If the Los Angeles Angels and the City of Long Beach strike a deal to bring the team to a new waterfront ballpark here, other structures, most notably the Long Beach Arena, could be razed to make room for any accompanying developments that would be built around the stadium.
An unnamed source familiar with the talks said that demolishing the structure was “one of the scenarios” that has been discussed as the city tries to strike a deal to bring the team to Long Beach.
Several weeks ago the Post filed a public records request with the city for any renderings, drawings or images of the stadium. The city has acknowledged the records exist but that legal counsel is currently determining if they may be disclosed.
But any deal reached by the Angels, in Anaheim or in Long Beach, is expected to include more than just a baseball stadium. In order to attract investors, it would also likely include commercial and housing. Last month the Post reported that local luxury housing developer Frank Suryan Jr. has been a key player in the negotiations.
City spokesman Kevin Lee said in an email Thursday that since negotiations between the city and the Angels have commenced, the city is unable to discuss particulars of the deal. He said any proposed project would be discussed openly at a City Council meeting “at an appropriate time.”
A decision whether the Angels stay in Anaheim or move to Long Beach is expected soon, those involved in the negotiations from both cities have said.
On March 19, the Long Beach City Council met in closed session with Shoreline Investments LLC, a firm representing the Angels in negotiations to potentially build a stadium in the city, to discuss the sale of land that includes the roughly 13-acre “Elephant Lot” and surrounding areas including Marina Green, which sits across Shoreline Drive south of the Arena.
Loss of the Arena
The loss of the Arena—which has hosted big names such as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Who in the 1970s, as well as serving as the venue for volleyball in the 1984 Olympics—would have significant financial impact. The building has become such a bustling spot for convention business that it no longer has room in its schedule to reclaim its role as a premier rock venue.
In 2013, the city invested $10 million into renovations that allow conventions to convert the space into more intimate settings using lights installed on a grid system.
Since then, business has been brisk.
In 2017 the Convention Center brought in 1.3 million people and generated an estimated $300 million in economic impact for local hotels, stores and restaurants. Long Beach hotel guests pay a transient occupancy tax that is fed into the city’s general fund, and in 2017 the CVB estimated that impact to be about $26.4 million.
Last year the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that the Convention Center booked 274 conventions that brought about 1.4 million visitors to the city. That translated into over 200,000 nights booked at area hotels.
Charlie Beirne, general manager of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, said that in 2018 the Arena had 250 days of use and 2019, while not all the way booked out, is “still pretty solid.”
Beirne said he is unaware of any plans to bring down the Arena for any reason and that he is not privy to the talks between the city and the Angels.
“The city understands and is aware of the importance of it,” Beirne said of the Arena.
He said that a majority of the conventions that the city books end up using the Arena for a variety of reasons including keynote speeches and receptions. If the Arena were to go away, he estimates that the Convention Center would lose 25-30% of its business.
“Certainly the business model would change a little bit,” Beirne said. “But we work for the city and we’ll make it work.”
The prospect of the Arena coming down was reported by the Los Angeles Times Thursday.
Losing 80,000 square feet of space could simply make the Long Beach Convention Center untenable for some of the larger attractions that have made it, and the Arena, home in years past.
Disney on Ice, which is scheduled for next weekend, would have no ice to skate on. The Grand Prix would no longer have a space to host its pre-race family exhibits, and larger attractions like Complexcon and the Agenda Festival might no longer be able to bring their popular shows to the city.
A spokesperson from Agenda said they “use the whole space” because they “need the whole space,” including the Arena, when its annual festival comes to Long Beach which comes here at the end of June this year.
The Arena going away could also drive out some of the more iconic and older shows that have made the Convention Center home. The Fred Hall Show, one of the world’s premier outdoor sport, fishing and boat shows, has called the Convention Center home since it opened in the 1978, and prior to that, the show used the Arena, which opened in 1962, since 1971 .
Bart Hall, Fred’s son, said that the show, which is hosted on the first week of March, has already run into problems in recent years because of the Grand Prix using valuable parking space as a staging area which has led to shortages that have driven customers away.
If the Arena were to go away for any reason that would be the end of the Fred Hall show in Long Beach Hall said.
“We would leave,” Hall said. “We would go somewhere else. Period.”
He admits that having a baseball stadium in the Elephant Lot, which might very well displace the Grand Prix, could be better for the Fred Hall Show because the team would be in spring training during the convention and might not impact parking as much as the race does.
He likes the tradition of hosting the event in the city and the people he’s developed strong relationships over the past few decades. He notes that the Fred Hall Show is known globally as “the Long Beach Show” and he’d like to keep it that way.
“It’s the world’s largest sport fishing show and I’d hate to see it leave,” Hall said.
Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.
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