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OC Register: Hoornstra: At last, the Angels can grow permanent roots in Anaheim

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The Angels, like millions of us here, have always been renters.

At birth, they rented Dodger Stadium from the Dodgers. Since 1966, they rented Angel Stadium from the city of Anaheim. Now, on the verge of their 60th year of existence, the Angels will finally own their own home. It’s an authentic Southern California story.

Under a monumental proposal announced Wednesday, the stadium and the 153 acres of land around it would be purchased by SRB Management, LLC, of which Angels owner Arte Moreno is a partner. The proposed agreement would keep the Angels in Anaheim until at least 2050. It must be formally ratified by the Anaheim City Council on Dec. 20 to take effect.

The devil is always in the details. We can’t make a full assessment of those details until they’re codified by the city. But the two sides agreed enough on the basics to announce them Wednesday, as first reported by colleague Alicia Robinson.

Optional extensions allow the Angels to play in Anaheim until 2065. Affordable housing and parkland would be part of the site development. SRB Management can cast its imagination upon most of the area between State College Blvd. on the west, Katella Ave. and the Amtrak/Metrolink rail lines on the north, the Santa Ana River on the east, and Orangewood Ave. on the south. It might imagine a new ballpark someday.

The best part of this proposal? The $325 million going to the City of Anaheim would benefit residents who have never watched a baseball game and never will. Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu, who campaigned on a promise to fight to retain the Angels, touted the ancillary revenue that comes from having a Major League Baseball team in town. Wednesday, the city of Anaheim estimated those tax revenues would net $7 million annually. Now this amounts to a bonus – not a means for justifying this deal to all of Anaheim’s 358,000-plus residents.

Coincidentally, the proposal fell on the same day that St. Petersburg (Fla.) mayor Rick Kriseman made an announcement of his own.

The Tampa Bay Rays had been contemplating a “shared season” agreement with Montreal, Canada. The particulars of splitting 81 home games between two cities in two countries were always difficult to grasp. The net effect would have been a major loss for St. Petersburg, which has long needed to replace the light-industrial warehouse known as Tropicana Field.

Kriseman announced that any two-city arrangement will not happen before 2028, if it takes effect at all. He also said Rays officials declined an offer to explore full-time stadium locations throughout the Tampa Bay region, including Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. This is emblematic of the kind of impermanent, incremental “progress” that hovered like a dark cloud above the Angels’ fate for years.

In St. Petersburg, the Rays’ existence is steeped in nonsense. They occupy the second-largest city in their market. The Tropicana site is separated by several miles from the Tampa Bay waterfront, which is several miles removed (by boat or by car) from Tampa, the largest city in the region. By not exploring full-time stadium locations elsewhere in Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa but not St. Petersburg), the Rays invite more questions than answers. The big question: if the best place for a ballpark isn’t located closest to where most fans in the region live, where is it?

So it went in Anaheim.

In 2013, city officials failed to re-negotiate the stadium lease with the Angels. Plans for the team to refurbish its stadium in exchange for developing and profiting off the surrounding land were dashed. Moreno then explored the possibility of moving the team to Tustin.

Against Moreno’s wishes, former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait negotiated with developers who envisioned apartments, offices and a hotel towering over the American League’s second-oldest ballpark. Those development plans were never formalized. Still, the Angels opted out of their stadium lease in Oct. 2018, allowing them to explore another move. Then in January, the City Council extended the deadline, but the Angels and Anaheim faced from a Dec. 31 deadline, by which the Angels would have to give the city a year’s notice if they planned to quit the current lease early.

It wasn’t just fans who felt moved by these clouds of impermanence. The mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia, approached the Angels about building a park on an undeveloped waterfront site near his city’s convention center. This move never passed the basic geography test. But if basic geography matters so little in Tampa, or in Montreal, or in Oakland, who’s to say it would carry the day in Southern California?

The site that always made the most sense was the same one the city of Anaheim purchased from three farmers in 1964. Now – or at least soon – the Angels will sign a contract that formalizes what fans intuited all along.

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