Anaheim Council Debates Value of Angel Stadium Land

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A recently released appraisal of the 155 acres around Angel Stadium — center of a controversial lease framework between Anaheim and Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno – has become a valuable negotiating tool for the public and the city, members of the Anaheim City Council said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Under one scenario, the appraisal assumes that the land around Anaheim’s stadium is actually worth more without the Angels.

This comes after council members last year approved a lease framework that grants team owner Arte Moreno and his investors the land for 66 years at $1 annually.

Moreno is to use revenue from the land development to finance up to $150 million in renovations to the nearly 50 year-old stadium.

A chorus of critics, led by Mayor Tom Tait, decried the framework as a massive giveaway of public land to a billionaire sports team owner. Tait argues the city and Moreno should fairly split the revenue from the development, and that Moreno is already obligated to the renovations under the current lease.

Members of the council majority have argued the framework is only a starting point for negotiations.

El Segundo-based Waronzof Associates, Inc. evaluated the land in terms of development rights and used two sets of scenarios.

The first determined the value should the Angels remain in Anaheim, with the biggest challenge to a developer being the team’s rights to 12,500 parking spaces. And the second looked at whether the Angels leave and the stadium is razed at a cost of $20 million.

With the Angels remaining in the stadium, the land is worth $245 million in a sale and $225 million under a lease, according to the appraisal. If the Angels leave, the land would be worth $325 million in a sale and $300 million under a lease, the appraisal states.

The appraisal, should the Angels stay, assumes that a developer would build over 1 million sq. ft. in retail, entertainment and office space, and over 3,000 units of apartments and condominiums, according to a presentation made at the meeting by Waronzof Pricinpal Tim Lowe.

This is significantly less than what the land is entitled for, but considered feasible, Lowe said.

With right of way requirements, among other things, there would be 86.4 acres of developable land. Lowe noted that significant public investment in infrastructure — such as the planned streetcar project and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center – has setup the private investment phase of development.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring raised concerns regarding methods used to evaluate the land, and council members went another round in the debate over what constitutes a good lease deal for the taxpayers.

Kring questioned the appraiser using comparable sales from 2007, just before the Great Recession hit. And she noted that the property has had only one potential buyer then.

“Since 07, aside from Archstone Smith, nobody has been knocking on our door for this property, and that’s the thing that really concerns me,” Kring said.

Lowe said cities and towns don’t always aggressively market their properties. Developers “are willing to pay real money” for properties with mixed-use development potential such as the stadium land site, Lowe said.

Councilwoman Kris Murray touted the benefits of a potential deal, including renovating cost of the stadium at no cost to the city’s general fund, continuing to have the Angels in Anaheim and collecting a revenue stream from the land, among other benefits.

“Please, please get back to the table, and bring us back a real deal with real benefits so we can secure the team in Anaheim for years to come,” Murray told city staff.

Also, she said the notion that Moreno and his investors would get the land for $1 a year is inaccurate because the structure of the leases are more complex than what has been publicly debated.

According to City Attorney Michael Houston, the lease framework requires the city to negotiate further economic benefits from the Angels.

“We are not looking at giving away the city’s land for $1 a year, is that correct?” Murray asked.

“I believe that is correct, yes,” Houston replied.

Tait said not enough attention has been paid to the fact that Moreno is already obligated to make the renovations under the current, 1996 approved lease. That requirement was placed on the Angels in exchange for obtaining little to no revenue from things like ticket sales, he said.

Councilwoman Gail Eastman said city officials are waiting for Moreno to make a move and that, like Tait, she believes the city and the Angels can come to a win-win deal.

Negotiations between the city and the Angels have reportedly broken down after a public outcry regarding the lease.

“We are just waiting for the Angels to be ready to sit down and have some real serious negotiation,” Eastman said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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