Angels exec: We don’t care about poor fans, because they don’t buy enough hot dogs

You know how often we will talk here about how the modern sports industry is all about selling tickets to rich folks, because that’s where the money is? Meet Los Angeles Angels vice president of marketing and ticket sales Robert Alvarado, who is not afraid to admit that not only does he target deep-pocketed fans, but really he’d just as soon fans without a lot of spending money stay the hell home:

“The conventional wisdom would tell you, ‘Let’s get the bodies in here, because they’re still gonna be spending money on parking, hot dogs, souvenirs, all that stuff.’ But we have not seen that in the past. Drawing in a discount buyer, they aren’t necessarily flipping and buying stuff here.”…

“We may not be reaching as many of the people on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, but those people, they may enjoy the game, but they pay less, and we’re not seeing the conversion on the per-caps,” Alvarado said. “In doing so, the ticket price that we’re offering those people, it’s not like I can segregate them, because I’m offering it up to the public, and I’m basically downselling everybody else in order to accommodate them.”

The OC Weekly seems to think that by “segregate” Alvarado means setting up a special poor-only section at the ballpark; I think he actually was complaining that if you offer tickets at a price regular people can afford, then the upper crust will buy them at that price too, and you’re leaving money on the table that you could have effectively extracted from rich folks’ wallets. So better to charge everybody a ton for tickets, and if the “people on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder” don’t show up, that’s okay, because the people with money buy more hot dogs.

That’s really no different than teams wanting smaller stadiums so that they can sell fewer tickets at higher prices, but it’s said a bit more bald-facedly. So thank you, Robert Alvarado, for explaining the modern sports industry in simple English. Even if it might not win you many friends among Angels fans who can’t afford as many $4.50 hot dogs.

[UPDATE: Alvarado just resigned. Honesty gets you nowhere these days.]

Angels-to-Tustin “on back burner,” front burner now empty and sad

Hey, what’s up with the Los Angeles Angels‘ talk about moving to an air base in Tustin, anyway?

The Angels terminated talks with Anaheim in September, while continuing discussions with Tustin about building a stadium at the former Marine Corps Air Station. But now the Tustin negotiations also appear stalled, with the City Council there last receiving an update in early February.

“It’s been such a desultory thing,” Tustin Councilman Allan Bernstein said. “I thought there was a definite path, but there doesn’t seem to be. It seems to have been put on the back burner.”

Okay, then! It’s almost like the whole Tustin thing was just an idle threat that was dropped as soon as Tustin officials said they wanted to be paid for their land just like Anaheim’s mayor.

Anyway, you can read more in the Orange County Register about all the nothing that’s going on with the Angels’ stadium situation if you want. It has some quotes from me in it, if that floats your boat.

Developer proposes hotel complex next to Angel Stadium, Angels respond: “Hands off our parking”

A Chinese developer wants to build a $450 million “residential, hotel and retail complex” next to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, according to the Los Angeles Times:

Plans call for a mega-development complete with a 28-story condo tower, a 26-story hotel, a theater, alfresco dining and an indoor surfing park. The Anaheim project — planned on 14 acres at the corner of State College Boulevard and Orangewood Avenue — is part of a wave of Asian investment in large-scale Southern California developments.

That’s just fine and dandy, and only goes to show that giving a huge swath of land to Angels owner Arte Moreno for $1 probably isn’t the only way to get development to happen in that area. (Unless LT Global Investment Inc. is looking to get subsidies as well — they already bought the land — in which case never mind.) The new development would be required to provide parking, however, and the only available parking is on the Angels’ lot, and the Angels are none too happy about signing off on that:

“We need this land for our parking operations,” Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said.

In a letter to the city in late March, the Angels urged Anaheim to reject LT’s development because it “does not have the rights to all of the land necessary to develop and operate its proposed project.”

So, we have yet another potential standoff regarding the Angels, to go along with how much Moreno would have to pay for the land he wants to develop and how much he’d then put into stadium renovations and whether he’s going to move to Tustin despite Tustin officials not wanting to give him free land either. That new negotiator sure has his work cut out for him, let’s leave it at that.

