Sportstown Developer Is Lined Up


A proposal to transform 40 acres of city-owned land next to Anaheim Stadium into a shopping and entertainment complex took a major step forward Tuesday, when the City Council chose a developer to design and line up tenants for the site.

Under the newly approved agreement between the city and Forest City Development Inc., the Cleveland-based firm has six months to submit a plan for the project the city calls Sportstown. If the city likes what it sees, it may agree, as early as August, to lease or sell the land to Forest City.

While Forest City’s preliminary plans allow room for a 75,000-seat stadium at Sportstown that the city has said it wants to build, Anaheim has yet to attract a National Football League team to play there. Until it does, Forest City will develop plans for a carnival and park on 20 acres in the center of the property, all to be moved if a stadium is built later.


“We’re not building this to support a football stadium. We’re building this to stand on its own, and that’s what we came here to do,” Forest City spokesman Victor Grgas said. “If we can put together an attractive package of tenants, we can pull it off.”

Under the agreement between the city and the developer, another firm could still be invited to join in if talks with Forest City fall through. The resolution to approve the agreement passed on a 4-0 vote. Councilman Tom Tait abstained from voting, since a consulting company he owns, Tait and Associates, worked for Forest City on the proposal.

Even without a football stadium, the developer’s proposal for Sportstown is ambitious. It calls for three or more office towers with 250,000 square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of exhibit halls, a 500-room hotel, and 750,000 square feet of shopping, cinemas and attractions such as a miniature racecourse, putting greens and carnival arcades.

It was the city’s refusal to build a football stadium in 1995 that sent the Los Angeles Rams packing to St. Louis. Since then, the Sportstown project has undergone a series of permutations.

Early last year, the project was halved from 80 acres to 40, after the Walt Disney Co., controlling owners of the Anaheim Angels, objected that the original plans would interfere with renovation plans for the Big A.

The land slated for the project, at Katella Avenue and State College Boulevard, is already zoned for major development. Since February 1995, the city has spent more than $500,000 on a feasibility study and design plan for the site.

In May, the city approved an environmental impact study for the project. Since then, city officials had interviewed several major developers for the project before settling on Forest City on Tuesday.


The planned Sportstown complex has sparked controversy in the past. When the project was twice its current size, officials of the city of Orange complained that noise and traffic created by Sportstown would harm their city. Several school districts in Anaheim and neighboring cities have expressed concerns that the development would mean a stream of new students to their schools.

“We’re catering to a popular fad--sports entertainment,” Anaheim resident Jeff Kirsch told council members Tuesday. “Will we be caught in a vise when the market changes?”

But Anaheim’s elected officials sounded confident about the proposal. Mayor Tom Daly called it “appropriate, aggressive and realistic.”

The development company has projects in dozens of states, including a 280,000-square-foot entertainment and retail complex in Las Vegas, and a 350,000-square-foot development in New York’s Times Square.

Tuesday’s vote gives Forest City the go-ahead to solicit tenants and draw up detailed design plans for the project. Grgas said the developer plans to solicit more than 1,000 retailers, carnival and cinema companies, and businesses.

“We are ready to go out to tenants at this point and create interest in this project,” Grgas said. “Basically, the level of interest will very quickly tell us if the tenants we are looking for will come.”


Big Plans

Anaheim has chosen a Cleveland-based firm as the developer for the proposed Sportstown complex that would be constructed near Anaheim Stadium. The particulars:

* 40-acre site

* 250,000 square feet of office space in three or more towers

* 150,000 square feet of exhibit space

* 500-room hotel

* 750,000 square feet of retail, movie and amusement attraction space

Source: City of Anaheim

Big Plans