Anaheim still has no clue how much land it wants to give Angels is worth

If you’ve been following the controversy over the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium lease controversy, you’ll recall that the key dispute is over the value of the development rights that Anaheim would be granting to the team: estimates are anywhere from $30 to $380 million, which is kind of a big difference when you’re talking about  $150 million in renovations that the Angels would putting in as their part of the deal. So, how’s that calculation going, Voice of OC?

When Anaheim officials unveiled new stadium lease negotiations for the Angels last September, one of the biggest open questions facing taxpayers was the value of 155 acres of city land being traded for a $1-per-year lease.

Nearly six months later, city officials still can’t answer that question.

Alrighty, then!

The latest non-report comes in the wake of comments Tuesday by city sports venue manager Tom Morton, who said that an appraisal commissioner in November is underway, and should be ready in March — though according to the Voice of OC, he added that “it will be up to the City Council to decide whether to make it public.” Hopefully they’ll do so before actually voting on the deal, but maybe they think they can don’t have to if they can only avoid all being in the same room.

Angels defend getting more in free land than they’d spend on stadium: “Hey, it was city’s idea”

You’ll have to fight through the Orange County Register paywall to read this (until Saturday, anyway), but reporter Martin Wisckol has the latest on the Los Angeles Angels stadium renovation plans, and it reiterates his earlier point that the benefits of free development rights to the Angel Stadium parking lots could be worth more than the entire $150 million cost of renovations:

At the heart of negotiations is the $130 million to $150 million in stadium renovations the Angels are obligated to perform over the next 20 years under the current lease. In the city’s effort to help the team defray those costs – and to ensure the team stays in town for the immediate future – city staff has proposed letting Moreno develop 128 city-owned acres surrounding the stadium.

Moreno would pay the city $1 per year for the land under the draft terms. The proposal, which appears far from finalization, also would rebate to Moreno all city taxes generated by the new development…

The council is awaiting an appraisal of the land, but estimates have run as high as $380 million. Even if the land was worth a more modest $200 million and Moreno was given development rights for $1 per year, that would mean a $50 million benefit to the owner beyond his highest expected renovation expenses.

That $200 million figure isn’t pulled entirely out of thin air: A developer previously offered $205-225 million for just 50 acres of the parking lots (the rest is needed for, you know, parking), though the deal fell apart after the recession hit. Orange County appraiser Wayne Foss told Wisckol he “would not be surprised at all” if the parking lot land was worth $50 a square foot, which would come to $109 million for 50 acres, or $279 million for the entire property.

That’s a pretty generous trade-off for agreeing to spend $150 million on renovations to your own stadium that your lease already requires you to pay for, and Wisckol asked the Angels how they justified the deal, getting this unbeatable reply:

Eager to dispel the impression that it’s making a land grab, the team emphasizes that the proposal originated with city staff.

“Including the land was the city’s idea as their contribution to fund the much-needed stadium improvements,” Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said.

That’s the sports-business equivalent of an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt, right?

There are still problems with the plan, notably where on earth Angels fans would park if the entire lot is developed, but that’s something team owner Arte Moreno can always work out once he grabs, er, is unexpectedly gifted with the development rights. There’s also the little matter of rebating all tax revenue (property, sales, and hotel taxes, making this a rare SHTIF) from the development to Moreno, something that Wisckol doesn’t attempt to put a dollar value on, though it could be a hell of a lot; a couple of councilmembers, Lucille Kring and Gail Eastman, are saying that they’d prefer only a partial kickback of taxes, which would be better, though still dubious coming on top of handing over development rights already worth more than what the Angels would be spending in return. I guess Kring and Eastman think of this as haggling, but I can think of some other ways to describe it.

Angels offering to take on renovation costs they’re already required to pay for

Still catching up on Los Angeles Angels stadium news from the Orange County Register, whose paywall appears to make its articles invisible to Google News bots. Anyway, last Friday, reporter Martin Wisckol revealed that the $130-150 million in stadium renovations that the Angels had previously been reported as willing to take on in exchange for free development rights to the Angel Stadium parking lots — something worth anywhere from $30 million to $380 million, depending on who’s counting — is in fact already the team’s responsibility:

Under the proposed update of the lease, “Angels assume responsibility for all maintenance” estimated at “$130M – $150M over the next twenty years,” and the city would be “relieved from all responsibility for stadium maintenance, repair and capital improvements,” according to a city staff PowerPoint presentation to the City Council on Sept. 3.

But a close reading of the current lease, valid until 2029, shows that the team is already on the hook for those $130 million to $150 million in renovations.

