Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter prevailed in his recent reelection campaign, but the central issue of that race remains unanswered. That is, what if Anaheim built an indoor sports arena and nobody came to play?
The marriage of politics and the dream of having pro teams play at the proposed indoor sports arena could not have escaped the voters' ears. An elaborate groundbreaking ceremony was ballyhooed during the campaign, and scheduled for two days after the election. The mayor in speeches issued cryptic statements about a locked-up National Hockey League franchise, with one of three National Basketball Assn. teams to follow.
At the time, as rhetoric flourished, even supporters of the arena within city government were denying that they knew anything about any sewn-up deals. At one point, City Manager James Ruth, noting that an agreement with arena developers required that he be informed of deals reached with sports teams, said he did not know of any agreement.
The election passed, then came the groundbreaking, with its dignitaries, mimosas and cheery remarks. "The teams are coming," Hunter proclaimed. "The economics are here, the standard of living. The economics are crying out for professional hockey and basketball teams in Orange County."
The economics are something the city has reason to wonder about. The $100-million arena has an operating clause committing the city to pay $2.5 million per year for the first eight years if hockey and basketball teams cannot be found. Meanwhile, with all the experts agreeing that the area probably cannot support more than one indoor sports arena, the race goes on with Santa Ana, which wants to build its own facility.
At this point, with the election over, the voters are entitled to straight answers about the franchises. Who are they, and are they really coming to play ball with the city?