Could a Major League Baseball team's quest for a better stadium deal help the Disneyland Resort find the space it needs to build a third theme park?
The Los Angeles Angels, who play just a few miles from Disneyland, yesterday opted out of their lease at Anaheim's city-owned Angel Stadium. That's the fourth-oldest stadium in the major leagues, trailing Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium. The Angels had to opt out yesterday, otherwise they would have been locked into their lease with the city for another 10 years.
The Angels said that they would negotiate with Anaheim for a new lease, but it's no secret in the community that the Angels would prefer to get a deal for a new stadium in the area, one with the abundant club-level seating and private suites that pro sports teams use to squeeze more money from wealthy fans.
The idea of the Angels moving has inspired many Disneyland fans to dream that a vacated Angel Stadium site could provide a home for a new theme park for Disneyland. Now, it's hard to image Disney and the City of Anaheim even considering a deal of that magnitude, given what's recently gone down between them with the abandoned Eastern Gateway and fourth hotel projects. But it might be in the City of Anaheim's best interest to at least look like it's willing to cut a deal with Disney.
Here's why: Leverage.
Despite pretty much stinking up the joint the past four years, the Angels have consistently drawn more than three million fans a year to the ballpark. That put them as the sixth best attended team in the major leagues this year. Pretty good, huh? That kind of draw typically gives sports teams huge leverage over the cities with which they negotiate. All that attendance usually means significant tax revenue for the city, both directly from fans and indirectly from the economic impact of bringing all those people into the community to spend money.
But in Anaheim's case, as impressive as three million baseball fans annually might be, Disney California Adventure draws three times that. And Disneyland draws six times as many fans as the Angels. It's not hard to make a business case that a third Disney theme park built on the site of Angel Stadium would attract more fans and generate far more taxes and economic impact for the city than a new or improved Angel Stadium would.
That undercuts the team's bargaining power with the city. If Anaheim potentially has a better available with Disney, why should it do any favors for the Angels?
Communities in California have been reticent to give away tax dollars to sports teams compared to cities and states elsewhere in the nation. With one of the world's largest economies and strong economic growth relative to many other states, communities in California usually adopt a "take it or leave it" attitude toward businesses that want incentives and giveaways. Heck, that growing hostility toward tax deals among Anaheim voters is what led to the recent showdown with Disneyland. So it's unlikely that the Angels are going to find any community in the state that would build them a stadium. Best case for the Angels might be a discount on some land and the community building new roads into a stadium site. But the team might need to leave Anaheim to get even that.
The distance between the existing Disneyland theme parks and Angel Stadium is about three miles, which is roughly the distance between Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. That's also about the same distance between the Universal Orlando Resort and the land it has obtained near the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center, where everybody in this business believes Universal is going to build its third theme park. So building a new Disneyland gate at Angel Stadium is not an incomprehensible project. Remember, when Disney was considering a second gate in Southern California, it drew up plans for a DisneySea park in Long Beach and kicked the tires on buying Knott's Berry Farm, too.
So will it happen? That would require the Angels to be willing to spend what could be close to a billion dollars to build a new stadium elsewhere in the area, and then Disney to spend more than that on a new park. And it would require finding a site for a new Angel Stadium, with a local government willing to support the development process. And - here's the big one - it would require Disney and Anaheim not just to repair their working relationship but to take it to a new level, beyond even that which led to Disney building California Adventure on its own parking lot.
Don't hold your breath waiting, in other words. But it is interesting to think about.Tweet
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