Angels owner releases pictures of whatever stadium development idea is in his head this very second

After getting granted a one-month extension by the Anaheim city council, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has come out with his redevelopment plan for the Angel Stadium land he got from the city at a bargain price last winter, and the whole thing is so handwavy that it makes you wonder why he couldn’t have just made a crayon drawing of some buildings and released that on time in May. Let’s see what Moreno’s planning team came up with:

That is indeed a bunch of numbers of things! Can we get any renderings that aren’t just bird’s-eye schematics?

That’s a little better, I guess, though still pretty generic, aside from somebody coloring in the roofs green because that what one does in 2020.

More to the point, there’s nothing that I can find in Moreno’s plans that indicates a timeline: Is he actually committing to building all this stuff, or just sketching out pretty pictures of what it might look like if he decides this is a good idea? (Past “ballpark village” concepts, it’s worth noting, haven’t always immediately panned out as planned, and have sometimes come with requests for more public money to make them happen.) Presumably if the city of Anaheim is selling him the land because they want it developed, there should be some rules about when it will be developed by — maybe that’s still in the “TBD” folder, but if so, what’s the point of releasing this plan now?

As for what will happen to the stadium itself, we learn this from the Los Angeles Times:

The Angels put off for now the decision to renovate Angel Stadium or replace it. If the Angels decide to build a new ballpark, the plan calls for it to be located immediately adjacent to the 57 Freeway, and closer to the Anaheim train station. If they renovate, they plan to open up the outfield and turn it into a grand entrance plaza.

Definitely one of those things! Maybe.

Let’s see, anything else remotely of note here? There’s a guy pointing randomly at the sky outside a bistro called “Bistro,” and oh hey check it out:

Yes, that is indeed Cab-Hailing Purse Woman, though someone has tried to disguise her true intent by placing a giant foam finger over her cab-hailing hand. If this clip-art woman is indeed the key to all sports-related economic development plans, maybe it would cheaper for cities just to buy her plane tickets (on clip-art airplanes, obviously) so she can bestow her presence on their populaces? Do you think she’s based on a real person, and if so does that person get royalties? Did anyone at the rendering software company think to shop around for a purse company that would pay for product placement? So very many questions, so few answers.

Angels owner maybe tries stadium shenanigans as world burns, who even has time and energy to tell anymore honestly?

I’m more than a little distracted by other things right now, as I expect you are too, but I just wanted to note briefly one line from this Los Angeles Times article from Friday about how Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno is asking for a one-month extension to the end of June for submitting plans to the city for developing his stadium’s parking lot:

Mike Lyster, the spokesman for the city, said the city manager could approve the request as a “non-substantive” change to the sale agreement, with no City Council vote required.

Now, the one-month delay isn’t that huge a deal — the world has turned upside down since the Anaheim city council approved Moreno’s hugely-discounted land purchase in December, so it makes sense that he might want more time before deciding whether building an entertainment district with restaurants and bars and other things we can’t have right now is really the best use of his new development-rights windfall. But still: Moreno agreed to the end-of-May deadline as part of his renegotiated agreement with the city (he got an extra three months to decide whether to go ahead with the deal, the city got some accelerated land purchase payments to help with its Covid-related budget crunch), so should the city manager really be able to just give him an extra 30 days without anybody voting on this, because hey, we’re all friends here?

Normally, I would check out what Spencer Custodio of the Voice of OC has to say about this, because he’s been one of the few reporters to actually dig into the Angels stadium deal beyond the press releases, but he appears to be on full-time Covid and police violence protest watch these days — as are we all, but the combination of one unthinkable crisis after another with a rapidly disintegrating journalism industry means that many, many stories are just being left uncovered. (Hey, remember when we had time to spend being concerned about small businesses going out of business as a result of the Covid economic crash? Those were good times.) So I am sorry to report that I can’t tell you for sure whether Arte Moreno is pulling a fast one or just rejiggering some paperwork, only that we have arrived at the point in history where the very concept of knowing things for sure is beginning to melt into thin air.

Friday roundup: CFL calls its owners “philanthropists” who need bailout, plus actual sport with actual fans takes place in actual stadium!

And how is everyone out there? Going stir-crazy? Waking up early to watch Korean baseball? Starving to death? All good options!

I personally have been watching this 1988 game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos (spoiler: Randy Johnson is, as the announcers keep noting, very tall), while continuing to keep tabs on what passes for sports stadium and subsidy news these days. Let’s get to it — the news, I mean, not the Phils-Expos game, I have that paused:

 

Angels owner who got $175m subsidy is stiffing stadium workers, because outsourcing

Another day, another news story about sports stadium workers who can’t pay their rent because teams are refusing to pay third-party employees during the coronavirus shutdown:

On March 17, the Dodgers and Angels — and every other major league team — each committed $1 million to provide financial assistance to game-day workers.

Luna believed that meant he would get financial assistance. He has not seen a dime. The fact that he works for third-party concession companies and not the Dodgers or Angels complicates his situation.

“It’s getting pretty stressful,” he said. “I rely on this income.”

That million-dollar-per-team relief fund got a lot of attention when it was announced, even though the total isn’t much more than each MLB team will be paying the last guy on their bench. But the bigger problem is that most of the people who sell you hot dogs or scorecards aren’t actually team employees — they work for concessionaires like Aramark, which means baseball owners feel entirely justified in not paying them squat during the sports layoff. Some teams have relented — the Red Sox added an extra $500,000 to cover some subcontracted employees after a public outcry — but plenty of others haven’t.

As discussed before, this is somewhere between irony and hypocrisy, given that every team that comes seeking stadium or arena funds makes sure to cite the jobs that these subsidies will help make possible. Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno and his supporters, in fact, used precisely that argument in pushing for a land deal that gave Moreno about a $175 million subsidy for his stadium plans:

“For every fan who told us to keep the Angels, this proposal would do exactly that,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement. “This proposal reflects what we’ve heard from the community – keep the Angels, a fair land price, money for neighborhoods, ongoing revenue, affordable housing, parks and jobs for Anaheim.”

Okay, Sidhu didn’t say good jobs, I guess. But even if “I am proud to sign a deal that will provide my city with shitty part-time jobs that can be terminated at the drop of a hat because of the magic of subcontracting” might have been more honest, it doesn’t fit as well on a bumper sticker.

Friday roundup: Dolphins owner seeks Formula One tax break, Tacoma okays soccer subsidies, plus vaportecture from around the globe!

Happy coronavirus panic week! What with stadiums in Europe being closed to fans and stadium workers in the U.S. testing positive for the virus, it’s tough to think of much right now other than what song to wash your hands to for 20 seconds (this is my personal preference). But long after we’re done with our self-quarantines, the consequences of sports venue spending will live on, so to the week’s news we go:

  • Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is seeking a sales-tax exemption for tickets to Formula One racing events at his stadium, saying that without it, Miami might not get a Grand Prix. The tax break is expected to cost the state between $1.5 million and $2 million per event, but Formula One officials say each race would generate an economic impact of more than $400 million, and what possible reason would they have to lie about a thing like that?
  • The Tacoma city council voted 8-1 on Monday to approve spending on a $60 million, 5,000-seat stadium for the Reign F.C. women’s pro soccer team. According to a letter of intent approved by the council, the city will provide $15 million, while the city parks agency will provide $7.5 million more, with perhaps another $20 million to come from federal tax credits for investing in low-income communities. The parks body still has to vote on the plan on Monday as well; given that Metro Parks commissioner Aaron Pointer — who is also a former Houston Astro and a brother of the Pointer Sisters — said he doesn’t see “really any benefits at all” for the city or its parks, it’s fair to say that the vote there will be more contentious than the one in the city council.
  • Brett Johnson, the developer behind a proposed $400 million development in Pawtucket centered around a pro soccer stadium, says he has lots of investors eager to parks their capital gains in his project tax-free under the Trump administration’s Opportunity Zone program, but it might take a while to work out all the details because reasons. But, he added, “My confidence is very high,” and confidence is what it’s all about, right?
  • Nashville’s Save Our Fairgrounds has filed for a court injunction to stop work on a new Nashville S.C. stadium, on the grounds that no redevelopment of the state fairgrounds can take place without a public voter referendum. This brings the total number of lawsuits against the project to … umpteen? I’m gonna go with umpteen.
  • There’s now an official lawsuit against the Anaheim city council for voting on a Los Angeles Angels stadium land sale without sufficient public meetings. The People’s Homeless Task Force is charging that holding most of the sale talks in private violated the state’s Brown Act on transparency; the city’s lawyers responded that “there could be a myriad of reasons” why the council was able to vote on the sale at a single meeting in December despite never discussing it in public before that, though they didn’t suggest any specific reasons.
  • Wondering what vaportecture looks like outside of North America? Here’s an article on Watford F.C.‘s proposed new stadium, though if you aren’t an Athletic subscriber you’ll be stuck with just the one image, though given that it’s an image of Watford fans stumbling zombie-like into the stadium out of what appears to be an open field, really what more do you need?
  • There are some new renderings of the St. Louis MLS team‘s proposed stadium, and once again they mostly feature people crossing the street, not anything having to do with watching soccer. Are the clip art images of people throwing their hands in the air for no reason temporarily out of stock or something?
  • Here are photos of a 31-year-old arena being demolished, because America.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ four-year-old stadium needs $21 million in new paneling on its exterior, because the old paneling was leaking. At least the stadium’s construction contractors will be footing the bill, but it’s still an important reminder that “state of the art” isn’t necessarily better than “outmoded,” especially when it comes to new and unproven designs.
  • And speaking of COVID-19, here’s an article on how travel restrictions thanks to the new coronavirus will cost the European tourism industry more than $1 billion per month, without wondering what else Europeans (and erstwhile travelers to Europe from other continents) will do with the money they’re saving on plane tickets and hotel rooms. Where’s my article on how pandemics are a boost to the hand sanitizer and canned soup industries?

Friday roundup: D-Backs, Angels hedge on new stadium plans, NJ demands 76ers repay 0.5% of tax breaks, and other foolishness

Another busy Friday where I need to squeeze in the news roundup when and where I can! (Also, yeah, New Yorkers already knew this about Mike Bloomberg, who also was responsible for this.)

Lawsuit could ask to undo Angels stadium deal for violating state transparency law

It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Angels heavily subsidized stadium land purchase deal was done largely in secret — the city didn’t even release details of the sale until ten days before its single public hearing on the matter, and even then a lot of questions were left unanswered — but now the sale is facing a potential lawsuit for violating California’s Brown Act requiring open government:

“The Council’s approval of this Agreement was a rubber stamp of the terms that had been improperly discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon outside of public view, in violation of the Brown Act (state transparency law),” reads the Jan. 19 letter filed by attorney Kelly Aviles.

Aviles letter alleges councilmembers violated the state’s transparency law because the 1953 Ralph M. Brown Act limits private discussion of any sale of public property to “price and terms of payment” for the sale of the land…

“If the Board fails or refuses to cure and correct or respond as demanded, my client will seek judicial invalidation of the challenged actions…” states Aviles’ letter.

That’s not a lawsuit yet, but it sounds like it’s going to be one unless the city council “corrects” its decision, which seems pretty durn unlikely. The success rate of these things at overturning city decisions isn’t all that great, but it’s not zero either, so it’s entirely possible that the $325 million land sale — which is probably at least a $175 million discount from what the land could have fetched on the open market — will have to be re-voted on, this time with more time for open debate. Hope springs eternal!

Why the Angels’ now-approved (maybe, kinda) stadium land sale represents at least $175m in public subsidies

So yeah, the Anaheim city council voted 4-2 late Friday night (early Saturday morning if you were watching from the East Coast like me) to approve the sale of Angel Stadium and its surrounding parking lots to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, despite the concerns of some (well, two) on the council and many Anaheim residents that the deal was being rushed through without considering some of its very very many known unknowns. With the vote officials, the city and team will now move ahead on … well, that’s not entirely known, either.

