Anaheim Gets $5 Million in U.S. Quake Aid for Stadium Repairs
After nearly a month of miserable financial news caused by Orange County’s bankruptcy, officials here are finally getting a reason to rejoice--a $5 million check.
The funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help reimburse the city for the more than $10 million it spent repairing damage to Anaheim Stadium from last year’s Northridge earthquake, which toppled the facility’s 17-ton scoreboard.
When the quake hit Jan. 17, the city was already facing an $8-million budget deficit. Its financial problems were compounded by the bankruptcy because Anaheim has $169 million tied up in the county’s shaky investment pool, which has lost $2.02 billion.
In a worst-case scenario, the city could lose $45 million of that money, officials said.
With such a bleak outlook, Anaheim officials accelerated their efforts to get federal relief funds for the earthquake damage, City Manager James D. Ruth said Tuesday.
“This money will assist us in our cash flow and operating needs as we continue to work through our fiscal situation,” he said.
City officials said the check was expected to arrive by today.
When they applied for disaster aid a year ago, the officials were heavily criticized by some residents and politicians who felt that money to fix a scoreboard stretched the purpose of disaster relief and took funds away from worthier causes.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly said Tuesday that such criticism was unfair.
“Anaheim Stadium is an important public and economic asset for Anaheim and Orange County,” he said. “I think it’s reasonable to seek reimbursement for damage resulting from a natural disaster. The stadium employs a lot of people and is an important activity center.”
Anaheim Stadium Manager Greg Smith said, “We had gone above and beyond most municipalities by carrying earthquake insurance, and that isn’t cheap. We contacted the Los Angeles Coliseum and Candlestick Park (in San Francisco) and they didn’t have insurance. They told us they relied on money from FEMA when they had earthquake damage.”
FEMA spokesman Russ Edmonston said Tuesday that Anaheim legitimately met the qualifications for federal assistance.
“We don’t fund ineligible projects,” he said. “We went out and inspected and, based on our criteria, the stadium was eligible for funds.”
Anaheim Stadium was the only structure in Orange County significantly damaged by the pre-dawn earthquake.
When the scoreboard fell, it put out of commission about 1,000 seats in the stadium’s upper deck in left field. Hundreds of spectators could have been killed if the seats had been in use at the time.
Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency in Orange County on Jan. 25, paving the way for the city to receive millions of dollars in state and federal relief.
Anaheim got $5.1 million in federal funds, and more than $500,000 in state aid has been set aside for the city, FEMA officials said. The remainder of the $10.1 million needed to repair the damage is expected to be paid by the city’s stadium insurance.
City Atty. Jack White said Anaheim has so far received more than $3 million in insurance money and is still considering legal action against the installers of the old scoreboard and perhaps other parties.
After the earthquake, a temporary scoreboard was used until a $3.6-million new one was unveiled Aug. 5.
The new board is more technologically advanced than its predecessor. Its images are brighter--and it is more resistant to earthquakes, officials said. The new board’s weight is equally distributed among five columns instead of being supported by a single column, as the old board was.
After the California Angels’ 1994 season was aborted by the baseball strike, Smith said news of the federal funds was especially welcome.