Sportstown Could Be a Winner
No one ever faulted Anaheim for lacking ambition.
At times the city’s reach has exceeded its grasp, but it has had enough major successes with Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium, The Pond and the Convention Center to outweigh setbacks to some projects and the loss of a professional football team.
Last week the city took the wraps off Sportstown Anaheim, a far-reaching plan for a hotel, restaurants, stores, office space and possibly a new football stadium, on 159 acres surrounding Anaheim Stadium.
City officials said the new development is needed to keep Anaheim a center of entertainment, tourism and professional sports. They are right to continue searching for new attractions and major improvements to the old ones. The sheen eventually wears off even the most popular drawing cards, and they need updating.
But the announcement of Sportstown Anaheim has raised questions. Representatives of the Walt Disney Co. did not attend the news conference and have not yet committed to Sportstown. That’s despite the company’s presence at planning meetings for the project and the city’s hope that the entertainment giant will be a partner in development.
Disney was a major player in Anaheim when its only property was Disneyland. Now it also owns the hockey team that plays at The Pond and has a 25% stake in the city’s other major team, the California Angels baseball club. That makes the city more dependent on the fortunes of one company than it was before.
Last year Disney scrapped its plans for a new $3-billion theme park in Anaheim called Westcot. It has promised a smaller, substitute project, but no details have been offered.
Anaheim still has a substantial manufacturing base and other moneymakers, such as the Convention Center. City officials have wisely decided to expand the Convention Center. Another good move has been the effort to redevelop downtown.
City officials acknowledged last week that their plans for Sportstown Anaheim can be modified, and conceded they were vague on details because they are looking for private firms to put up the money for the development. That’s a good idea, since Anaheim, along with other cities, lost millions of dollars last year in the Orange County bankruptcy.
Anaheim has confounded doubters before. If private companies sign on to Sportstown Anaheim, the city could come up a winner again, with an entertainment complex that could be an asset for the region as well as Anaheim.