The Angels, Anaheim, and the Ongoing Stadium Wars

Back in February 2017, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno stated at a press conference that he and the team were committed to the city of Anaheim and would remain there through at least 2029. So steadfast was Moreno’s assurance that the Los Angeles Times’ Pedro Moura headlined his coverage of the press conference with the Moreno’s promise: “Angels to Stay in Anaheim through at least 2029.”

The franchise holds the right to opt out of its Angel Stadium lease in 2019 and has long been considering a move within Orange County around that. But no suitable location has been found, so they will stay.

What a difference a year and a half makes. In the biggest playoff-busting opt-out news since Alex Rodriguez upended the baseball world during the World Series in 2007, the Angels announced they were opting out of their lease for Angels Stadium. The LA Times‘ Bill Shaikin passed along the team’s reasoning.

“As we look to the future, we need the ability to continue to deliver a high-quality fan experience beyond what the original lease allows,” Angels President John Carpino said in a statement. “It is important that we look at all our options and how we can best serve our fans now and in the future.”

The Angels will be required to vacate the stadium after the 2019 baseball season unless a new deal is reached. This was Anaheim’s reaction.

We’ve talked many times about the problems associated with publicly funded stadia. From the D-backs’ suit to get out of a facility younger than Gleyber Torres, to the massive losses sustained by the City of Miami and County of Miami-Dade because of Marlins Park, it’s no wonder that stadium deals — and the threats issued by teams to vacate their homes for shiny new ones — are not smiled upon by modern local elected officials. And this led the Orange County Register’s Jonathan Lansner to tell the Halos “Good Riddance.”

I hope Anaheim city leadership treats the Angels just like Walt Disney Co. and tells the baseball team “no more handouts.”

The Angels told the city they want out of their stadium lease after the 2019 season. Supposedly, the city-owned Angel Stadium doesn’t meet its fans’ needs. Nobody’s that dumb. It’s clear this is a ploy to make baseball in Anaheim more profitable for billionaire owner Arte Moreno.

If I were, say, the god of Anaheim… I’d quickly take the Angels up on their lease termination and tell them today, without any negotiations, they should have their bags packed once the baseball season ends in 2019.

On the surface, at least, there is one notable difference between the Angels’ situation and that of the D-backs, for example. Angels Stadium is the fourth-oldest in Major League Baseball, constructed in 1966. Only Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodgers Stadium are older. At the same time, however, the stadium remains fairly modern despite its age. This past offseason, new video boards were installed (among other improvements). One of those video boards was 9,500 square feet. And most complaints about the stadium have more to do with poor treatment of stadium workers than deteriorating conditions.

There are also other factors in play, including the enmity between the team and city that has been building ever since the Angels changed their name in 2005 from “Anaheim Angels” to “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” The city of Anaheim actually sued the team for the name change, lost badly at trial, and paid over $3.5 million in legal fees for the privilege.

Things didn’t improve afterwards. The city, led by mayor Tom Tait, torpedoed a deal to use public funds to renovate Angels Stadium. Perhaps in retribution, the team scuttled a bid by the city to develop a new commercial complex next to the Stadium because of potential noise and threatened to sue the city if the project moved forward. The team then dropped “Anaheim” from its official name entirely, becoming the “Los Angeles Angels” before the 2016 season. In response, when the Angels asked the county to repair the 40-year-old fence around the stadium’s parking lots, the county accused the Angels of wanting to build a 12-foot-high wall to keep out homeless people. And now, the team is threatening to leave entirely.

The Angels have long been looking towards Orange County for alternative stadium sites, repeatedly approaching Tustin. At the same time, though Moreno is said to be infatuated with the idea of a Tustin stadium, Tustin won’t pay to build one. But even as the Angels are thwarted in their search for a municipality willing to build them a stadium, they aren’t making headway on a new interim deal for Angels Stadium. In fact, neither side wants to begin talks about a renegotiation of the Angels’ lease for their current stadium until after the November elections.

The optics of this situation are also different than others because of Arte Moreno’s net worth. Certainly, all team owners are wealthy, but Moreno is among the wealthiest, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. Baseball’s first minority team owner and a former co-owner of the D-backs, Moreno essentially owns the Angels outright. The Angels have plans for a new stadium that would seat 37,000 at a cost of $700 million, but no one wants to fund construction of a ballpark that Moreno could theoretically finance entirely himself.

