Anaheim Cancels Angel Stadium Agreement; Long Beach Begins Wooing Team The Next Day

On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council voted unanimously to void the agreement to sell the Angel Stadium site to team owner Arte Moreno, a deal that would also keep the team in Anaheim until at least 2050 and place the financial responsibility for renovating or building a new stadium solely on Moreno.

The vote took place a week after bombshell reports of an FBI corruption probe of Mayor Harry Sidhu that focuses on his role in negotiating the agreement. The FBI alleges Sidhu passed confidential information to the Angels during the negotiations.  Sidhu, through his attorney, denies the charges.

The FBI has made no allegations of wrongdoing by the Angels, the other city council members or city staff.

The FBI also filed a complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament for mortgage fraud, and alleged other corrupt actions by Ament. According to the FBI filings, Ament began cooperating with them in September 2015 and surreptitiously recorded conversations with Sidhu in the agency’s behalf.

Attorney General Rib Bonta asked the court to place the deal on hold for 60 days, to allow for the situation to be more thoroughly assessed.

The day before the council meeting, Sidhu heeded the request of his six council colleagues to resign as mayor. Long-time opponents of the agreement ramped up pressure to cancel the deal, their efforts amplified by media pressure.

A few days earlier, the Angels sent the city a letter demanding close of escrow on the agreement by June 14, saying they had negotiated in good faith and Anaheim should uphold its end of the bargain.

The common thread running through councilmembers’ explanations for their votes was that regardless of the merits of the deal or whether they supported or opposed it, Sidhu’s alleged conduct had tainted the agreement and the best course was to begin over.

The council’s action could open the door to litigation from the Angels. That prospect that had Councilman Jose F. Moreno fairly salivating because he sees it as a tool for deposing his political adversaries.

Under the current lease, the Angels can continue playing in the stadium until at least 2029 with the option to extend it to 2038. And they could also exercise their option to leave.

Immediate Overtures From Long Beach
Whether or not the city will have the opportunity to re-start negotiations with Arte Moreno is another question.

The day after the council vote to void the deal, the City of Long Beach publicly renewed its efforts to lure the team there.

“The Long Beach waterfront downtown has always been the perfect location for a major league sports stadium,” Mayor Robert Garcia told the OC Register in an email. “If any sports team is interested in engaging the city we would welcome those discussions.”

2019 cost estimates for a new baseball stadium in Long Beach fell in the $900 to $ 1 billion range, and would likely be higher given the rising costs of building materials worldwide. It also does not include the cost of proving parking.

Angel Stadium was built in 1966 and is the fourth oldest active MLB stadium in the country.

“The city of Long Beach has long sought to activate the 13-acre Elephant Lot parcel next to the Convention Center for a project that can bring significant community benefit, additional activation of the Downtown waterfront and benefits to the coastal region,” the City of Long Beach said in an official statement on May 25. “All documents from those initial negotiations (in 2019) have been made public, and no negotiations have continued since those initial discussions. If the Angels are interested in continuing those initial discussions, Long Beach would reengage in those discussions and seek direction from the City Council.”

“We are disappointed by Anaheim City Council’s action last night regarding the stadium land sale,” Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey has told the LA Times. “Since the beginning, we have negotiated in good faith, which resulted in a fair deal. We are currently exploring all of our options.”

A very real question is whether the 75-year old Arte Moreno has any more desire to negotiate with Anaheim. His experiences with the city have been largely negative since 2005, when he changes the team name to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Moreno spent several years getting his teeth figuratively and publicly kicked in by former Mayor Tom Tait over a council-approved negotiation framework that Tait opposed.

Now the city councilmembers have canceled the contract, acting for their own understandable reasons for what they view as the best course for the city. From Moreno’s point of view, the contract was negotiated properly and in good faith, and this probably feels like Lucy pulling away the football again. Leaving all the baggage behind and starting over in a new city with clean slate probably sounds appealing.

At this point, the dust is still settling and its anyone’s guess whether the Angels stay or go. It’s pretty obvious most Anaheim residents want them to stay.

4 comments

  1. Political Consultant #3

    Really gonna wade back into the water?

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