Is Angels owner Arte Moreno just playing Long Beach for leverage or what?

Yesterday’s Long Beach Post had the most detailed timeline yet of Long Beach’s flirtation with the Los Angeles Angels over a new stadium, and it goes something like this:

  • A Long Beach councilmember emailed an Angels vice-president in 2014, when the team was first talking about leaving Anaheim for someplace else in Orange County or environs, “but the conversation went nowhere.”
  • A Long Beach official had a meeting with an Angels lawyer in 2017, but a followup meeting never happened, city economic development director John Keisler explaining, “We called a bunch of times, but they never responded.”
  • In October 2018, when Angels owner Arte Moreno abruptly decided to opt out of his Anaheim lease, Long Beach started preparing a stadium site plan in earnest, and in January of this year there were high-level meetings between city and team officials, shepherded by local real estate developer Frank Suryan.

So the question now becomes: Did Angels execs finally start returning Long Beach’s phone calls because they were seriously interested in moving there, or because they were seriously interested in Anaheim officials thinking they were seriously interested in moving there? In other words, is this a genuine possibility, or just a savvy negotiator trying to create leverage?

Unfortunately, the two tactics look pretty much the same from the outside, and it could always even be both: There’s no reason Moreno couldn’t have said, “Sure, go talk to Long Beach, either it’ll pan out or at worst it’ll help me play hardball in my talks with Anaheim.” So we have to stare really hard at the tea leaves to try to suss this out:

  • The Long Beach stadium comes with a $1 billion price tag, and no plan yet for how to pay it off. That would take $60-70 million a year in new revenues just to break even on, and it’s hard to see how a Long Beach stadium would be that much more profitable than the one Moreno already has in Anaheim, especially with no room for housing or other development on the site.
  • About that site: It’s still really damn small. The Long Beach Post published its own image of Angel Stadium superimposed onto the site, as provided by “the architecture firm Gensler,” but weirdly made it a narrow banner image that can’t be viewed in its entirety. Viewing the page source reveals it to be this:

    Which would overlap two major roads and the Long Beach arena, plus part of a park and neighboring lagoon. The site isn’t quite unworkably small, but it would at best take some extremely creative design to get it to fit.
  • Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey said in response to queries about Long Beach, “We get approached by cities all the time. This is nothing new.” She then added: “Right now we’re only talking to Long Beach and Anaheim.”

It certainly has all the ingredients of a leverage move, but crazier ideas have happened, so.

Moreno is still reportedly set to make a decision — whatever such a decision would mean, as plenty of other team owners have made stadium decisions then later backed out of them when they proved unworkable — sometime this year. Maybe by then Long Beach will actually have a site plan and financing plan in place; even more likely, by then former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait’s parting gift to the city of a new appraisal of the Angel Stadium parking lot land value will be complete, and Moreno and new mayor Harry Sidhu will have a starting point for figuring out what Moreno should have to pay if he wants to develop the lots and use the proceeds for stadium renovations (or, I guess, just stuff the cash down his pants). Watching slow-motion jockeying like this can be very frustrating not just for fans and interested followers of stadium negotiations but also for journalists, which is why we get long articles about who was talking to whom when, and then long blog posts about the long articles; it’s fine to rubberneck at it all, so long as you keep in your mind that talk is cheap, and steel and concrete are expensive.

11 comments on “Is Angels owner Arte Moreno just playing Long Beach for leverage or what?

  1. Still think that the owner of the A’s (who has run such historically low payrolls it created another industry (sabremetrics)) has to take the cake when he started demanding not one but two “stadium development projects.”

  2. Why not send your staff to take meetings (or just listen to vague pitches) from Long Beach civil servants?

    Even if Mr. Moreno has zero interest in moving to Long Beach (which I would assume is close to the case), you take the meeting. Who knows, they might offer to build you a stadium, guarantee you a minimum number of tickets and suites sold and then pay you to play in that stadium as well. It’s happened before…

    And while notionally leaving Anaheim (pardon me, “Los Angeles”) for Long Beach or Tustin or wherever might seem ludicrous, I’m sure the Dodgers would approve of any move away (with the stipulation that “Los Angeles” not appear in the team’s name), and if the stadium deal is so amazing the rest of MLB won’t have the courage to reject it either.

    It’s literally a win for everyone except the taxpayers of Long Beach…

    • “…I’m sure the Dodgers would approve of any move away…”

      It wouldn’t really be “away”: the Long Beach location is closer to Dodger Stadium than is “The Big A”.

      Would there really be any benefit to the Dodgers in removing “Los Angeles” from the Angels official name?

      • The Dodgers seem to think so… Angels games listed on their in stadium scoreboard always refer to them as “Anaheim”.

        Yes, I looked up the distance from Dodgers stadium to the general area of both other stadium sites… the point was not so much that they are moving away as that they are definitely not going to be “in Los Angeles” when in Long Beach. Of course, they aren’t now either…

        If you are asking “would the Dodgers make more money if the Angels left Anaheim…” I suspect the answer is no.

        However, neither the Yankees or Mets would make less money if a third franchise was set up in NY/NJ… yet you know it’s not going to happen.

  3. In terms of competing with the Dodgers, that Long Beach site is ten times better than Anaheim.

    In terms of Long Beach city property, having a new Angels stadium on that site is ten times better than the current convention center/arena combo.

    Win-wins are rarely as easy as they appear to be, but man is this ever a win-win for the city and the team, if it happens.

  4. Not sure why it matters if the Dodgers like it or not – it’s a shared market, unlike the Bay Area which is carved up and divided along county lines. They have no role in approving or denying an Angels stadium as long as the Angels are operating within that shared market. The only restriction either team has in a shared market is that they can’t build a stadium within either 10 or 15 miles (I’m having trouble finding that distance exactly but it was noted a few years ago, maybe on this site) of the other team’s existing stadium.

      • I’m sure it’s not as a general rule of shared markets as Yankee Stadium and Citi Field aren’t 10 miles apart as the crow flies (they might be about that far by city streets) and Wrigley Field and whatever the White Sox stadium is called this week definitely aren’t.