Angels owner Arte Moreno says stadium lease talks at a ‘stalemate’

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels owner Arte Moreno described negotiations with Anaheim for a new stadium lease as “at a stalemate,” but stopped short of saying he was aggressively pursuing a new home for the team.

“We haven’t crossed that line yet,” Moreno said Friday during the team’s first spring-training workout. “In September, we thought we had an outline for a deal … but the reality is, we have not been able to get it done.”

The Anaheim City Council approved the framework of a deal in which the Angels would spend $150 million to renovate 48-year-old Angel Stadium, the fourth-oldest park in baseball, in exchange for a 66-year, $1-a-year lease to develop 155 acres of land in the parking lot.

The team’s current lease expires in 2029. As part of the September agreement, which is not binding, a clause allowing the team to leave as soon as 2016 was extended to 2019.


But Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait objected and has been rallying opposition to the proposal because he thinks the city should at least split profits from any parking-lot development.

“I think $1 a year is ridiculously undervalued from a taxpayer’s point of view — that property is worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Tait said. “Of course we want the Angels to stay, but my responsibility is to the people of Anaheim and to get a fair return on their property.”

Under current revenue-sharing formulas, the Angels have essentially paid a net of zero rent for 16 years, according to Tait.

“I think they have an incredibly good deal — there’s no reason to leave,” Tait said. “It’s going to be hard for someone to build a stadium on 150 acres where three freeways come together in the best part of Southern California and not charge them any rent.”

Moreno’s response: Look what happened in Atlanta, where failed negotiations between the city and team led to a decision for the Braves to leave Turner Field for a new stadium being built in Cobb County, northwest of the city, in 2017.

“They were unable to come to an agreement,” Moreno said, “and they made a decision long-term.”

Moreno said when the Walt Disney Co. spent $118 million to return the stadium to a baseball-only facility in 1996, no work was done to the infrastructure.

“All the plumbing, electrical and concrete is original,” Moreno said. “Last year, we had a pipe burst that flooded the clubhouse. We’ve had electrical problems. It will cost between $125 million and $150 million to keep the stadium serviceable through 2029.”

Moreno said he had a deadline for negotiations but he would not say what it was. “Let’s put it this way: We’re obviously past the time this should have happened,” he said.

Moreno touched on a variety of other topics during a 30-minute interview, including negotiations with star outfielder Mike Trout for a long-term contract extension and the owner’s decision to retain General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Manager Mike Scioscia after the Angels missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

He also challenged the wide-held belief the Angels have been handcuffed by the $365 million they committed to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and the perception they are unwilling to surpass the $189-million luxury-tax threshold.

“We have an operating budget below the threshold,” said Moreno, whose current luxury-tax payroll stands at $173 million. “I’m not interested in being in the red financially. Long term, it doesn’t work. For people to say we’re bringing in players who have crippled us in the market, that hasn’t been the case. We have no debt on our team. We’re not losing money.”

Moreno confirmed the Angels offered free-agent pitcher Matt Garza a four-year, $52-million deal in December. The right-hander in January signed a four-year, $50-million deal with Milwaukee.

“I’m not opposed to going over the threshold, but it has to be for the right guy,” Moreno said. “If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we’ll do our best to get him.”

Moreno said the Angels have been “communicating very well” with the agent for Trout, who at 22 is already among baseball’s best players and who could command a lucrative, multiple-year deal.

“It always gets down to the number,” Moreno said. “He likes it here. We like him here. I can’t say anything is close, but I’m optimistic by nature.”

There was heavy speculation last September that Scioscia, Dipoto or both would be fired as the Angels went a highly disappointing 78-84 and finished third in the American League West.

But Scioscia, who has guided the Angels to six playoff appearances and the 2002 World Series title, has five more years and about $27 million left on his contract, and Dipoto was only two years into a three-year deal.

“Mike has been here for 14 years,” Moreno said. “You try not to look at a capsule of one season; you look at more than one season. He’s been a winning coach.”

Most of Dipoto’s pitching moves — Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett — did not pan out last season, but Moreno likes the front-office team the GM has assembled.

“They’re smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing,” Moreno said. “They have a long-term plan.”

Moreno also feels Dipoto deserves more time to build a minor league system that Baseball America ranked 30th of 30 teams in 2013 and 29th this year.

“We had no pitchers coming up through our system,” Dipoto said. “You go to the cupboard, you’re hungry, and there’s nothing in the cabinet.”

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna