The Los Angeles Angels are in talks with the city about the possibility of moving the team to Long Beach and building a new stadium on a Downtown waterfront lot, several sources familiar with the discussions told the Post.

The team’s arrival couldn’t happen any sooner than the 2021 season; the Angels in January extended their lease with Anaheim through 2020.

Significant details are not yet clear, such as the cost of the proposed stadium and who would pay for it. Many layers of approval would also be required.

Those familiar with the talks said the stadium would potentially be constructed on a roughly 13-acre lot southeast of the Long Beach Arena and Performing Arts Center. The “elephant lot”—so-named for its days hosting the Ringling Bros. Circus—is among the largest undeveloped parcels of land in Downtown Long Beach.

“We are in the early stages of our due diligence and are exploring a variety of options for this property,” Mayor Robert Garcia confirmed in a statement Monday evening. “We have approached the Angels to express our interest and discuss the possibilities of this opportunity.”

Angels President John Carpino sent a statement on the possible move late Monday night: “As we have stated from the beginning, we must explore all our options to secure a long-term future for the Angels and provide fans with a high quality experience in a renovated or new ballpark.”

During a talk in August about economic development, Garcia noted that the lot would be large enough for a venue the size of the Staples Center—or a baseball field.

“We need to do a better job of developing and embracing our waterfront,” Garcia said at the time.

This image from Google Earth shows the Long Beach Arena to the left (the circular blue structure) and the roughly 13-acre “elephant lot” to the right where city officials are negotiating to build a stadium for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The lot is in a designated Tidelands area, so any project would need approval from the California Coastal Commission.

The city would have to consider several obligations in place for the site:

  • Its contract with the annual Jehovah’s Witnesses convention, which has rented the space through 2029.
  • The Grand Prix track also runs along Shoreline Drive near the lot, which is now used mostly for surface parking.
  • In 2017 it was announced that the site would host portions of the 2028 Olympic games being hosted by Los Angeles. Among the sports slated to be played in Long Beach are BMX and the triathlon, which could potentially be played inside any potential future baseball stadium.

Garcia said in August the city was undergoing a “visioning process” and forming a group of community leaders to help decide uses for the site.

The development of the elephant lot is to be part of a larger plan to rezone and develop the entire Downtown coastal area south of Ocean Boulevard, the mayor said months ago. The changes would put Long Beach on par with other waterfront cities, like San Diego, he said.

The “Elephant Lot” is the largest undeveloped coastal land in Long Beach August 27, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova
This roughly 13-acre lot near the Long Beach Arena is the largest undeveloped coastal land in Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Anaheim negotiations

The Angels have been playing at the Anaheim stadium since 1966. It is the fourth-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

The Angels in October opted out of their long-term stadium lease with Anaheim after talks with the city broke down. The move allowed the team to explore other venues.

Originally the lease extended only through the 2019 season, but in January the city and team officials agreed to a one-year lease extension through 2020.

Anaheim city spokesman Mike Lyster said Monday that nothing has changed since the City Council approved the extension. He expected talks over a long-term agreement to last several months.

The last time the two sides sat down, team officials said “their focus would be on Anaheim,” Lyster said, but added there would be no penalty to the team if they negotiated with another city.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement Monday night that it’s “no surprise other cities would try to lure the Angels to leave—having a Major League Baseball franchise is a big benefit to any city. We are confident that the best place for the Angels is and always will be Anaheim.”

The Angels had previously negotiated with Anaheim for the rights to lease the entire property surrounding the stadium for as little as $1 per year if Angels owner Arte Moreno were to develop the lot.

Dreams of the Angels: Moreno’s background gives Long Beach a reason to believe

Last week the Orange County Register reported that Anaheim had requested a new appraisal of the 155-acre property with a figure expected to return to the city in three months.

According to the Register, the last analysis in 2014 showed that the site’s value was between $225 million and $245 million if baseball operations continued, and between $300 million and $325 million if it was made available for development.

Anaheim has recently distanced itself from municipal subsidies for high-profile organizations, including its deals with Walt Disney Company. The City Council and Disney mutually agreed to end long-standing tax breaks, which resulted in Disney pulling out of a deal to build another hotel in Downtown Disney last October.

Long Beach—again?

The team—which has been seen as the little brother of sorts to the Los Angeles Dodgers—has flirted with a move to Long Beach before.

The Angels became a Major League Baseball club on April 27, 1961, and played their first game at Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles (it was demolished in 1969).

The following year the team shared space with the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, and in 1963 the team began courting Long Beach for a permanent home for land that is now El Dorado Regional Park.

The move to Long Beach fell through because former Long Beach City Manager John Mansell insisted that the team be called the Long Beach Angels. Gene Autry, the team’s original owner, refused.

Stadium costs

The most recent Major League Baseball stadium was constructed just outside Atlanta, Georgia—a city similar in size to Long Beach.

Sun Trust Park opened as the home of the Braves in 2017 with seating for 41,084. It was constructed at a cost of $622 million under a public-private partnership between the team, city and county.

But public sentiment is souring on paying for pricey stadiums, particularly as studies show mixed economic benefits—or none at all.

In a recent report, PBS noted that St. Louis is still paying $6 million a year on debt from building the Edward Jones Dome, the old home of the Rams before the team moved back to Los Angeles. The debt on the stadium is financed through various taxes and stadium revenues such as concessions and parking.

However, after the Rams announced a deal to build a new stadium in Inglewood, Moody’s Investment Service said the city would stand to gain $18.7 million to $28 million in revenue over a 16-year period—and more after.

“Once construction is finished in 2020, a $21 million revenue bump would be equivalent to about 25 percent of the city’s fiscal 2014 general fund of $80 million,” the bond rating service said in a statement.

Staff writers Melissa Evans, Tim Grobaty, Jeremiah Dobruck, Tom Hoffarth and Steve Lowery contributed to this report.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.