Throughout Friday’s near-endless council hearing, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and other backers of the deal insisted that the vote to finalize the sale was not actually final in any way, because either side can still walk away from the deal before it’s consummated, which could take up to five years:

Several other agreements are expected to come forward by spring: a commitment that the team would play in Anaheim through 2050, with another 25 years of extensions; and a separate agreement that commits SRB Management to renovate the stadium or build a new one without any public financing, describes what would be developed around the stadium, and lays out details and costs of affordable housing, park space and a labor agreement.

Those community benefit costs would be subtracted from the $325 million land price, so the final cost is not yet known. Closing the sale could take until 2025, so until then the current lease remains in place.

How the value of those “community benefits” would be calculated, or what would be included (Anaheim planning director David Belmer said during the hearing that it could also include things like transit upgrades paid for by the developers) remains a mystery, something that councilmember Jose Moreno asked about to no avail on Friday. The only thing really agreed upon in the vote, according to this argument, was the baseline sale price of $325 million — everything else remains TBD.

A little more information has seeped out about how that $325 million figure was arrived at, when some iterations of the city’s appraisal came up with a value for the parcel of $500 million, and comparable properties nearby have sold for even more than that per acre. The $325 million number is the value of the land “encumbered” by a stadium and parking spaces for one, which is a good bit less than its value if you could fill it from edge to edge with any kind of development you wanted.

Think about this for a second, and this seems reasonable: If you want the Angels to remain on the land, this is a condition of the sale, and so that’s how the land should be valued. Think about it for more than a second, and it comes to a significant public subsidy being handed to Moreno:

Let’s say you’re selling, I don’t know, an ice cream truck. The value of the ice cream truck is going to depend on how much ice cream you can sell out of it, which is going to depend on the demand for ice cream, how much ice cream it can carry, etc. However, the only person who is allowed to bid for the ice cream truck is someone who lives in another state during the summer months, so would only use it to sell ice cream when it’s cold out. You can see how the value of an ice cream truck to them would be far less than to someone who would use it year-round. If you calculate the sale price based on the value to our single bidder, then, they’re getting a significant discount compared to what anyone else would pay.

Dropping the metaphor and back to reality, Arte Moreno is getting a piece of land worth $500 million or more for only $325 million because he wants to keep playing baseball on it. You can certainly make a case that that’s a reasonable deal to make to keep the team in Anaheim — many, many people at the hearing talked about how terrible it would be for the Angels to leave Anaheim — but then be honest about what you’re doing in exchange for keeping the team: selling 153 acres of public land at a massive discount. That’s still absolutely a public cost, just as much as if Moreno saw the land for sale at the market price and said, “I’ll buy that, so long as you give me a $175 million rebate check as part of the deal.”

And that’s before even accounting for the “community benefits” discount, which would be like if you (sorry, back to the metaphor) agreed to allow your ice-cream truck buyer to deduct even more from the sale price for giving out free ice cream on Tuesdays, or something, without knowing how much that free ice cream would count against the final payment. (City officials testified on several occasions that it would not be impossible for Moreno to get so many credits that the city would end up having to pay him to take the land, though they didn’t hazard any guesses as to how likely that was.)

The good news is that it’s still possible for Anaheim (or Moreno, for that matter) to walk away from the deal if the two sides can’t agree on the community benefits discounts and other yet-to-be-negotiated elements of the deal — and if so, the Angels would presumably then be locked into their current lease through 2029, since their opt-out clause would by then have expired. The less-good news, if you’re rooting for that to happen, is that the council seems dead set on moving ahead with this plan full speed ahead: Five of seven councilmembers (one missed the hearing because he was in the emergency room for unexplained reasons) are solidly behind it, meaning the two council seats up for re-election next November held by deal supporters would have to flip to anti-stadium-sale, with deal critic Denise Barnes holding her seat, to change the voting calculus.

