Angels end stadium negotiations with Anaheim; Tustin on deck?

The Angels end negotiations with Anaheim over a new Angel Stadium lease. Could a move to Tustin be next?

The Angels on Friday ended negotiations with the city of Anaheim over a new Angel Stadium lease, frustrated by the inability to finalize a deal more than a year after the parties had ratified the framework of an agreement.

The Angels have held extensive discussions with the city of Tustin about a possible new ballpark there. The Tustin City Council scheduled a special closed session Tuesday to discuss a deal with the Angels.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said the team has not reached an agreement with Tustin and would continue to look at “all of our options.” Tustin City Manager Jeffrey Parker said his city has not agreed on a deal with the Angels, or even the framework of one.

"It's just in the talking stage," Parker said.

The Tustin City Council has held at least nine previous closed sessions to discuss an Angels deal – but all of them, unlike the one scheduled Tuesday, preceded a regular council meeting. It is unlikely that Tustin – or any other city in Southern California – would use taxpayer money to build a stadium for the Angels. 

“We can afford to build a new stadium,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said.

In 2011, Fox Sports agreed to pay the Angels close to $3 billion for long-term television rights, and grant them an ownership stake in Fox Sports West. The Angels could leverage that cash and/or that ownership stake to help pay for a new ballpark, and Moreno could consider taking on development partners. Moreno told The Times that he makes money on the Angels and carries no debt on the team.

On Friday, the Angels notified the city of Anaheim that the team “is hereby electing to terminate” its deal framework “and negotiations pursuant to it,” effective in 30 days. Garvey said the team is walking away from the particular deal, not necessarily from the city of Anaheim.

“It’s been over a year,” Moreno said. “We’ve gone backwards. We haven’t accomplished anything.”

On Sept. 4, 2013, the Anaheim City Council approved a deal framework in which the Angels would pay an estimated $150 million to refurbish Angel Stadium in exchange for a $1-per-year lease on the parking lot, providing Moreno with the opportunity to recoup his stadium renovation costs with profitable development of the surrounding land.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait immediately objected, suggesting the team and city share the development profits. The city also commissioned an appraisal that valued the land at $225 million when leased to a developer.

When the city also directed the appraiser to value the land without a stadium – that is, with the Angels leaving and the ballpark demolished – and to determine how much it might cost Moreno to build a ballpark elsewhere, the Angels walked away from the negotiating table, claiming the city might not be committed to keeping the team even as all five City Council members declared they were.

Tait did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. City Council member Lucille Kring, who is running against Tait for mayor in the November election, said the Angels deal is about "more ... than economics" and about "preserving this unique part of our heritage."

In a statement, Kring said: "Mayor Tait seems bent on driving the Angels out in order to demolish the stadium and make a quick buck on more generic development. I wonder if the residents of Brooklyn are glad that they have high-density apartments instead of Ebbets Field and the Dodgers."

City Council member Kris Murray called the Angels' decision to walk away from talks "very unfortunate for the city of Anaheim." She said she would contact the Angels and encourage them to return to the negotiating table, reminding them that a majority of the council supports the deal.

"We had an agreement that would have upgraded our stadium and kept the Angels here, at no cost to the taxpayers," Murray said. "We should already have had this agreement today."

The Angels can opt out of their stadium lease as soon as 2016 and as late as 2019. If they do not opt out, the current lease would extend through 2029.

In a statement, interim Anaheim City Manager Paul Emery said the deal framework was part of the negotiation process.

"We stand ready to continue the discussions," Emery said. "We believe the Angels will not find a better location, better city partners, and most of all, better fans than here in Anaheim."

Moreno said the concept of the Angels developing the land in exchange for paying for stadium renovations had been introduced by the city, in talks with city negotiators over what he said were the past “four and a half years.”

The proposed Tustin site would be about eight miles southeast of Anaheim, on land formerly used as a Marine Corps base, with access to Interstate 5, Highway 55 and a Metrolink station. The Angels also have acknowledged talks about a site adjacent to the Great Park in Irvine.

Although team officials have maintained the Angels’ preference is to remain in Orange County, Moreno declined to say whether he might be interested in the downtown Los Angeles site proposed for Farmers Field. The AEG option with the city of Los Angeles for that land expires next month.

“I really can’t comment on one specific place,” Moreno said. “We have looked at numerous places. There are some very interesting and practical opportunities for us.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Updated Friday 3:07 p.m., 3:33 p.m.

Friday, 3:07 p.m. -- This story has been updated to include comments from the City of Anaheim and two City Council members, and to add details of the Angel Stadium lease.

Friday, 3:33 p.m. -- This story has been updated to include comments from the City of Tustin.