With the Anaheim City Council pulling the plug on a proposed sale of Angel Stadium to team owner Arte Moreno, the Angels were back at the drawing board Wednesday, considering “all of our options” on how to next proceed.
“We are disappointed by Anaheim City Council’s action last night regarding the stadium land sale,” according to a statement from Marie Garvey on behalf of Moreno’s company, SRB Management. “Since the beginning we negotiated in good faith which resulted in a fair deal. We are currently exploring all of our options.”
The decision during Tuesday night’s Anaheim City Council meeting came a day after Harry Sidhu resigned as mayor amid an FBI investigation into allegations that he fed insider information to the Angels in hopes of securing a substantial campaign donation. The probe also includes allegations he cheated on sales taxes for a helicopter he bought.
The City Council received notice May 16 of the federal investigation into Sidhu’s involvement in the sale of Angel Stadium and plans for the site. The agreement to sell Angel Stadium included commercial and residential plans to develop the land around the stadium.
“The stadium proposal was evaluated and approved on its merits,” Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil, who is handling the duties of mayor per Anaheim’s city charter, said in a statement released by the City Council on Tuesday. “However, knowing that there may have been an element of corruption that brought the final product to us, we cannot move forward in good conscience.”
The City Council’s next step is to start a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was “not at arm’s length,” according to a statement from the council.
Additionally, the council ends prior negotiations involving the sale of the stadium site that started in 2019 and resulted in agreements approved in September and October 2020.
The city-owned stadium and 151 acres of land was set to sell for $320 million, paid partly in cash and partly in affordable housing and a park built on the stadium site.
The deal was subject to updated sale and development agreements, and reflected a now-paused settlement with California related to the Surplus Land Act, that were supposed to go before the City Council in June, the final step before the close of the sale.
The Angels have a lease to play at Angel Stadium through 2029 with the option for three three-year extensions through 2038.
With the Anaheim deal in limbo, the idea of a possible relocation to Long Beach quickly resurfaced Wednesday. Long Beach officials approached the team in 2019 about the possibility of moving the team to a stadium that would be constructed along that city’s waterfront, adjacent to the Long Beach Arena and Performing Arts Center.
“The Long Beach waterfront downtown has always been the perfect location for a major league sports stadium,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in an email to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “If any sports team is interested in engaging the city we would welcome those discussions.”
The Long Beach City Manager’s Office issued a statement saying that if the team was interested in pursuing such an option, the city would “reengage in those discussion and seek direction from the City Council.”
The original Long Beach proposal called for the stadium to be built on a 13-acre lot, with additional acreage set aside to accommodate a commercial and residential development.
Some state legislators told City News Service they were happy Anaheim halted the stadium sale.
“Anaheim should never sell that property,” Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, told CNS. “If you’re going to do anything, you lease, you don’t sell.”
Selling the property cuts off a stream of revenue, Correa said.
“You’re not Orange County in bankruptcy in 1994 where you have to sell everything at fire sale prices,” Correa said. “That’s not where Anaheim is at. Instead of the Angels buying the stadium, Anaheim should buy the Angels.”
Correa, along with Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, have sent letters to the city demanding more accountability on the proposed sale.
Umberg told CNS that he agreed with Correa’s suggestion of the city purchasing the team — although there was no indication Moreno wants to sell the franchise.
“I like that idea,” Umberg said. “But the problem with that is that the taxpayer base to buy the Angels is too small, so maybe what we do is like what is done in Green Bay.”
The Packers are owned by Green Bay Packers Inc., a publicly held nonprofit corporation with 361,300 stockholders.
In fact, Umberg said he pitched a similar idea when the NFL was looking to locate another team in the Southland. Under that scenario, anyone could buy a share of the team, not just Anaheim residents, Umberg said.
“Obviously, I’m glad” the City Council dumped the deal, Umberg said. “Tom Daly and I have been questioning this sale since 2019.”
Umberg, a former prosecutor, said he was “surprised by the depth of insider training and corruption” alleged in the FBI affidavits.
“The best result for all concerned taxpayers, etc., is to start over again and renegotiate a lease or sale, starting today,” Umberg said.