So where does that leave the Angels and Anaheim? Most observers think these two parties need each other, and I tend to agree. Unlike the Mariners’ and D-backs’ situations, the stadium deal isn’t being held up by maintenance issues and unwanted repair costs, and the reality is that, even if the Angels decided to move, it would be years before a new stadium could be built. The Angels need a baseball stadium, and Anaheim doesn’t want to lose its tenant, even if the team has been a pain in its butt. At the same time, however, we’re already seeing trial balloons floated about moves to Portland or Las Vegas, and neither side is moving with any urgency at this point (though that could and probably will change down the road). I think the safe bet is a short-term, five- or ten-year lease with another opt-out, enough for the two sides to have a brief cooling-off period. But if there is any team that would announce a move in the next couple of years, it would likely be the Angels — especially as Portland gets talked up as a city willing to finance a stadium and at the top of the list for an expansion team.

We hoped you liked reading The Angels, Anaheim, and the Ongoing Stadium Wars by Sheryl Ring!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

newest oldest most voted
v2micca
Member
Member
v2micca

God, I hope the city of Anaheim tells the Angels to piss off. And I hope it starts a trend that leads to all Cities and municipalities telling these Billionaires to pound sand when they attempt to extort them for stadium deals. It is an unlikely outcome, but I can dream.

scooter262
Member
Member
scooter262

100% agree. Jeez, I hope the time has finally come where cities are smart enough to run screaming from these mega-rich owners looking for handouts. I think most cities ARE smart enough: I worry, though, about corrupt city officials getting bought out by owners and their people.

I don’t know for sure, of course, but knowing how corrupt South Florida politics have been in the recent past, I feel fairly strongly that some money changed hands illegally when the approval for Marlins Park was passed by the local legislature.

Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

Sounds like a vain wish. Large cities in rich countries seem to view sports stadia as necessary amenities and more-and-more, it seems sports are a good way to break through political tribalism that divides people. Still, I agree that cities, large ones in particular, should use their leverage more intelligently since the name of the city is more important to a team than it is to, say, Amazon as it looks for the best deal for its 2nd HQs.

Looks like the Angels and Anaheim have soured relations recently and the Angels are simply angling for a better deal on the remaining years of the lease. Anaheim’s response indicates they will comply.

Not sure what Arte Moreno’s wealth has to do with stadium construction. That’s an economic decision to see if enhanced profits over 25 years from a new stadium pay for the $Billion or so needed now to pay for construction. Would be interesting to see in other recent stadia construction around the country, what portions were city-financed, team/bank-loan financed, naming rights, season-ticket/stadium box rights, etc.

jmsdean477
Member
jmsdean477

What you mean we’re not about to start calling them Amazon of Washington, and the Berkshire Hathaways of Omaha?

Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

Haha, yeah, I think the prestige factor of a big city like NY, Chicago, LA, Houston, Philly gives them more leverage over a ball club. “Hey, go set up in Des Moines if you don’t like our terms.” Although, even big cities want the prestige of major league sports, so maybe I’m overstating the leverage advantage.

Amazon wants prestige too, but factors like # of colleges nearby pumping out STEM-graduates, cost of living for workers, state and local taxes are far more important. Amazon is going to get huge incentives from the bidding war amongst Chicago, NY, DC, Toronto, and other cities. The Angels don’t want to leave Anaheim if they’re selling 3M tickets/year, so will just use Portland and other cities as stalking horses to improve their leverage for a new stadium in Tustin or elsewhere in Orange County.

Nats Fan
Member
Nats Fan

NYC funded both the Yankee and Met stadiums if I am recalling correctly.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Normally, I feel this way. But I especially, especially feel this way about this one. Moving to Portland or Nashville is totally shooting yourself in the foot. It’s like when the Oklahoma City Thunder used to cry poverty about its small location. Well, jeezus, you were in a rich fairly large city and you moved to a poorer, much smaller one. What do you expect? The Angels are not leaving the LA area, and if they go to Orange County, then you get the benefits of having a team not too far away without paying zillions of dollars (Tustin is less than ten miles away from Anaheim).

CC AFC
Member
Member
CC AFC

I keep thinking the tipping point would hit when teams in really desirable cities, e.g. NY, Chicago, LA, San Francisco started begging for new stadiums. If you’re one of those cities, I figured, just sit back and say, “what are you gonna do? Leave LA? Enjoy the access you get here and build your own freaking stadium or enjoy the one you have.”