Anaheim fires world’s worst stadium negotiator who gave Angels three extra years to threaten to leave

It took a couple of years, but the Anaheim city council voted last week to fire Charles Black, the local developer who’d been in charge of lease talks with the Los Angeles Angels. All Black had done was give Angels owner Arte Moreno an extra three years on his lease opt-out clause on the grounds that “he has the resources and willingness to build his own stadium,” offer to give Moreno $245 million of land around the stadium for $1, and generally piss off Mayor Tom Tait, who for some reason was opposed to a style of negotiations that involved offering the Angels valuable gifts in exchange for not much of anything.

Black will now be replaced by local Democratic operative Wylie Aitken. We’ll have to wait and see how well he does at talking with Moreno about a new lease — something there hasn’t been much of since the Angels owner publicly announced last fall that he was shutting down talks and opening negotiations to move to Tustin, talks that promptly went nowhere fast — but he can’t do much worse than his predecessor.

OC Register columnist proposes Angels-Tustin-Disney-Anaheim swap that would … do something, somehow?

I’ve seen newspaper columnists try to fill space with random musings before, but the Orange County Register’s Jonathan Lansner takes the cake here:

When I view the stadium puzzle through this prism, my eyes see an unorthodox solution.

The Angels team up with Tustin, for stadium purposes and more.

Anaheim partners with its old pals at Disney, and the stadium land helps the theme park juggle its parking challenges as well as any eventual expansion plans it may have for a third park. (Might such an expansion take its theme from one of Disney’s movie franchises, like “Star Wars”?)

Do I know anything more than anyone else who may be speculating? No. But this path is certainly worth exploring – even if we spend other people’s notional money in the process.

Setting aside that Lansner seems to have come up with this entire plan while in the shower, it doesn’t even really make much sense: The Los Angeles Angels would move to a new stadium in Tustin funded by new development there, even though Tustin officials have made clear that they won’t give Angels owner Arte Moreno free land for development, and the Angel Stadium land, which is owned by the city of Anaheim, would be used for … parking for Disneyland, which is three miles away? Which would benefit whom how exactly?

I’ve already spent more time thinking about this than I should have, and probably more than Lansner did, too. Suffice to say that column-writing is the cushiest gig in the universe, and if anybody offers me space to write one again, I promise to be fully awake before pressing “send.”

Inside Arte Moreno’s Angels-to-Tustin threat and why it may be backfiring

I have an article up this morning at Vice Sports on Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno’s threat to move his team to an abandoned air base in Tustin, and how it’s not going entirely according to plan. The upshot: Moreno is trying the tried-and-true gambit of getting different municipalities to bid against each other for his team’s presence, except that so far nobody is interested in playing, with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait’s insistence that Moreno share profits from any development on city-owned land being followed by Tustin officials chiming in that, hey yeah, that sounds like a good plan for us, too.

In researching the story, I got to talk to Tait yesterday, and he stressed that he’s not too concerned about the Angels leaving Anaheim, since stadium-sized available plots of land are hard to come by in Southern California at the price Moreno wants ($1), and leaving the area entirely would be insane for a franchise that just landed a $3 billion cable deal. On the subject of why so few mayors take a stand like he did, meanwhile, he had this to say:

“They gave us a study that it creates $200 million of economic activity and $5 million of taxes a year, which is flat-out wrong. [But some people] might believe that study…

“It’s like a coordinated PR campaign that I want them to leave. I get kids asking me at schools why I want the Angels to leave. So it’s a lot of pressure.”

Moreno still has options, of course, among which is simply waiting for a more amenable dance partner to show up: As I note in my Vice piece, Tait is facing an opponent in the upcoming mayoral election who publicly accused him of risking a repeat of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn in order to “make a quick buck on more generic development.” But it’s at least a positive sign that a couple of municipal officials are looking at what their city would get in return for stadium subsidies, not just what it takes to make sports owners happy. Maybe if we’re lucky it’ll catch on, and — what’s that, SaintPetersblog, in your report on the latest in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium mess?

[Hillsborough County Commissioner] Hagan also said St. Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman “has to protect his city and do what’s best for his constituents,” but also “he sees the big picture and the opportunity St. Pete has to really do something special (by redeveloping Tropicana Field).”

