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Anaheim Unveils Proposal for Sports Complex

TIMES STAFF WRITER

City officials Wednesday announced ambitious plans for Sportstown Anaheim, a 159-acre sports, entertainment, retail and office complex that would surround Anaheim Stadium and help bolster the region’s economy.

The complex would be divided into five sections, one of which would be anchored by a new football stadium. City Manager James D. Ruth said the city will know “within 90 days” whether they have landed a National Football League franchise to replace the Rams, which departed to St. Louis last year. He would not elaborate.

Plans also call for renovation of Anaheim Stadium, which would be reverted into a baseball-only facility, a youth sports center called the “Little a,” two new hotels and a Western-themed area--with restaurants, stores and a stage--that would link the stadium area to the Pond arena a quarter-mile away.

Sportstown Anaheim also would include a monorail transit system that would connect the complex and Disneyland.

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Anaheim leaders have not disclosed the projected cost of the complex, to be built in stages over an unspecified period. They said they are counting on a partnership with private developers.

City officials insist that their successful track record--which includes an arena, stadium and convention center--will remain intact with their latest dream.

“This plan is very practical and doable,” said Mayor Tom Daly. “We wouldn’t announce these plans if we didn’t think we could follow through with them.”

City officials stressed that the plans for the project could change. By making the conceptual plans public, the city hopes to attract private investors.

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“We’ve created an economic magnet for private developers to join with us to maximize this tremendous asset,” Ruth said. “Our goal now will be to be partner with one or more of those developers.”

More than 100 city and business leaders attended Wednesday’s unveiling at Anaheim Stadium, including California Angels owners Gene and Jackie Autry, who previously had viewed the plans with skepticism.

Gene Autry, 88, said only, “I thought it all looked very nice. I hope the city does well. I think they will.”

Curiously, representatives from the Walt Disney Co. were not present. The company has been asked to be a partner in the venture, which eventually would be linked to Disneyland, located two miles away from the project site.

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The entertainment giant, owner of the Pond’s major tenant, the Mighty Ducks hockey team, also bought 25% of the Angels last year. Disney officials have been a part of some planning meetings for Sportstown Anaheim and are expected to have major influence over the project. Disney’s partial purchase of the baseball team is expected to be finalized soon.

But Disney officials Wednesday would not commit to Sportstown.

“Everything looks like it will be done first-class,” said Bill Robertson, spokesman for Disney Sports Enterprises. “Obviously, we’ve seen the drawings, but it’s too preliminary for us to comment on at this point.”

If the city is successful in landing a football team, that would accelerate the building of the football stadium. But Ruth said Sportstown Anaheim will be built with or without a football stadium.

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“If we don’t get a team this year, then we are not overly optimistic that one will be available for several years,” he said.

Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who spearheaded the effort to keep the Rams in Anaheim last year and is involved in efforts to land a new team, said the announcement of the proposed complex comes at a crucial time.

“I think it’s the major step and makes Anaheim an increasingly desirable place for a team to relocate,” Steinberg said. “The fight for a new team is fundamentally a facilities fight. And now, there’s a facility and a vibrant plan.”

Greg Aiello, NFL director of communications, said the league would not comment on Anaheim’s Sportstown project.

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Regardless of what happens with professional football, it is almost certain that Anaheim will have a baseball team playing at the Big A.

Jackie Autry said she is concerned that the development will take parking spaces away from from the stadium, noting that the city is required to provide 12,500 parking slots during Angels games. She also wondered where the Angels would play during any stadium renovation.


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