On Wednesday morning, within 12 hours of the Anaheim City Council killing the Angel Stadium sale, the city of Long Beach renewed its pitch to lure the Angels. On Wednesday afternoon, the city of Anaheim formally asked the Angels to agree to void the deal and preserve all documents related to it, in anticipation of a possible lawsuit.
On the field, Mike Trout and Co. have powered the Angels to their best start since 2004. For a team that last won a postseason game in 2009, these should be unreservedly good times.
Alas, as the Angels’ long-term future turns into a giant question mark, some questions and answers:
Are the Angels moving to Long Beach?
In 2019, the Angels flirted with Long Beach, before negotiating the stadium sale intended to anchor them in Anaheim. On Wednesday, Long Beach flirted back, since the waterfront parking lot that would have been used for a ballpark there remains undeveloped and available.
Would the team be called the Long Beach Angels?
In the 1960s, founding owner Gene Autry wanted to move his Los Angeles Angels out of Dodger Stadium and into Long Beach. At the time, the city said the team would have to be called the Long Beach Angels. Autry instead moved in 1966 to Anaheim, where city leaders blessed the name California Angels.
The team has not moved since then, even as the team name has changed from California Angels to Anaheim Angels and back to Los Angeles Angels. Arte Moreno, the current owner, spent millions in court for the right to slap a Los Angeles label on his team, and he would likely retain it wherever the team might play in Southern California.
Long Beach is in Los Angeles County. Could the Dodgers block the move?
No. Under Major League Baseball rules, the Dodgers and Angels share the same home territory, which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties.
So are the Angels moving to Long Beach?
Not any time soon, and very possibly not at all. The vision of a waterfront ballpark is delightful, but the city and the team never did figure out how to pay for a billion-dollar stadium, in an era where California cities generally avoid funding the construction of professional sports venues. If the Angels pay for the ballpark and make money from developing the surrounding land — as was the plan in Anaheim — the land available for development is three times greater in Anaheim than in Long Beach.
The Angels’ lease in Anaheim extends through 2029, and they have an ace in the hole if they wish to move. Rather than trying to negotiate a short-term lease to stay in Anaheim while a new ballpark elsewhere is under construction — hi, we’re leaving, how about a good deal in the meantime? — the Angels can exercise up to three options of three years each. That means the Angels can stay as long as 2038, if they like.
What happened to the Anaheim deal?
It was just about done until a week ago Monday, when an FBI affidavit emerged that alleged Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu had shared a confidential land appraisal with the Angels — as the city was negotiating against the team — in the hope of securing a million-dollar campaign contribution from them. Sidhu’s attorney has denied that, but the stench of corruption made the deal too tainted to proceed.
On Tuesday, the day after Sidhu resigned as mayor, dozens of speakers urged the Anaheim City Council to kill the deal. No one spoke in favor of it, and the council voted unanimously to call it off.
Several members of the council suggested it would be unwise to proceed with the deal now, then risk finding out later that additional FBI investigation had linked executives or lobbyists from the Angels to the alleged corruption.
In a letter sent Wednesday, city attorney Robert Fabela officially asked the Angels to agree to void the deal, citing several allegations in the affidavit that he believes “demonstrate that this deal was not a good faith, arm’s length transaction.”
In the affidavit, there is no allegation of wrongdoing by the Angels. MLB is aware of the affidavit and has reviewed it.
However, Fabela said during Tuesday’s council meeting: “It does strain credulity to say that, when there is discussion of reaching out to the Angels to seek campaign financing in order to advance the deal, that there wouldn’t be some knowledge on the other side in the course of that.”
In a letter to the city last week, Angels attorney Allan Abshez called the deal “the result of an honest arms-length negotiation.” Marie Garvey, the spokeswoman for Moreno and his management company, declined to comment on Wednesday’s Anaheim letter.
Earlier Wednesday, Garvey issued this statement: “We are disappointed by Anaheim City Council’s action last night regarding the stadium land sale. Since the beginning, we have negotiated in good faith, which resulted in a fair deal. We are currently exploring all of our options.”
Why not just redo the deal?
For the second time in a decade, city staff has told Moreno he had a stadium deal that later collapsed. Moreno is not obligated to renegotiate.
In Tuesday’s council meeting, city manager James Vanderpool said he had asked the Angels to “reset this transaction in the interest of transparency and process.” He said the Angels declined.
What happens now?
As far as the stadium deal, the city and the Angels can reach a settlement on its demise, or either side could sue the other, although a trial could be delayed until the FBI concludes its investigation and the most complete information becomes available. The Angels could even ask a court to order the city to go ahead with the deal.
The city also was served this week with notice that a citizens’ group will appeal an Orange County Superior Court ruling that Anaheim did not violate the Brown Act during sale negotiations. The FBI agent who wrote the affidavit said information he uncovered about Sidhu “may have affected the ruling.”
Even if the sale is dead, the court still could find the city guilty of violating that government transparency law and impose sanctions.
What happens to Angel Stadium?
As the years pass and emotions wane, perhaps the two sides resume negotiations. At the moment, this looks like a lose-lose-lose scenario: no revenue from the stadium sale and accompanying development for the city and its taxpayers; no dramatic upgrades to the stadium for the team and its fans; still nothing around the stadium except a sea of parking lots.
Running the stadium generally has been a “break-even” proposition for the city, with the Angels selling 3 million tickets every year of Moreno’s ownership through 2019. Under the lease, the Angels pay the city $2 for every ticket sold above 2.6 million, but attendance was prohibited in 2020 and limited in 2021, because of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the Angels were on pace to sell 2.58 million tickets this season.
And a potential fight is looming: In 2013, when the city and the Angels first started negotiating, a jointly commissioned study showed the stadium required $130 million to $150 million in infrastructure upgrades to remain viable for the long term.
The lease requires the Angels to maintain the stadium on par with “first class professional baseball stadiums, such as … Dodger Stadium.” The city and the Angels could spar on how that language should be interpreted and who should pay for significant upgrades.
If attendance is down, can I get a good deal?
Yes, and it would frankly be nuts to miss out on the chance to see Trout and Shohei Ohtani, live and in person, and at a low price. The Angels offer a family pack of four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks for $44. The average cost for a family of four to attend a major league game this season is $256, according to Team Marketing Report.
So I’ll see Trout and Ohtani at Angel Stadium. Who won’t I see?
On opening day this season, fans could look up to the giant video board to see a welcome message from Sidhu. Here’s guessing you won’t see him on the big screen anytime soon.