Two years ago, the city of Anaheim appeared to risk losing its baseball team to protect the future of a football team that did not exist. Today, as the baseball team prepares for the grand opening of its renovated ballpark, the city quietly has eliminated a football stadium from its blueprints.
During the 1996 negotiations between Disney and the city, Anaheim officials fought fiercely for the right to build a football stadium adjacent to Anaheim Stadium, now Edison Field. The agreement between Disney and the city, without which the company would not have purchased the Angels, guarantees Disney $2 million per year from non-sporting events in both stadiums should the city build a football stadium.
When Disney suspended negotiations, the city faced the prospect of the Angels skipping town after playing out the final six years of their Anaheim Stadium lease. Even without an NFL team, city officials insisted they would not abandon plans to include a football stadium within the Sportstown development area in the Anaheim Stadium parking lot.
The city ultimately yielded to Disney's demand to shrink the Sportstown site to 40 acres, but a football stadium remained prominent among development options. However, City Manager James Ruth said the latest Sportstown proposal, expected to be presented to the city council in coming weeks, allows a private company to develop the entire site without a football stadium.
"Forest City [the company] is saying they can develop all 40 acres," Ruth said.
With the NFL focusing on Los Angeles for its eventual return to Southern California, Ruth conceded football in Anaheim is a dead issue at the moment. Should an NFL opportunity arise, Ruth said the city has identified a 20-acre site for a possible stadium, close to Sportstown and Edison Field.
"We have a potential site that we do not own or control at this time," Ruth said. "We would work with adjoining property owners, and the county is part of that, to set that land aside for a future NFL stadium if we can get a commitment."