Now, to some degree this is a rhetorical point: Angels owner Arte Moreno has an opt-out clause in his lease, and is threatening to leave (to where, he’s not saying) if he doesn’t get public subsidies via the land gift, so it’s still “I’ll pay to fix up the place if you let me build stuff in your parking lot.” But it’s not a swap of two concessions, as the city of Anaheim had been describing it, but more an offer not to shoot this dog if Moreno gets his free land.

It’s another good piece from the Register, and tends to mitigate somewhat the paper’s dirt-slow response to cover the proposed lease deal at first, as noted by John Mecklin of the Columbia Journalism Review. And it’s certainly far better than the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the issue, which as Mecklin says featured the “journalistically unusual move” of having sports reporter Bill Shaikin write an opinion column tout the deal as being “as good as it gets for Anaheim.” Shaikin is supposedly still on the Angels lease beat for the Times, but it doesn’t look like he’s actually written anything on it since the opinion column — unless he has one of those Google bot cloaking devices, too.

Anaheim’s proposed land gift to Angels could pay for entire stadium reno cost

Not sure how I missed this at the time — especially since I’m quoted in it — but in the midst of a long, excellent article in the Orange County Register last week about how the study commissioned by the city of Anaheim commission on the economic impact of the Los Angeles Angels is full of crap (sorry for the technical economics terminology), there was hidden this tidbit about how the Angels are looking to pay for planned renovations to Anaheim Stadium:

[The proposal] would grant the team a 66-year, $1-per-year lease on 150 undeveloped acres around the stadium, which the team could develop according to the existing high-density residential, commercial and retail zoning. All tax revenue generated by the development for the city would be rebated to the team, according to the team’s proposal.

In return, the city would no longer have to make its $600,000 annual maintenance payment for the city-owned stadium. The Angels would pick up that tab, as well as the bill for an estimated $130 million to $150 million in needed renovations.

How much is free development rights to 150 acres for 66 years worth? The OC Register cites figures of anywhere from $30 million to $380 million, either of which would be far more than the value of getting out from under that annual $600,000 maintenance payment. (Picking up the bill for renovations to their own stadium isn’t actually so much an Angels gift to the public as a gift to themselves.) Plus, under the new deal the $2 ticket tax that the Angels pay on every ticket sold after the first 2.6 million would only kick in after the 3 millionth ticket — costing the city an additional $800,000 a year.

Depending on how you value the land, then, the Angels are either looking at getting a development deal that will pay for around 20% of their renovation costs, or one that will pay for their entire nut and leave them with a ton of profit left over. Since it seems kind of important to the story, it’d be nice for some local journalist to actually attempt to figure out what that land is worth — maybe one of these days.

Angels threaten to leave Anaheim, Anaheim responds by giving team three more years to do so

Everybody who had the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the “next MLB team to rattle the move threat saber” pool, come collect your winnings!

The mayor of Anaheim came away from Tuesday night’s city council meeting convinced that Angels owner Arte Moreno is looking to leave the city the team has called home since 1966.

But Angels President John Carpino said the team would use a three-year extension on the opt-out of its current stadium lease to explore ways to remain in Anaheim, not bolt.

“Based on the city council’s actions, we’re hopeful a deal can be made and we can stay in Anaheim for many years to come,” Carpino said before the Angels’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night. “We want to be part of a community and deliver a high-quality fan experience.”

Count me among those who didn’t see this coming at all, but it certainly makes sense from Moreno’s perspective: He has a stadium that’s about to turn 50 years old, and though it got extensive renovations in 1998, that’s still the kind of thing that gets all the other kids laughing and pointing at the owners’ meetings. So, sure, threaten to leave Anaheim, if you think it’ll get you either a new stadium or more publicly funded renovations to your old one.

What doesn’t make sense is why on earth Anaheim is going along with this. A city consultant apparently told the city council that Moreno “has made clear in our discussions he has the resources and willingness to build his own stadium” and could move to Irvine, Irwindale, or several sites in Los Angeles. That seems dubious — a new stadium in the L.A. area could cost $700 million, plus land costs. And given how much of baseball revenue is tied up in cable rights fees — something Moreno has been pretty good at grabbing already, and can’t renegotiate for another 18 years anyway — you have to wonder if he’d really be up for spending close to $1 billion just to get a snazzier place down the freeway.

More to the point, though, even if Anaheim thinks that Moreno wants to move, why the hell are they giving him three more years to look around? The current Angels opt-out was for 2016, and there was no way that Moreno was going to get a stadium planned and built by then anywhere else. By pushing things back to 2019, though, Moreno’s leverage is suddenly restored, since the possibility of getting a stadium elsewhere by then is at least conceivable, if not necessarily likely. (To his credit, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait seemed to get this part, saying, “If they do leave in three years, you can trace it right back to the action of this council tonight.”)

