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Wednesday, Sep 17th

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Critics: Angel Stadium economic impact based on faulty data

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Angel Stadium

With a final decision due on a controversial Angel Stadium lease, opponents say the plan relies on bad data that could be tainted by intertwined corporate relationships.

Here's the deal. The city of Anaheim -- not the Angels -- contracted with Conventions, Sports & Leisure International to research the market impact of the Angels and Angel Stadium, as the city council debates a proposal by owner Arte Moreno to pay $1 for development rights on the area surrounding the ballpark in exchange for the team footing the bill for $130-$150 million in renovations and repairs. (Most of this will be spent on very unglamorous stuff, like plumbing, that won't generate new revenues for the team.) Whether or not this is a good deal for the city remains to be seen, so the city is relying on experts to measure the financial impact of the team and the worth of the land.

CSL International, which started in Minnesota and still has an office there, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Legends Hospitality, the Texas-based joint venture of the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys providing food and concessions to venues like Yankee Stadium, AT&T Stadium and now Angel Stadium, in a deal decided by the Angels ownership. Now, if you've been paying attention, the concessions field has become incredibly competitive and it would not be hard for the Angels to demand a great deal even if CSL International didn't exist; besides Aramark, Centerplate and Delaware North, you have newer firms like Ovations, Levy Restaurants and Professional Sports Catering competing for contracts at MLB and spring-training venues. (In other words, there's never been a better time to be bidding out a concessions contract, because the competition is absolutely cutthroat.) The deal with the Angels calls for Legends to supply concessions both to Angel Stadium and Tempe Diablo Stadium, the team's spring home.

Now, the public release of the CSL International report (coming weeks after it was delivered to the city, by the way) came two days before the Angels/Legends hospitality deal was announced. Terrible timing. There are long gestation periods to both a concessions deal and a financial-impact report, of course, but that's not stopping opponents of the Moreno Angel Stadium proposal to argue that there must have some been some of arrangement where CSL International overstated the financial impact for the team and was being rewarded with a favorable contract from Legends:

“The question obviously is, are they being rewarded for their report?” said Bob Stern, president the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. “And why are they having a relationship with the Angels at the same time, right after they’re supposedly doing a nonpartisan or nonbiased report about the impact?”

Stern added, “the question would be to them: What were you thinking?”

But the fact there's a common ownership doesn't prove anything. CSL has been around for more than 20 years, consulting with plenty of college programs and pro outfits without any evidence of collusion with its corporate owner. (Here's a list of ballparks where CSL International was brought in as a consultant.) For a firm like CSL, all it has to offer is its reputation. Now, you can argue with its financial conclusions (though, interestingly, a local college professor who studied the topic says CSL's conclusions aren't out of line, though definitely on the high side), and you can also argue there are intangibles to Anaheim keeping the Angels. You can argue that Arte Moreno is getting a sweet deal -- too sweet a deal. And you can argue that development of the Angel Stadium parking lots should be open to bidding, with a study of the land's worth released for public debate. But innuendo like that pedded here doesn't really advance any of these arguments and detracts from the central issue: whether it's a good use of public resources to let Moreno develop the area around Angel Stadium in exchange for funding ballpark repairs, as well as whether the city should be releasing all relevant information to the public. The first question really can't be answered until the second is addressed -- which is why a publicly funded appraisal of the Angel Stadium land should be released sooner than later.

RELATED STORIES: City-commissioned appraisal of of Angel Stadium to be released; No public money for new Angels ballpark: Tustin mayor; Moreno: Angels committed to Anaheim, but checking out alternatives; Angels lease negotiations hinge on value of land surrounding ballparkAngels casually threaten move during lease negotiations

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