Angel owner Arte Moreno said Sunday he might not decide whether to rename his team the Los Angeles Angels before the 2005 season opens, which could set the stage for a lengthy stare-down between Moreno and Anaheim.
In a radio interview with Times columnist T.J. Simers on XTRA Sports, Moreno said he did not know whether the issue would be settled during this off-season.
“We are still looking at all our angles,” Moreno said. “Eventually, we’ll sit down with the city of Anaheim and try to resolve the issue.”
The City Council has voted to sue the Angels if they make the change, since the stadium lease requires the team to carry Anaheim’s name. City officials also say that they have grounds to sue now, charging that the Angels’ removal of the city name from uniforms and in all marketing and publicity constitutes a de facto violation of the lease.
However, city spokesman John Nicoletti said the Angels would be given another chance to renounce the name change before the city files suit.
In a meeting with Angel executives three weeks ago, city officials flatly rejected the team’s proposed compromise: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The issue has been debated on talk shows and message boards, with a majority of callers and posters objecting to the name change and a minority willing to accept it if it helps Moreno generate additional revenue to finance a perennial contender.
The Los Angeles City Council has adopted a symbolic resolution in support of Anaheim, and the Dodgers have expressed their concern to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
“I come from the school that any reaction is a good reaction,” Moreno said, “and local people are talking about the Angels and baseball in the marketplace.”
Moreno characterized the name change as one of many options the Angels are exploring to enhance revenue and minimize ticket price increases. In addition, he said, revenue from ticket sales represents a diminishing share of the major leagues’ money pot.
He said the World Series champion Boston Red Sox generated $120 million more in revenue than the Angels last season. The Red Sox spent $27 million more than the Angels on their season-opening player payroll.
The Angels, who set a club record last season by selling 3.4 million tickets, sold out more than half of their games.
“If you [could] put another million people in our stadium, it would only bring you Randy Johnson at $16 million,” Moreno said.
Although previous owners considered the Angels a small-market team that plays in Orange County, Moreno said that his team plays in the second-largest media market in the country and that he has “a seven-year plan” to build the Angels “into a large-market team.”
Los Angeles is the name most commonly identified with the region.
Moreno has marketed the Angels extensively in Los Angeles County -- and elsewhere outside Orange County -- trying to broaden the team’s appeal to fans who might listen or watch games even if they do not attend them. He aired commercials last winter calling the Angels “L.A.'s team.”
Branding the team with the name of a region with a population of 16 million, rather than the name of a city with a population of 340,000, Moreno says, would help persuade sponsors that they can reach the entire region by advertising with the Angels, either at the stadium or on their broadcast outlets.
The Angels’ contract with Channel 9 expires next year and with FSN after 2008, with the two stations committed to carry a total of 90 games, the lowest number of any team in the American League.
The Dodgers received $33 million in local television revenue last year and the Angels $15.5 million, a gap Moreno intends to narrow by assembling an attractive team and demanding that broadcasters commit to air more games and pay more to do so.
That revenue, he said, would help finance the acquisition of high-priced stars.
Still, when Simers asked whether the Angels are considering signing center fielder Carlos Beltran, who is regarded as the top prize in free agency, Moreno said yes.
“We would be doing a disservice to our fans not to look at the opportunity,” he said.
Moreno said he is intrigued by the NFL’s interest in Anaheim -- the city has proposed building a football stadium next to Angel Stadium -- but said he is not interested in NFL ownership at this time.
“I’m not going to go so far as to say that,” he said. “Right now, I’m economically committed to the Angels.”