Last May we predicted the likely outcome of Anaheim putting the brakes on a new or renovated Angels ballpark was for the two sides to meet again after a suitable break. Guess what: Arte Moreno plans on meeting with new Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken to talk ballpark.
A little background is in order. Moreno and his investors, in the form of SRB Management, had come to an agreement with the city, led by former Mayor Harry Sidhu, for a $320-million purchase of the 20-acre Angel Stadium site and an additional 133 acres comprising 12,500 parking spaces for games and events, and City National Grove of Anaheim, a 1,700-seat theater. The total cost: $150 million in cash and $170 million in community benefits, including affordable housing. The goal was a mixed-use development a la The Battery. Moreno would also have the power to decide whether to build a new ballpark at the site or renovate Angel Stadium.
But Sidhu was forced to resign over accusations that the sale of Angel Stadium and surrounding land came under questionable circumstances, linking the sale with a million-dollar campaign contribution. The Anaheim City Council then followed up by voting to cancel the sale. It was that time that many of us, including plenty of insiders, predicted that the two sides would meet again to revive the deal.
Now, with Moreno announcing his intention of meeting with Aitken, the time may be right to discuss a revival of the deal. In the meantime Moreno committed to keeping the Angels after putting the team on the market–and also committed to solving the Angel Stadium issue. Complicating the issue is that the team will likely be heavily impacted by the implosion of its Bally Sports cable rights deal, a 20-year, $3-billion deal signed in 2011. The original deal signed by the Angels and scrapped by the city had its pluses and minuses for both sides: yes, it did sell Angel Stadium to Moreno, but it didn’t commit the city to a new or renovated facility. During that process the team did sign a new lease that gives it most of the power moving forward, running through 2029, with options through 2038. Under the teams of that lease, the Angels can demand ballpark upgrades with a fairly standard “state of the art” clause—upgrades that could run as high as $150 million. It also gives the Angels a say over development near the ballpark, a clause that should dampen investor interest in the area should the city seek to separate Angel Stadium from any potential development.
So that’s why the feeling is that the city should be content with the deal originally struck with SRB Management and that any new deal will potentially mirror that original deal. Sure, the city can pick at the edges and increase the amount of affordable housing and other community benefits. And affordable housing is a big issue in Anaheim, so expect a lot of lobbying to tie an Angel Stadium sale to an expansion of affordable housing.
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