Angels owner okays development next to stadium, doesn’t even have to sue anybody first

After complaining about the new development project proposed for next door and threatening to sue to stop it, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno gave his blessing to LT Global’s mixed-use project this week. This happened because they were … bought off? I’m going with bought off:

“We are pleased that LT Global worked with us in a timely and collaborative effort to address the impacts of their development on our fan experience,” Angels President John Carpino said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the city to finalize details on important transportation improvements for the Platinum Triangle in the coming weeks.”

LT Global spokesman Steve Greyshock wouldn’t elaborate on how the company and the Angels were able to amicably resolve their differences but did say the company looks forward to working with the team.

“We spoke. It was neighbors talking with neighbors,” Greyshock said. “They had some operational concerns, but overall the goal is to have a long, constructive relationship with the Angels.”

That’s playing it extremely close to the vest in terms of what the price was for the Angels ownership’s cooperation — it could have been anything from cash to a parking-sharing agreement to promising to buy the Angels’ stock of leftover Josh Hamilton jerseys — but the point is, they worked it out. And without Moreno being able to demand that Anaheim give him a huge swath of development rights for cheap, as was his original plan.

In all, Moreno seems to be following a new tactic of playing good cop, backing away from threats to opt out of his lease early and reopening lease extension talks with Anaheim. This is what you can make happen when you have a mayor who is a tough negotiator, a team that reaps huge benefits from playing in a major metro area, and city officials in other nearby locales also not willing to throw money at a stadium. Not saying it’ll work every time, but it is a little glimpse into a happier world where move threats are met with “Ha, yeah, that’s a good one” rather than “How many zeroes should we put on the check, Mr. Moreno?”

Exec says Angels could leave Anaheim in 2029, maybe hopes new metropolis has arisen by then

Los Angeles Angels president John Carpino spoke out about the  over development rights to the team’s Anaheim stadium parking lot yesterday, and said if things can’t be worked out the team might just leave — 13 years from now.

Carpino spoke after the developer of a large-scale project next to Angel Stadium agreed Tuesday to postpone an Anaheim City Council vote on the project for three weeks, in the hope of resolving the team’s objections to the development…

Although the Angels’ current lease extends through 2029, the team can opt out no later than Oct. 16, 2018, which would terminate the lease after the 2019 season.

Carpino said the Angels have three options: move, renovate Angel Stadium, or play out the current lease.

So… that doesn’t actually quite make sense as written. What the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin appears to be trying to say is that the Angels may not use the opt-out clause in their lease in two seasons, in which case their next opportunity to leave Anaheim would be in 2029. It’s not entirely clear whether that’s meant to be a promise or a threat, but there it is.

Of course, the reason that Angels owner Arte Moreno might not use the opt-out clause is because he has nowhere to go that’s still in the super-lucrative Los Angeles (plus Orange County) market, especially since his attempts to get a stadium out of Tustin went nowhere. That’s not likely to change by 2029 — yeah, Las Vegas is growing, but not that fast — so this would seem to be a coded admission of “Yeah, we’re stuck here whether we like it or not, thanks to the SoCal cable riches.” I mean, maybe by 2029 cable has ceased to exist and some new MLB model makes it feasible for teams to play in places like Green Bay, like the NFL’s does? Maybe by then Halifax has become bustling with American climate refugees? Or maybe Moreno has really decided he’ll settle for selling another 13 years worth of Mike Trout jerseys and figure out the whole stadium thing later. If so, well played, Tom Tait.

Angels owner gripes about incomplete review process for neighboring developer, irony is dead

Three years ago, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno asked the city of Anaheim to give him development rights to his stadium parking lot in exchange for him making stadium upgrades, only to be forced to back down when an appraisal revealed he’d be getting $245 million in land and spending only $150 million on renovations. Last year, Moreno griped that a Chinese developer, LT Global, was looking at building a privately funded mixed-use development on land it had bought across the street from the stadium, because he was afraid it would use his parking. On Wednesday, team officials intimated that they would sue unless the LT Global project went through a full environmental impact study:

The demand, contained in the second hostile letter from Angels lawyers to the city within two weeks, comes as the team and city have revived talks on a lease that would extend the Angels’ tenure at the city-owned stadium.

Last week, the Anaheim Planning Commission, over the Angels’ objections, unanimously endorsed a 15-acre complex of shops, restaurants, offices, residences and a hotel on the site next to Angel Stadium.

The Anaheim City Council has final say on the project and could vote to approve it as soon as Sept. 27. In the letter, Angels attorney George Mihlsten said the planning commission approved the project with “very limited environmental review and no opportunity for public review,” and he asked the council to order a new environmental impact report.

Couple of things here: First off, whatever the merits of the dispute (public review is a good thing), it remains hilarious to see a would-be developer complaining about the insufficiency of an EIS, given that you know Mihlsten would be saying the exact opposite if Moreno were the one looking to build this project. Second, that “revived talks on a lease” clause may not be just a news peg — when you’re at the lease negotiating table, everything is up for grabs, and trading off “we won’t sue the developers next door” for something is, at the very least, a bargaining chip that Moreno will want to explore. Mayor Tom Tait and his negotiators have their work cut out for them.

Angels really truly not moving to Tustin, slink back to Anaheim to reopen lease talks

Hey, remember almost two years ago when the Los Angeles Angels were threatening to build a new stadium in the Orange County city of Tustin? Vaguely? I’d largely forgotten about the whole thing once Tustin officials said they wanted to receive fair market value for any stadium land, but apparently Angels owner Arte Moreno hadn’t given up on the plan. Until now:

The developer of the proposed Tustin site said his firm worked extensively in recent months on a ballpark project, but could not structure a deal that made economic sense for the development company, for Tustin and for the Angels…

The two sides are believed to have focused on a stadium that would have seated about 37,000 and cost about $700 million. Tustin officials had said they would not provide taxpayer funding for stadium construction.

“At this point, there’s not a path forward that’s economically viable for anyone,” Oliver said.

Instead, Moreno has now reopened talks with the city of Anaheim about a deal to renovate the team’s current stadium, which could get very interesting indeed. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is one of the more skeptical local officials on the subject of stadium subsidies, and has been insistent that he won’t give away valuable development rights to Moreno for nothing; a majority of the city council, though, still consists (until the November elections, at least) of members who approved the free-land deal that Tait later scuttled. Tait says he hopes to come to an agreement that’s a “win-win” for both the team and the people of Anaheim; if most mayors said that I’d expect it was just empty rhetoric, but Tait seems to actually mean it, so … yeah, very interesting times indeed.

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.