Anaheim City Council members expressed betrayal and disbelief Tuesday that the Los Angeles Angels are negotiating with Long Beach for a new stadium while they’re still in talks about rehabbing their current home, but Anaheim’s city manager also said the team is making moves that show it likely intends to stay in Orange County.
Both cities met with representatives from the Angels this week, the same week news broke that the team was nearing a historic contract extension for its star outfielder.
The Long Beach City Council convened in closed session with Shoreline Investments, LLC, a La Jolla-based firm representing the team, to discuss the terms of purchase or lease of the “elephant lot” site where a potential Downtown stadium could be built if the Angels choose to leave Anaheim.
The Anaheim City Council met in public for an update on their negotiations with the team after it voted last month to have the land surrounding the current stadium appraised for a second time. Anaheim City Manager Chris Zapata said that Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and other city staff met with Angels representatives yesterday and were told the team had hired the Newport Beach-based firm Brooks-Street to develop the site.
“They were hired to work with a project proposal in Anaheim, which is significant in that it is in the city of Anaheim where he’s working, not in other places,” Zapata said, adding that this is the first significant hire that Angels owner Arte Moreno has made to work on a site proposal.
Zapata said Anaheim expects a proposal from the team in the next two to four months.
While nothing was reported out of Long Beach’s closed session, and Long Beach officials have remained cautious in referring to discussions as preliminary, the tone inside the Anaheim chambers was sometimes resentful.
Councilman Jose F. Moreno was critical of Sidhu for his vote during a Jan. 15 meeting that defeated a motion to require the Angels to enter into exclusive negotiations with Anaheim. He cautioned against falling prey to the team’s “negotiation tactics” and reducing the benefit to Anaheim residents by offering the team too many concessions.
“There’s all this talk about Long Beach and I just want to say to staff, from my perspective, I would ask you to please not panic,” Moreno said. “Let’s not be fooled into believing that we’re negotiating against another city. We may very well be but let’s not reduce our offer or our work to make sure our residents are first.”
Moreno cited the reported $430 million contract the team is near finalizing with all-star centerfielder Mike Trout adding “clearly they’re not in need of money.” The deal, if signed, would become the largest contract in sports history.
Councilman Jordan Brandman was dismayed that the team would entertain offers from another city when Anaheim believed it was the only party seeking a deal after it agreed to a short-term lease with the Angels while the two parties sought a long-term agreement.
“My vote was in good faith expecting the absolute good faith of the people we were negotiating with,” Brandman said. “Long Beach was tough. We voted on January 15; Long Beach City Council heard this in closed session on February 5. That was stunning to me.”
Some Anaheim leaders insisted that until a deal is reached, the council should continue to receive monthly updates to ensure transparency. The motion was ultimately rejected with Sidhu joining the majority of the council in the 5-2 vote to only receive periodic updates, not monthly ones.
The vote angered some members who said that not having the updates could only lead to more confusion and concern as negotiations play out between the team and the two cities.
“There was nothing to see here,” Moreno said, referring to news about Long Beach’s bid for the team. “But the public needs to hear that directly from us, instead of speculation through the newspaper.”