At its current trajectory, the city where the Angels play will be known as “Arteheim.”
Such is the dominant position from which the Angels begin their stadium negotiations. Angels owner Arte Moreno, right, is in a strong position in negotiations with Anaheim.
The Anaheim City Council allowed the Angels to push back their escape clause to 2019, which means owner Arte Moreno has three more years to line up a new stadium site, somewhere else in Southern California, if he wishes.
And the outline of the coming talks, in a memorandum of understanding, reflects Anaheim’s abject terror at the possibility Moreno will move the baseball franchise that the city saved in 1965.
Anaheim officials say the terms of the document are only preliminary, that talks have yet to begin, that other, contradictory issues can be introduced.
But, realistically, Moreno begins with a framework of goodies, very specific ones, that he will be loath to surrender.
Moreno’s umbrella company would get a 66-year hold on 155 acres around the stadium, a colossal value, to develop as it wishes. In return, Anaheim would receive $66, without commas. And that would be weighed against tax rebates to the Angels.
From the stadium, the Angels would continue to ingest all the concessions, advertising and signage, all but $100,000 of parking revenue, and almost all the ticket revenue.
The same franchise that gave Anaheim $4 million per year in rent, in Gene Autry’s day, would only fork over $2 per ticket above and beyond 3 million in attendance. Under the current lease, the threshold is 2.6 million.
That saves Moreno $800,000 right there.
This year’s top-heavy club would have to average nearly 37,000 in its six remaining home dates to get to 3 million. Under the terms of the MOU, any sub-3 million season means the Angels are getting a rent-free ballpark.
To some, the whole thing sounds like an open marriage for one party and a chastity belt for the other.
The Angels’ only real concession is the burden of renovating the ballpark, which they keep calling the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball.
Technically, that’s true. Functionally, it’s not. The old, enclosed Big A was transformed into a baseball park in 1997. Besides, the Angels are obligated to pay for the maintenance in the current lease, too.
So the question, as it always does for municipalities, comes down to this: How much should we bleed for a baseball team?
Stadium proponents roll out the ancillary-income argument, that a baseball team enriches a city because fans spend so much money at surrounding restaurants, etc. They use attendance figures to support this, but those figures are merely a reflection of tickets sold, not actual fans.
It also does not apply as strongly in Anaheim. For many Angels fans, here’s the drill: Hustle home, change clothes, gather the kids and go straight to the park, paying for concessionaire food with money that goes directly to the Halos. Hotels, on weekends, are not filled with Angels fans the way St. Louis hotels bulge with Cardinals fans.
Mayor Tom Tait is the only skeptic on the city council.
At the Sept. 3 meeting he wondered why the Angels couldn’t have partnered with Moreno to share the development costs and also the profits.
He said the city gave up its leverage when it allowed the lease to be extended – a binding action, effective immediately. Had the 2016 opt-out been preserved, he argued, the Angels wouldn’t have had time to arrange a move.
Not even the prospect of “Los Angeles Angels,” without the “of Anaheim,” has pushed the council’s buttons. The MOU suggests the Angels will have that right.
Fans in other cities wonder why this is so offensive to Anaheim. After all, the Washington Redskins play in Landover, Md.
But Anaheim is not a suburb of L.A. It is not a derivative of L.A. It competes with L.A. for convention business. Moreover, the city provided a safe harbor for the Angels when they were destitute, camping out in Dodger Stadium.
Other than the Lakers, the Clippers, the Dodgers and the 6 o’clock news, how often does L.A. intersect with Anaheim? It would make almost as much sense to call them the Las Vegas Angels.
If the Angels move? Well, they will not move beyond driving distance, because Moreno needs the Fox Sports West contract.
There is talk of Irvine, but code enforcement might be a problem. Who knows, the city might ban Garrett Richards from throwing a baseball past 85 mph.
There are dusty, sweltering lots in the City of Industry, and there is the fantasy of moving to downtown L.A.
But if the memorandum of understanding bears any resemblance to the eventual deal, Moreno will probably bathe in the public trough and stay right here.
Unlike his baseball team, he knows when to declare victory.