When it was announced on Tuesday that the Angels are opting out of their stadium lease in Anaheim, it got us thinking: How feasible would it be to imagine a new baseball stadium being built in Long Beach?
The team is free to leave Angel Stadium after the 2019 season, and owner Arte Moreno is clearly looking to find a new home for his team, which currently plays in the fourth-oldest Major League Baseball stadium (only Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium are older). The Angels are also clearly looking for a brand refresh, having fiddled around with their name over the last few years, adding Los Angeles, eventually dropping Anaheim, and recently refusing to acknowledge a geographic name at all.
Now, to be clear—we’re both Dodgers fans. Neither of us are emotionally invested in bringing Orange County up to Long Beach in any way. But after doing some research and bar-napkin math, it is surprisingly feasible to imagine the Angels playing in Downtown Long Beach on the waterfront with the most picturesque background in baseball. It’s a move that would give the Angels central access to both Los Angeles and Orange County, something they’ve been searching for, and would give Long Beach’s rapidly expanding Downtown a real national-level attraction.
There are three major questions that would have to be answered: Where would a stadium go? How would people get to and from it? And, of course, what would it cost?
The average footprint of an MLB stadium is between two and three acres—that’s the stadium itself, not parking. It just so happens that Long Beach has a 13-acre undeveloped parking lot on the waterfront. Referred to in city planning documents as “the Elephant Lot,” the public would know it better as the parking lot around the Long Beach Arena, a facility the public would know know better as the big building with the whales on it. You know, the one the Ice Dogs used to play in.
Mayor Robert Garcia said at the “Building a Better Long Beach” development forum in late August that he wants to see the city create a plan for developing that land. It’s scenic, it’s a major part of downtown, and there’s a ton of space there compared to other waterfront locations around Southern California.
“The waterfront is critical to connecting the city to our coast,” Garcia said. “We have an opportunity to rethink what and how and where things should go in our waterfront. It’s time for us to think big.”
A Major League Baseball stadium would certainly qualify as “big.”
Keep in mind, the parking lot is big enough to actually fit an entire LA Live development, according to the Long Beach Business Journal. It could easily fit a south-facing baseball stadium with a beautiful view of Long Beach’s waterfront, and still have 9-10 acres left over.
The biggest issue with building on that land is that it’s spoken for until 2028, when the site will be transformed into Olympic competition venues for water polo and BMX biking.
A stadium there would be transformational, though, creating a true sports and entertainment district in Long Beach with the Aquarium, Arena, and the Terrace Theater all within walking distance. Because a baseball stadium would feature so many dates (baseball teams have 81 home games a year as opposed to eight for NFL teams or 41 for NBA teams) it would bring a steady stream of tourists and fans into Long Beach’s Downtown waterfront.
Parking and traffic
Any time anyone brings up an idea in Long Beach, whether it’s something big like an MLB stadium or small like going to the store, it feels like we have to watch a few hundred cranky Facebookers complain about parking and traffic. So it’s worth taking a look at how a stadium downtown would handle these issues.
As far as parking, there’s no doubt that there isn’t any room anywhere in Long Beach for the kind of 100-acre parking lots that Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium employ. The footprint of a stadium here would have to be more like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, both of which are on smaller footprints than the parking lot the city is looking to redevelop. The majority of fans would have to arrive via foot, rail, bike or trolley.
Could our current infrastructure handle that kind of influx of humanity? Not yet. But Google Maps has the Blue Line’s Downtown Long Beach Station as a 10-minute walk from the site, which provides a great framework to build off of, and the city and the LA Metro are already keen to find ways to beef up Long Beach’s rail.
The cost of a new stadium is, in our opinion, actually the biggest stumbling block. Cities across the country have been albatrossed by horrible publicly-financed stadium deals where citizen tax payers bear the cost and teams reap the profit.
The last thing we want to see is Long Beach get involved in a deal like that. The average cost of a new MLB stadium today would be a half a billion dollars, a figure we haven’t seen laying around on the sidewalk in our travels around the city.
That being said, if Moreno and his investors could come up with a plan that wouldn’t involve major investments of public funds, it would be worth listening to. The benefit to the city of an influx of people is obvious—the Angels have drawn at least three million fans in each of the last 16 seasons, despite being terrible in several of them. The nearby Aquarium of the Pacific, for contrast, draws 1.7 million people annually as the fourth most-visited aquarium in the country.
Is this a slam dunk—pardon us, a home run—idea? No. There are big unsolved issues with the timing of the site, transportation, and financing. But it’s fun, every now and then, to break away from worrying about the details to imagine something big—even if it does involve the wrong team.
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