Anaheim plans public forums on sale of stadium land to Angels, but won’t tell public how much it’s worth

The city of Anaheim finally got back its long-awaited appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels stadium parking lots that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to develop to fund upgrades to the stadium, and is ready to open negotiations on a new lease. And that appraisal says:

The appraisal, which city officials say is an incomplete draft, has not been made public.

Say what? The city spent nine months getting the property appraised, now has in hand a report that’s good enough to start talks with the team on a development deal, but it’s not good enough to share with anyone outside the negotiating room? Are they still waiting for the soundtrack to be added?

This is, let us say, a disturbing trend. You’ll recall that the state of New York similarly negotiated a land lease to the New York Islanders as part of a development project to fund a sports venue while keeping its land value appraisals secret, only releasing them hours before the final state board vote and even then releasing only summaries that didn’t show how the appraisal figures were arrived at. As things like sweetheart land deals increasingly subsidize sports projects — since handing over piles of cash is increasingly unpopular with the public — it’s vital to know whether a city is getting fair market value or gift-wrapping development rights for a team owner, and it’s hard to do that when the government’s own assessment is kept secret.

Anaheim councilmember Jose Moreno has announced two community forums on August 21 and 29 to answer questions about the Angels’ lease renewal plan; it’s going to be interesting to see how he ducks all the inevitable questions about “So how much is this land worth that you want to give to Moreno, and how much will he be paying us?” (Assuming that the appraisal is still secret by then, that is. We can always hope!)

In related news, it turns out that when Anaheim extended the Angels’ existing lease through the end of 2019 last year, it actually extended it through 2029, while giving Moreno a new opt-out through the end of 2019. This is even stupider than the lease extension sounded at the time — hey, everybody, now that the team owner has opted out of his lease, let’s give him another year to try to extort money from us, but give ourselves no leverage because if it doesn’t work he can just stay put for a decade under the terms of his existing lease where he pays no rent — especially since Anaheim councilmembers apparently didn’t understand that that was what they were voting on at the time.

Anaheim still has some leverage here: Moreno’s only current alternative stadium option is a plan in Long Beach that no one knows how to pay for and is on too small a site to fit a major-league stadium, so if he opts out again this December, he once again will risk making his team homeless. Though if the city plans to keep responding to Moreno’s “send money or I’ll shoot my team” threats by giving him another year of rope, the threats could literally go on forever. I’m starting to think that the Anaheim council could really use some lessons in haggling.

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5 comments on “Anaheim plans public forums on sale of stadium land to Angels, but won’t tell public how much it’s worth

  1. There is no way that the Angels will be homeless or going to Long Beach. Why? Anaheim ( like almost every orher municipality) wants the Angels in Anaheim, and Moreno knows this. Think about it: Even a team like the Raiders that is “Dead Man Walking” as far being in Oakland is concerned, is getting anorher year at the Coliseum at favorable terms to the Raiders, as opposed to playing somewhere else until the Las Vegas Stadium is ready.

    1. IIRC the Raiders are paying about $1m per game to continue playing at the coliseum they claim is substandard/unuseable/horrific. I wouldn’t characterize that as favourable terms for the Raiders. On the other hand, it’s not like Oakland is screwing the franchise either… there is a practical limit to what you can make any lessee pay no matter how dire their (self imposed) need.

      The Raiders are only paying it because they basically have nowhere else to play that would be cost effective (they could set up a temp stadium somewhere for around $25m, but it’s not clear to me how that would be any better than playing at Sam Boyd… which is where they should have gone).

      As for Anaheim, they have a poor history of holding the line re: sports teams (as do most cities)a. That said, I do think they remember being burned by Moreno over the “Anaheim must remain in the team’s name” thing. That was flipping the city the bird in the biggest possible way, and it’s not clear to me that he gained anything by doing so (did marketing the team as the LA Angels of Anaheim actually bring in enough additional revenue to offset the damage done to the relationship with Anaheim?).

      The thing to keep in mind with Anaheim is that it’s major tourist attraction is not a sports franchise and never will be. It’s primary attraction is always looking for additional space for development (and as close to it’s main site as possible).

      This is one case where the city actually has more and better options than the team does. Whether they use this to their benefit or not is another matter…

      1. Oakland should’ve increased the rent to $10 mil a year after the Raiders agreed to and then backed out of the $7.5 mil rate, and then came crawling back.

  2. Tell me if this is too far fetched. What if Anaheim went after Steve Ballmer to build a new arena for the Clippers on this land adjacent to Angels stadium? Steve is looking at Inglewood next to the Rams stadium but getting pushback from the community and lawsuits from MSG. The Clippers would do better to get out from the shadows of the Lakers and tap the riches of Orange County. Sure, there is the Honda Center (Ducks) nearby but that is 26 years old (ancient by today’s standards). This also gives more leverage to Anaheim with the Angels, “You want to leave, go ahead, we still have the Clippers and the Ducks.”

    1. I wouldn’t say it’s far fetched at all. But this is what relocation decisions always boil down to. Would the Clippers be better off having Anaheim (or anywhere else) to themselves than sharing at Staples (and being the second banana, more or less).

      It’s the same question Spanos should have asked himself before leaving a less than ideal situation in San Diego for a horrific one in Carson (though he won’t be staying there, of course)… will we be better off as Kroenke’s tenants or as the primary in San Diego?

      Moving the Clippers to LA obviously worked out well for Sterling… it’s hard to know what the San Diego Clippers could have sold for when Ballmer decided he needed to own an NBA team… but the notional market value thrown around for the Clippers as tenants in LA was about $640m (pre Ballmer, obviously). As I recall the Warriors sold for around $450m a year or two before that. So I guess that is your “real FMV” range for a more or less generic NBA franchise circa 2012 or so. Ballmer’s stupidity (like Dodger ownership’s) has naturally skewed the entire market upwards… so I’m sure the next expansion franchise will cost $1Bn (I’m making a Dr. Evil face as I write that, btw)… it pretty much has to to keep the tide floating all boats ever higher.

      But if someone wanted to buy a moribund franchise in a generic small to mid market in 2019… say the Grizzlies or the Hawks, even the Pelicans… What do you think the sale price would be?

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