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 “ ,” 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.