Officials Can’t Say How Much Anaheim Stadium Land Is Worth

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When Anaheim officials unveiled new stadium lease negotiations for the Angels last September, one of the biggest open questions facing taxpayers was the value of 155 acres of city land being traded for a $1-per-year lease.

Nearly six months later, city officials still can’t answer that question.

On Tuesday night during a city-sponsored public forum on the future of Angel Stadium, Tom Morton, who oversees the city’s convention center and sports venues, told residents that officials still don’t know how much the stadium and surrounding land is worth.

Morton said afterwards that an appraisal commissioned in November is still under way but should be ready within two months. It will be up to the City Council to decide whether to make it public, he added.

Previous estimates of the land surrounding the stadium have ranged between $30 million and $380 million.

Morton countered critics Tuesday night by saying the $1-per-year lease proposal keeps the Angels in Anaheim and turns largely empty space into lively shops and restaurants, not to mention triggering jobs and tax revenue.

“You’re energizing that space,” said Morton, calling the proposed lease terms a “non-binding framework.”

In terms of city general-fund impact, however, an estimated $620,000 in savings from annual stadium maintenance costs would be offset by a drop in the city’s share of ticket revenue under the lease framework.

The two would be “more or less a wash,” Morton told attendees.

Several residents complained during public comment that ongoing lease negotiations are too slanted in favor of the baseball team’s owner.

The deal point attracting the most fire is the proposed $1 per-year lease of 155 acres of city land to Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

“It’s so insulting to even have” that, said real estate broker Paul Kott, one of four residents who spoke out against the framework. One resident spoke in favor.

The proposed lease terms also allow Moreno to drop “Anaheim” from the team name and leave open the possibility of tax subsidies for Moreno and his partners.

In exchange, the city would no longer spend about $620,000 each year on stadium maintenance and the Angels would agree to stay in Anaheim.

“What’s wrong with setting it up like a typical investment?” asked Kott, suggesting that the city finance the more than $100 million of improvements “and they pay us fair market rent.”

Kott estimated that the stadium and surrounding land is worth between $300 million and $1 billion and that the city is already getting far less than a conservative real estate return of 5 to 6 percent.

Anaheim currently gets about $1 million in annual revenue from the stadium, Kott said.

City Hall activist Cynthia Ward, meanwhile, suggested that Moreno should use some of his new $2.5-billion television deal to fund the stadium maintenance that he’s already responsible for.

“He gets to pocket billions and billions of dollars, and he still wants more to fix up the stadium,” said Ward. “He was aware that he was on the hook for those costs when he bought the team.”

The second and final community workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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