OC Register: Could Angels move to Tustin? Anaheim talks with team break down

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OC Reg

Frustrated team officials shift attention to new site, possibly at Marine Corps Air Station.

ANAHEIM – After more than a year of contentious bargaining, the Angels on Friday terminated negotiations with the city of Anaheim over a new stadium lease.

Angel officials said that they are now “exploring all options,” and the Tustin City Council will hold a special closed-door meeting Tuesday night solely to discuss the possibility of hosting a new stadium for the Angels at the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said that a deal has not been struck with Tustin, but noted that the team has become frustrated with the inability to reach an agreement with Anaheim.

“Our goal from day one was to ensure a high-quality fan experience well into the future,” John Carpino, the Angels president, said in a statement as his team prepares for the playoffs. “We have spent a lot of time on this memorandum of understanding, and after 12 months, we feel our best course of action is to dissolve this non-binding agreement. We have always appreciated the council members’ support for this MOU.”

The memorandum outlined negotiating goals for a new lease.

When talks with Anaheim stalled in March, the Angels reached out to Tustin officials and the developers of the Great Park in Irvine to discuss potential stadium sites.

After initial conversations with the Angels, Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker said Friday, two clear parameters have been laid out for negotiations: No new city taxes will be levied to fund a stadium, and whatever project is approved must work with existing plans for the former air station.

Parker declined to discuss possible sources of revenues, but didn’t rule out providing adjacent land to a stadium site for Angels owner Arte Moreno to develop privately to raise money to pay for the stadium – somewhat similar to a development plan Moreno had attempted to negotiate with Anaheim.

Parker said Tustin City Council members sees the Angels having a positive impact on Orange County, but wants more details fleshed out about a possible stadium in Tustin: “They want to have a better understanding of what it means.”

Questions have been raised over Tustin’s financial ability to lure the Angels. The city has a population of 75,000 and an annual capital-improvement budget of $41 million. When Cobb County, population 688,000, recently struck a deal with the Atlanta Braves to leave Atlanta, the county agreed to pitch in $300 million while the team agreed to spend $372 million for the new park.

Sports venue expert Neil deMause said Tustin might be able to make an attractive pitch by offering land for both the stadium and for Moreno to develop.

“If the Angels got the land and got the sales tax kicked back, Tustin could possibly lure them without going directly into the city budget,” said deMause, author of “Field of Schemes” about taxpayer support of professional sports venues.

DeMause said it’s difficult to tell whether the Angels shift of attention to Tustin reflects the team’s true intentions or is a negotiating ploy.

Irvine Councilman Larry Agran said he hadn’t heard anything recently about the Angels coming to the Great Park or elsewhere in his city.

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, who is more supportive of the memorandum’s goals than Mayor Tom Tait, wants to get her city and the team back into talks.

“The City Council has worked incredibly hard to negotiate with the Angels by coming to terms with a deal that poses zero risk to the city’s taxpayers,” Murray said.

“We should have been able to reach a deal back in January,” she said. “I’m going to fight like hell to keep this team in our city and get us back to the bargaining table.”

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