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Angels opt out of their Angel Stadium lease, but it doesn't mean they're leaving

The Angels opted out of their lease with the city of Anaheim on Tuesday, setting the stage for another round of negotiations over whether the team remains in its longtime host city or finds a new home elsewhere in Southern California.

“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.”

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Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, is the fourth-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, behind Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium.

Since 2003, the first season of Arte Moreno’s ownership, the Angels and New York Yankees are the only major league teams to sell 3 million tickets every year.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, who led the drive against a tentative agreement between the city and the team for an Angel Stadium renovation in 2013, is in his final term. Voters in Anaheim will elect a new mayor and three new council members next month.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said the decision to opt out was not meant to influence voters. She said the lease required the team to opt out no later than Tuesday or wait until 2028 for another chance to do so.

“It’s today, or 10 years from now,” Garvey said. “There’s no option in between.”

Garvey would not say whether remaining in Anaheim was the Angels’ first choice.

“We’ll sit down with the new mayor and city council,” she said. “We also are going to look at all our options.”

The Angels ended negotiations with Anaheim in 2014, then revived them briefly in 2016. They explored options for new ballparks in Los Angeles, Carson and Irvine, but prioritized a proposal for a new stadium in Tustin because of its proximity to their current home and fan base.

The sides are believed to have focused on a stadium that would have seated about 37,000 and cost about $700 million. Tustin officials said then that they would not provide taxpayer funding for stadium construction.

Moreno said last year that the team would play at Angel Stadium until the lease ends in 2029.

In a statement, the city of Anaheim acknowledged that Moreno needed to act now or lose his flexibility for the next decade.

“We look forward to many great years of Angels baseball in Anaheim,” the city statement said. “We don’t believe there is a better place for the team than in the heart of Orange County’s most exciting city.…

“As fun as baseball is in Anaheim, this is a reminder that this is still a business. And we understand that the Angels need to preserve all options available. We welcome talking with the team about the future of baseball in Anaheim.”

By exercising the opt-out clause, the Angels can leave Angel Stadium after the 2019 season. The city and team would have to negotiate what might happen beyond next season.

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Moreno said last year that he believed any move to a new ballpark would require at least three years of planning. The Angels could move to Los Angeles County without the Dodgers’ consent, under the major league rules that say both teams share the same operating territory.

Under the failed 2013 deal, initially proposed by the city, Anaheim would have provided land in the stadium parking lot to Moreno, who would have agreed to pay for an estimated $150 million in stadium improvements, at no cost to the city.

Moreno could have recouped his investment by developing the land. Tait objected to the city selling the land to Moreno for $1, and to the city not sharing in the profits from development.

Garvey said the Angels understand they are unlikely to find a city in Southern California willing to pay for a new ballpark.

“We understand the realities of California,” she said. “There is a significant investment involved either way.”

2 p.m.: This article has been updated with a statement from the city of Anaheim and additional reporting.

This article was originally published at 12:35 p.m.

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