Anaheim and the Angels could meet for stadium negotiations

Owner Arte Moreno plans to talk with the new Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken

Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken and Angels Stadium (City of Anaheim, Getty, CrispyCream27/CC BY-SA 4.0/via Wikimedia Commons, Jemill/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons)
Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken and Angels Stadium (City of Anaheim, Getty, CrispyCream27/CC BY-SA 4.0/via Wikimedia Commons, Jemill/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons)

Angels owner Arte Moreno said he plans to meet with the new Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken in the next few weeks, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Last May, the OC city killed a $320 million deal with Moreno that allowed him to build an urban village around Angel Stadium and keep his professional baseball team in town for decades.

Despite a whiff of public corruption and one resigned mayor over the collapsed deal

Moreno declined to say whether he would consider a third round of stadium negotiations with a city that twice within the past decade told him he had a deal over the 152-acre stadium property.

“They have a new administration,” Moreno told reporters in Arizona. “And we’re going to work with that administration. We’ve been there a long time. And we’ll see what happens.”

Moreno has all the leverage, thanks to former Mayor Harry Sidhu, who resigned after an FBI agent had claimed he handed city secrets to the Angels in the hope of securing a million-dollar campaign contribution from the team. Sidhu has denied the allegation.

The team owner is under no obligation to do anything, even as the city covets development and tax revenue from a parking lot the city itself has failed to develop for more than half a century.

Sidhu hurriedly pushed the City Council to reinstate the Angels’ lease as a Plan B if negotiations with Moreno to buy the land collapsed, but neither the mayor nor the city’s public statements shared that with Anaheim residents.

Had Sidhu not offered that insurance to the Angels, the city would have had the hammer, because the lease would have run out.

Instead, the city is now faced with a team permitted to decide whether the lease ends in 2029, 2032, 2035 or 2038, and thus empowered to restrict the city’s ability to build on the site for another 15 years.

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For Anaheim, that would appear to be the worst of both worlds, according to the Times. The city has to wait for Moreno to decide what to do with its prize parcel of real estate, and Moreno still could move the team, or sell to someone else who would.

“I can’t imagine a future in Anaheim without the Angels,” Aitken told The Times. “As a lifelong fan and season-ticket holder, I think they’re an important part of our history and our city. I think we can craft a deal that is mutually beneficial to the residents and taxpayers of Anaheim, and to the Angels.”

In April, the city plans to hire a firm to evaluate the condition of the 58-year-old stadium and provide recommendations for upkeep and upgrades, after which the council and the Angels might spar over whom should pay for the hundreds of millions in costs.

The city also commissioned an independent investigation amid the FBI probe that generated the allegations against Sidhu and fraud convictions against the president of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. 

One of the investigators told the City Council last month he suspected “more indictments will be coming in the coming months.”

The city also faces continued stadium-related litigation over alleged violations of the Brown Act, which demands the public’s business be done with transparency. 

Anaheim and the Angels could start stadium negotiations from scratch. Or they could put the deal that died last year back on the table, this time with transparency, and with public hearings that inform the council rather than just fill time before a preordained vote.

Aitken, who had once called that agreement “a corrupt, no-bid deal.” said she was “not committed” to that plan, although she said she would be willing to consider it as a basis to start talks with the Angels.

“I will be very happy to talk to them and do a current analysis of the deal and see,” Aitken said. “I bet we have more common ground than we disagree on.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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