That, of course, raises the question, if Tropicana Field is more valuable as something other than a baseball stadium…wouldn’t the same go for land in Tampa?

Maybe, just maybe, we have the beginnings of a mini-trend here. If those goldurn schoolkids don’t ruin everything.

Tustin to Angels: Sorry, Arte, no free land here for stadium, either

The Tustin city council had its latest closed-door meeting about building a stadium for the Los Angeles Angels last night, and … it was behind closed doors, so we don’t actually know what they talked about.

We do know, however, what they’re thinking. City Manager Jeffrey Parker:

“For us, [the biggest question is] how the financing would be put together to make this happen,” Parker said…

In Anaheim, an appraiser valued the land in question at $225 million. Parker said the Tustin land could be worth a similar amount and said the city would expect to make back that amount on any land provided to the Angels, most likely from lease payments or a share of development profits.

“We want to protect that $200 million,” Parker said. “We want a rate of return on that land value.”

That’s pretty huge: Parker is saying that not only would Angels owner Arte Moreno have to pay for his own stadium costs, but he’d have to reimburse Tustin for the value of the land it would be giving up. Since that’s pretty much the same deal that Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is asking for — and which Moreno dismissed as “going backwards” — this bidding war isn’t going at all how the Angels owner must have wanted it to.

This is actually a pretty remarkable moment: Two local elected officials demanding that their cities actually get something significant in return for helping out with a stadium, instead of the usual reaction of asking when to jump and how high. It’s too soon to tell if this will start a trend, or will even hold up — the traditional response from team owners is to wait until somebody more amenable to their demands is elected to public office — but it’s sure fun to watch while it lasts.

Moreno officially shuts down talks with Anaheim on Angels land deal, makes goo-goo eyes at Tustin

The Los Angeles Angels‘ season is decidedly not over — they open the American League Division Series on Thursday, against either the A’s or Royals — but Angels president John Carpino still managed to upstage his own team’s division crown on Friday, by announcing that he was walking away from negotiations with Anaheim on renovating his stadium, and could instead look into moving the team to the nearby small city of Tustin:

“Our goal from day one was to ensure a high-quality fan experience well into the future,” John Carpino, the Angels president, said in a statement as his team prepares for the playoffs. “We have spent a lot of time on this memorandum of understanding, and after 12 months, we feel our best course of action is to dissolve this non-binding agreement.

And this from Angels owner Arte Moreno:

“It’s been over a year,” Moreno said. “We’ve gone backwards. We haven’t accomplished anything.”

What’s going on here, in a nutshell: Moreno declared last year that he’d be happy to renew his lease and do stadium renovations on his own dime, if the city of Anaheim would just give him the right to develop his stadium’s parking lot for one dollar Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait then conducted an appraisal of the land the Angels wanted, and determined that it was worth between $245 million and $325 million, significantly more than Moreno was planning to spend on renovations.

This was, as Deadspin aptly puts it, “how to call a team’s bluff on stadium subsidies.” Moreno, though, had more bluffs up his sleeves than that, and speculation immediately began that the team could move somewhere else in Orange County. Say, Tustin, which has a large decommissioned marine air station it could hand over for a dollar if it really wanted to. Or Irvine, which … is also in Orange County, so sure, why not?

Whether this Tustin threat is for real or just leverage is hard to say: As I told the Orange County Register, it’s conceivable that Moreno could come up with enough cash for a stadium if he were given enough free land, and maybe some property or sales tax kickbacks or something. Or it could be that he just hopes the fear of being the guy who lost the Angels to Tustin would be enough to scare Tait into capitulating. It shouldn’t be — if the Angels left, Anaheim would suddenly have $325 million worth of vacant land it could then develop, and Angels fans really wouldn’t be put out by driving a few extra miles to Tustin — but this is what brinksmanship looks like. The Tustin city council, meanwhile, has called a special closed session (preceded by public comments) for 4:45 pm tomorrow to discuss a possible land deal with Moreno.

