Luxury housing developer is key figure in talks to bring Angels to Long Beach

A luxury housing developer with ties to both Orange County and Long Beach is helping facilitate discussions to lure the Los Angeles Angels to a new Downtown waterfront stadium in Long Beach.

Frank Suryan, Jr., 62, has been a key figure in bringing together Long Beach officials and Arte Moreno, the self-made billionaire who owns the Anaheim-based team.

Several Downtown business owners said Suryan’s involvement ups the chances of the Angels move—though most acknowledge the significant financial and regulatory hurdles that are still unresolved.

“No one else in this city could pull this off,” said John Morris, a restaurateur who has worked with Suryan in the past. “If it’s gonna be done, it’s gonna be Frank who does it.”

Frank Suryan, Jr.

Suryan, who lives in Naples, runs a development company with $2 billion in assets that has developed more than 11,000 units of housing and 150,000 square feet of upscale retail space since the company’s founding in 1988.

He is behind such high-end projects as the 18-story 1900 Ocean Beach Club apartment building and Gallery 421 on Broadway—as well as The George, a 340-unit building located in the VIP parking lot of the current Angels Stadium in Anaheim, where apartments rent for more than $4,000 a month.

“I live in Long Beach and love Long Beach, and I have a vested interest in making Long Beach better,” Suryan said in a phone interview Thursday.

Suryan said he can’t say a lot about the status of discussions with Long Beach, but that “we’re all very hopeful” the stadium will happen.

“I don’t think anybody’s wasting time on this,” he said.

Marie Garvey, a spokeswoman for Angels Baseball, echoed an earlier statement from the club, saying that discussions are in the early stages and that officials need time to explore the opportunity with Long Beach.

“We continue to look at all our options including our ongoing discussions with Anaheim in order to ensure that we can continue to deliver a high-quality fan experience well into the future,” she said.

The team has a lease in Anaheim through 2020. Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said in a statement that the city remains focused and confident that it will keep the team. “There’s no better place for Angels baseball,” he said.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia on Thursday referred questions to spokesman Kevin Lee, who said Suryan is indeed part of the discussions. Lee, however, said he had nothing to report on the progress of talks: “It’s still in conversation mode.”

The potential new stadium would be located on roughly 13 acres adjacent to the Long Beach Arena. It is the last large undeveloped parcel of land in Downtown, and the city has been exploring options for the property for two years.

The city approached the Angels sometime in October, and has been discussing options with the team since then.

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 discussing building a stadium for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

‘A big hitter’

Suryan’s company, Lyon Living, also owns the so-called “pumpkin patch” lot that was the subject of a recent land-swap deal with an oil company approved by the city in December. Beach Oil Minerals won approval to drill on the 7-acre property near the border with Seal Beach in exchange for restoring its current drilling site nearby to a nature preserve.

The namesake of the company is General William Lyon, a World War II and Korean War veteran. Lyon, now 96, is a long-time major player in Orange County development. Suryan and Lyon formed Lyon Living in 1988.

A business graduate of USC, Suryan also owns 14 Sonic Drive-in fast-food restaurants in partnership with one of his three sons.

Kurt Schneiter, a Long Beach developer, said Suryan “isn’t a wishful-thinking, pie-in-the-sky guy. He’s the guy you want at the table.”

Restaurant owner John Sangmeister echoed that: “He’s a big hitter. If he’s part of it, I’d move the betting odds up by at least half.”

Suryan said he’s excited to be part of the talks.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for development in Long Beach,” Suryan said. “Early on, people didn’t understand why I was developing [in the city], and now investors are falling all over themselves trying to get into Long Beach.”

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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