This is all, needless to say, a big mess, and hopefully makes clear why sports team owners are increasingly turning to things like discounted land prices as a way to get subsidies for their stadium projects: If Arte Moreno had walked up to the city council and said, “I’ll keep the Angels in Anaheim, but only if you pay me $175 million to do so,” he probably would have gotten “What the hell, no way” for an answer. (Probably; elected officials writing checks like that has been known to happen.) By couching the demand in terms of a discounted land sale, however, with its necessary accompanying talk of appraisals and fair market value and encumbrances and other words that tend to make laypeople doze off, Moreno effectively muddied the waters to where at times those testifying on Friday often seemed more upset about whether the team would still be called “Los Angeles Angels” rather than “Anaheim Angels” that whether the public was leaving $175 million on the table. It’s all about misdirection.

Liveblogging Anaheim’s vote on the Los Angeles Angels stadium sale (UPDATE: it passed)

After years of negotiations, the Anaheim city council is set to debate and vote on the plan to sell the Los Angeles Angels stadium and its surrounding parking lots to team owner Arte Moreno for development in just a single hearing, held naturally enough on the afternoon of the Friday before Christmas. I’m going to start by heading over to Twitter to do the play-by-play, so meet me over there, and open up your streaming video of the hearing if you want to watch along.

Going to re-paste the Twitter thread here as we go, because this hearing is dirt-boring (sorry: spoilers!) and I need to keep myself busy:

 

 

Land sales across street show Angels stadium site could be worth double what Anaheim is asking

It’s now 32 hours until the Los Angeles Angels stadium land sale vote, and here’s what’s happening:

  • The Voice of OC’s Spencer Custodio reports that some land across the street from the stadium site sold for twice as much per acre as team owner Arte Moreno is offering the city of Anaheim: A 3.8-acre plot that became the George Apartments sold for $4.5 million an acre in 2014; 6.48 acres that’s now the Gateway Apartments sold for $3.5 million an acre in 2012; and 3.72 acres that became condos on State College Boulevard sold for $8.06 million an acre in 2005. Moreno’s $325 million offer — if not reduced further by discounts for building parks and affordable housing — comes to just $2.1 million an acre. Land appraisals are more art than science, and pricing of comparable properties is just one method of figuring out land value (and finding comparable parcels can be nearly impossible, since most other sites for sale aren’t nearly so large and also don’t have a stadium sitting in the middle of them), but as I tell Custodio in his article, these figures are “probably a red flag that you should reevaluate the numbers.”
  • Some locals like the deal, some don’t, and some just want the Angels to get more pitching.
  • A majority of the city council appears set to vote for the deal, with councilmembers Trevor O’Neil and Stephen Faessel telling the OC Register that while the city is admittedly accepting less than top market value for the land, it’s worth it to lock in the Angels for 30 years and get the land developed now; and also that, in the Register’s words, “residents they’ve heard from want the team to stay in town and folks are not concerned with the minutiae of a deal to make that happen.”
  • Maybe they’ll be more concerned once they read the Register’s editorial declaring that “the devil is in the details, and city officials need to provide more crucial details before moving forward with the plan.” Though the paper’s editorial board doesn’t actually call for a “no” vote tomorrow, just saying that they’d like to get more information.
  • The Register has an explainer on what we know about the deal and what we still don’t know, with an emphasis on “don’t know.”

That’s a big mess, frankly, and I’d say we still don’t know enough to say where the land sale plan falls on the spectrum between “not too terrible” and “total ripoff.” Which is why taking a vote tomorrow seems bizarrely rushed — if the council puts off a vote, Moreno will have to choose between opting out of his lease and having nowhere to play in 2021 (not super likely, though he could always try it as brinksmanship) or getting locked into his current lease through 2029, which would give the council plenty of time to vet the deal properly. As I told Custodio: “You’re only going to be able to sell the stadium land once. You want to get it correct.”