On the other hand, we’ve actually seen some teams from desirable cities pull up. I’m thinking of the 49ers and Braves, in particular, moving pretty far out into the suburbs (not even sure the 49ers count as being in the burbs). The Thunder also seem like a reasonable example, though that seemed to be more an issue of Clay Bennett’s extreme fetish for his hometown rather than a purely rational economic decision. So maybe teams will leave desirable locations to nearby spots once they find a municipality willing to bend over backwards for them. Sounds like an issue crying out for statewide/region-wide cooperation to hold the line.

tb.25
Member
tb.25

I don’t know how the other cities are, but the Giants stadium was fully private-funded, as is the new Warriors stadium that’s a half-mile away from AT&T, following the precent the Giants set.

Should the Giants threaten to leave, because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the city helped them with partial payment.

jmsdean477
Member
jmsdean477

Of course the reason the Giants have rights to SJ and almost moved to St. Pete in the 90’s was them trying to leverage a new park out of the SF city, and they did get favorable loans from SF to cover the costs I believe which is why they still have debt obligation payments to this day. Pac Bell is nice, but I always felt its built to vertically whenever I am there for a show or game the upper decks feel way to high and the viewing angle is terrible. combine that with the temp from the fog and wind there and its like 60% of a wonderful park with the cove as the best feature.

oozyalbies1
Member
oozyalbies1

Not seeing this happening in NY any time soon, barring a phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the proposed West Side Stadium (please, no).

The Yankees and Mets have both built new stadiums within the past decade, both of which were at least partially, if not majorly, publicly funded. The Giants and Jets already play in NJ, and recently built a new, privately funded stadium. And James Dolan owns MSG along with the Knicks and Rangers.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

If they move out to the suburbs, so what? You still have the prestige factor of having the team nearby (it’s not like the Braves are swapping out “Atlanta” from their name) and you don’t have to pay gobs of money for it. The economic benefits from stadiums are real but never even approach a fraction of what is spent, so having a team nearby and some other sucker paying for it is what you want.

The real problem is for mid-tier cities who feel like it’s a prestige issue. But no one is leaving the LA metro area.

Doug
Member
Member
Doug

“Go to” Orange County? Anaheim is IN Orange County.

tb.25
Member
tb.25

It’s very easy to say “Team X wants new stadium. City Y better not pay tax payer money!!”

I don’t support city-payment of stadiums. I don’t think every stadium needs to be 100% privately-funded, either. Tourism, taxes and unmeasurable contentment and joy from a local sports team are the three largest benefits to a city by having a team in their locale. If the city values these things as $Z million, then they should be willing to pay up to $Z million in stadium construction.

You don’t have to agree on payment, because it comes down to principal. But if a city deems it a net-positive with payment of $Z, then they will pay up to $Z.

Doug Lampert
Member
Member
Doug Lampert

Any business can brings $ to the area. Unless you’re going to subsidize lawn care companies and daycare centers and the like on the same logic, and to the same fraction of their costs, this argument is largely nonsensical.

The bulk of the money for athletics is locals spending their money locally. It’s no more deserving of a subsidy than a new Kroger’s is.

OTOH, it’s no less deserving of a subsidy than a new Kroger’s is; and the numbers for “stadium public financing” appear to regularly include new transportation infrastructure of the sort I’d expect the government to pay for for most businesses. A lot of the numbers thrown around for the “subsidies” to the Braves new stadium (just as an example) include transportation infrastructure improvements that I do NOT consider the responsibility of the team ownership group.

oozyalbies1
Member
oozyalbies1

Totally agreed. Each city / team has its own set of variables, benefits and challenges, and those deserve to be evaluated case by case.

The rhetoric surrounding ownership spending is tired.

Not saying that they shouldn’t pony up their portion, which in some cases, may deserve to be the entirety of the cost. But to attribute any request for subsidization under “corporate greed” is lazy.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

I think that there are price points at which it makes sense for a city to help fund a baseball stadium, in the same way that it makes sense to give a tax break to lure a big company to town. But since the price for a stadium never gets down to a number where it makes sense for the municipality to pony up, I’d say the point is largely moot.

Slappytheclown
Member
Member
Slappytheclown

I say this half joking as a Rays Fan, but maybe Anaheim could offer the lease to the Rays. I’d be upset that Sternberg would be the upgrade to LA, but it might be worth it just to stick it to the Angels and Moreno.

Also, this won’t get better until Anti-Trust is brought down. End these subsidies please.

timprov
Member
timprov

I think the Angels still have territorial rights even if they don’t have a lease, though that might be a legal question that’s worth a post.

jmsdean477
Member
jmsdean477

OAK is self financing the new park they are trying to build and its one of the reasons the city is working hard to make something happen for them. I think the era of publicly funded stadiums might finally be closing down.