A Voice of OC story published this morning regarding news that Angels owner Arte Moreno had met with the City of Tustin about possibly moving his team to that fine city is basically a platform for Mayor Tom Tait to say “I told you so” (as the story headline says):
News that Angels owner Arte Moreno has reached out to Tustin leaders regarding a possible move did not surprise Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in the least.
In fact, Tait said the inevitability of such hardball tactics from the billionaire team owner is exactly why he urged his City Council colleagues last year not to agree to extend the negotiating window on a new stadium lease, something they did anyway.
“To even be able to threaten leaving is only possible because the council majority unilaterally extended the time where they allowed the Angels to leave the existing lease to 2019 from 2016,” Tait said. “If they did nothing, then practically the Angels couldn’t go anywhere. And as I said when they voted on that, if the Angels do leave, you can trace it back to this vote.”
That’s one way to look at it, but by no means the definitive way or even the correct.
Critics of the MOU extending the opt-out date to 2019 claim leaving it at 2016 put the Angels over a barrel and the city in the negotiating driver seat. What leaving the opt-out date at 2016 would have done is increased the pressure on the Angels to make a decision quickly – and that decision could have easily been to exercise the opt-out clause, in which case the city would have found itself with a big, empty, fifty-year old stadium on its hands.
It’s a mistake to think leaving the opt-out date at 2016 left the Angels with no options. Finding a temporary home while building a new stadium elsewhere isn’t a herculean undertaking. The Angels could share Dodger Stadium, just as they once did. The Coliseum in Los Angeles is available during baseball season (and is where the Dodgers played until their own stadium was built).
Some critics claim the CEQA process would make it impossible to quickly build a new stadium. Again, not true. We have more than one example in recent years of the state legislature granting special CEQA exemptions in order to fast-track the construction of professional sports venues.
And Moreno isn’t the only one playing hardball. The mayor hasn’t exactly been using kid gloves during the vigorous campaign he has been waging against the negotiation framework.
Anaheim would be best served if an actual deal were brought before the council for consideration, debate and either approval or rejection – and sooner rather than later. The approved negotiation framework provides the parameters for a win-win deal that is to the benefit of Anaheim taxpayers – notwithstanding criticism of allowing a private investor to shoulder the risk of actuating economic activity on land that has been generated zero economic output under the city’s stewardship, while simultaneously requiring that private party to shoulder the burden of spending $150 modernizing the city-owned stadium. Yeah – that’s a real burn to the taxpayer.