showed the stadium needed about $150 million in upgrades to remain a viable long-term venue. Anaheim, like most California cities, has realized that it makes little economic sense to spend tax dollars on sports facilities if team owners keep almost all of the revenue.
The city pitched the Angels on this plan: Put up restaurants and shops in the stadium parking lot, and maybe a hotel too. Make lots of money. Use some to pay for the stadium upgrades and keep the rest.
That is, at best, an extremely misleading way of describing what actually happened: Moreno made noise about moving the Angels out of Anaheim, the Anaheim city council offered to give the team owner a huge swath of stadium parking lot land to develop so he could use the proceeds to renovate the stadium, then-mayor Tom Tait did an appraisal (over Moreno’s objections) that determined the land was worth way more ($245 million) than the entire cost of the renovations ($150 million), and then the whole thing fell apart.
Now that Tait is gone, Anaheim officials — or at least Shaikin — are apparently interested in reviving the old plan, though there’s no indication in Shaikin’s article whether the city would get a more reasonable fee for its valuable land than the $1 proposed last time, or at least get a share of revenues from the new development (since, as somebody once wrote, “it makes little economic sense to spend tax dollars on sports facilities if team owners keep almost all of the revenue”). So this could be the same old terrible deal or a revised one that’s better, or a revised one that isn’t better, but hey, Shaikin says it could bring a Trader Joe’s to Anaheim, so why all this focus on money? Can’t we all just come together around our love for dark chocolate sunflower seed butter cups?
(If you’re looking for a much better explanation of what’s going down, check out Norberto Santana Jr.’s article at the Voice of OC last week, which notes, among other things, that the city of Anaheim just authorized another assessment of the stadium land, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about giving development rights to Moreno until those numbers come back.)