Carpino told the L.A. Times that the team is exploring whether it would rather have another upgrade of Angel Stadium (estimated cost: $130-150 million) or a brand new stadium next to it (estimated cost: $600-700 million). No word yet on what Anaheim would be expected to kick in, though there’s apparently been talk about giving the team development rights to the parking lots around the stadium.

In any event, toss out the window any hopes that the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays battles would be the last baseball stadium controversies for a while. Anyone want to wager on who’ll be next? Toronto Blue Jays? Chicago White Sox? I can get you good odds on the Baltimore Orioles

Everybody denies everything about Angels-to-Industry move

The responses are in to yesterday’s Los Angeles Daily News story about the Angels reportedly talking to Industry about relocating to a new stadium there, and the official word is deny, deny, (mostly) deny:

  • Angels Chairman Dennis Kuhl says the Angels “have not held negotiations about moving to a potential new ballpark in the City of Industry,” in the words of the L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin.
  • Industry City Manager Kevin Radecki says of the Angels, “We haven’t talked to anybody here.”
  • Majestic Realty spokesperson Ben Porritt said, “Our commitment is on returning the NFL to Los Angeles and our focus is on building a football stadium,” though he wouldn’t confirm or deny whether his boss Ed Roski had met with Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Shaikin further notes that a new environmental impact statement would have to be done for a baseball stadium in Industry (because the old one is only good for 10-odd NFL games a year), and that Roski’s business plan would require Moreno to put up the money for a new stadium — or put up equity in his team instead.

There’s still some smoke here — clearly somebody leaked the Angels-to-Industry rumor, whether to increase the Angels’ leverage with Anaheim or Majestic’s leverage with the NFL (“If you keep ignoring us, we’ll go shack up with MLB!”) or what. But as for taking it seriously, it’s probably best to chalk this one up to static on the coconut-telegraph.

Whoever had “Los Angeles Angels to Industry” in the next-team-move-rumors pool just won big

Anybody at all, tell me you saw this coming:

Angels officials have had preliminary talks about moving the Major League Baseball franchise from Anaheim to Industry, according to a source with close ties to Industry City Hall…

While officials at Majestic Realty Co. are still working hard to bring a National Football League team to Industry, they are open to building a baseball stadium instead, according to the source.

This is still just off-the-record talk of the existence of talks, so file it under deep rumor for now. (Sports economist Robert Baade tells the L.A. Daily News that it should be viewed as a “negotiating chip” in talks with Anaheim about Angel Stadium, which was renovated way back in omigod, 1998.) And also keep in mind that Angels owner Arte Moreno was spotted earlier this year kicking the tires on a stadium in downtown L.A. And that neither set of talks has advanced as far as how to pay for the damn things, which is what’s held up plans for NFL stadiums on those two sites.

If nothing else, though, it’s a sign that the Industry folks are considering a Plan B to go along with their stalled Plan A. Add it the current turmoil over AEG and what it means for the future of its L.A. stadium plan, and you might want to shut the engines on the NFL moving vans: Whatever eventually happens in L.A. around stadiums, it looks like it’s going to be a while yet.

More rumors of new L.A. baseball stadiums than you can shake a stick at!

If you’re tired of the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays being the only baseball teams you read about on this site, you’ll be happy to learn there’s a new rumor in town: The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin wrote this weekend that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could be interested in moving to a new stadium in L.A. in a few years:

Moreno, the Angels’ owner, and Angels Chairman Dennis Kuhl met this month with AEG President Tim Leiweke, a meeting first reported by the Daily News.

Neither AEG nor the Angels would discuss the meeting. Moreno was traveling and unavailable to discuss his stadium plans, Angels spokesman Tim Mead said.

However, the Angels can exercise an escape clause in their stadium lease in 2016. If they do not, they must remain in Anaheim until 2029.

That’s a lot of speculation just to base on a single meeting, especially when AEG, after all, is in the business of running stadiums and arenas, not just building them. Still, that 2016 lease opt-out date is worth keeping in mind, especially since Moreno has to know that even if he doesn’t intend to move, having the right to makes for great leverage if he wants to, say, demand even more upgrades to the not-that-long-ago upgraded Big A.

Shaikin, meanwhile, doesn’t leave out the Dodgers, noting that while the team’s new owners have sworn they don’t want to leave 50-year-old Dodger Stadium, “[co-owner Stan] Kasten, the point man for new ballparks in Atlanta and Washington, could discover additional needs and wants, to the point where a new ballpark might not be much more expensive.” Though he then goes on to note that a new stadium could cost “$800 million and up,” which “the new owners might blanch at” after spending $2.15 billion to buy the team.

Still, it’s nice that L.A. baseball now has its own rumors of baseball stadiums that may or may not ever be built, to go along with its collection of vaportecture football stadiums.