And finally, let’s not forget this, from the Voice of OC:

The Angels’ stadium lease with Anaheim runs out in 2029. A previous clause in the lease allowed the Angels to leave in 2016. If the owners didn’t use the exit clause, the team was locked in until 2029. But last year, the city council gave the Angels three more years, until 2019, to decide whether to stay in Anaheim or go elsewhere.

Great negotiating there, Anaheim city council.

Appraisal confirms: Angels seeking $245m in land to fund $150m in renovations

One more important news item from last week: On Friday, the city of Anaheim released its appraisal of the value of the Los Angeles Angels parking lots that team owner Arte Moreno wants to get for free in exchange for renewing his lease. And the verdict is:

The appraised value of the Stadium Site under premise #1, the Angels’ lease is renewed, is:

• $225M under a leasehold scenario and
• $245M under a fee simple, or sale, scenario.

Both approaches to value, in premise #1, include consideration of the need to continue to provide 12,500 parking spaces for stadium events, shared with new, commercial development on the site.

The appraised value of the Stadium Site under premise #2, the Angels’ lease is not renewed and the team relocates, is:

• $300M under a leasehold scenario and
• $325M under a fee simple, or sale, scenario.

Both approaches to value, in premise #2, do not include the need to continue to provide 12,500 parking spaces for stadium events.

Or put even more simply: The parking lots are worth $245 million with the Angels sitting in the middle of them, and $325 million if the Angels were to clear out. That’s a hell of a lot of value that Anaheim would be giving away, toward the top end of the $30 million to $380 million estimates that had been made previously, and about twice what the Angels would need to pay for their proposed renovations.

Angels execs haven’t responded yet to the appraisal — beyond last week’s letter complaining that putting a value on the land at all might give the general public the idea that the land is valuable — but Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait did say that he thinks the city should share in development profits once Moreno’s stadium upgrades are paid off. That’s actually pretty reasonable — probably overly reasonable, given how easy it is for sports team owners to hide profits — but somehow I don’t expect Moreno to jump at the opportunity.

Angels execs blow up at Anaheim for wanting to negotiate things in negotiations

Apparently that Bill Shaikin column in the L.A. Times the other day was just a warning shot in the simmering Los Angeles Angels lease war with Anaheim, because now Shaikin has followed up with a news article noting that “relations between the two sides have grown so strained that each side is accusing the other of trying to make significant changes to the terms of the deal”:

In a March 21 letter to the city, Angels attorney Alex Winsberg complained that a draft agreement presented by the city two days earlier “fundamentally conflicts with the basic intent of the deal … an exchange of development rights for the obligation to renovate and maintain the stadium.”

In another letter, dated April 24 and posted on the Voice of OC website, Angels President John Carpino said the team was “shocked” by the draft agreement that he said “removed any inducement for the Angels to undertake the substantial economic risk and responsibility negotiated into the framework of the deal that was initially proposed by the City of Anaheim.”

In a March 31 letter to the Angels, City Attorney Michael Houston reminded the team that the deal framework — called a memorandum of understanding (MOU) — was subject to change upon further negotiations.

“It bears mentioning that the Angels … are currently proposing terms that differ from the MOUs,” Houston wrote. He added: “Temperance, diligence and trust are the basis for our negotiations.”

I’m not so sure this actually qualifies as “strained” — it looks to me more like the usual push-and-pull of negotiations over a deal that was penciled out but not actually finalized — but clearly Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to put out there that the city of Anaheim is being unreasonable in not just rubber-stamping whatever he wants the MOU to mean. (To be clear, Moreno didn’t leak the letters; they were released as part of standard public-records procedure.)

The actual term sheets from the city of Anaheim were redacted from the Angels missives, so there’s no way of knowing exactly what Moreno is objecting to here. The one piece that wasn’t redacted was that the Angels owner doesn’t want the city to conduct an appraisal of the value of the land that he would be getting for free in the deal — something that is a huge sticking point, because it could be anywhere from $30 million to $380 million —  because it could “be misunderstood by the general public as to the value that the City is providing” and “will lead to an unworkable situation.” Anyone here think that means anything other than “Don’t tell people what we’re getting out of the deal, or the jig is up!”?