Time for Anaheim, Disney to Play Ball : Both Sides Should Pitch In to Convert Stadium Back to a Baseball-Only Facility


The owners of major league baseball teams have approved the Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of 25% of the California Angels. That could be good news if Disney keeps the Angels where they are, as one of Anaheim’s main attractions.

Unfortunately, the stability of the baseball team is not guaranteed. Disney has set a 60-day deadline to decide how to improve Anaheim Stadium, which is owned by the city. If no agreement is reached, another group could buy the team from owners Gene and Jackie Autry, or Disney could purchase the other 75% and move to some other city.

Anaheim Stadium opened three decades ago. Clearly, it needs improvements. It was more fan-friendly before it was completely walled in to accommodate the football Rams, who moved from Los Angeles to Anaheim in 1980. Now the Rams have left for St. Louis, where the city threw enormous amounts of money their way. It would make sense to remove many outfield seats from Anaheim Stadium, reduce the seating from 67,000 to fewer than 50,000, and make it a baseball-only facility, rather than multipurpose. The problem will be money.


Disney understandably wants the city to pay as much of the renovation bill as possible. The city, faced with estimates that it could cost $100 million or more to fix up the stadium, must be prudent in spending taxpayers’ money. That is true at any time. It is even more important after recent years of recession, sluggish growth and a county bankruptcy in which some of the city’s own funds were lost.

Disney is known as a tough negotiator, but since opening Disneyland 40 years ago it has had a good partnership with Anaheim. The city built an indoor sports facility several years ago without a tenant; Disney stepped forward with a professional hockey team, providing a winning situation for both sides--at the cash register, if not as yet on ice.

More recently, plans to expand Disneyland were curtailed sharply, after the company decided the economics did not pencil out. The same hard-headed look at the economics of the Angels and their stadium can be expected. But Anaheim residents expect city officials to match the company at the bargaining table. A partnership will require both sides to pick up the check and enjoy the subsequent benefits.