Could a baseball team help Disneyland get a third park?

October 17, 2018, 11:50 AM · 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.

Replies (17)

October 17, 2018 at 12:03 PM

There's too many variables that need to align.

1. Angels have to leave. This can't be just a negotiation tactic to get better terms. Yet...

2. Angels may want to build a new stadium on the existing parking lot and then demolish the existing stadium for parking, hotels, restaurants, etc.

3. Other cities may want Angels to relocate like Las Vegas who is getting Raiders.

4. For Disney to acquire the land, a new Anaheim city council and mayor must be pro-business (at minimum) and offer terms that can't later be reneged so easily upon a new election.

5. Gene Autry Blvd will become the new gateway to the third park from Toy Story Lot and connect the Anaheim Convention Center. A new transportation pathway may be created.

The stars must be aligned and I still don't think it will happen so soon. Anaheim may still throw a wrench into the whole idea.

October 17, 2018 at 12:11 PM

Las Vegas is already home to the Golden Knights of the NHL and soon will home to the NFL Raiders.

There is a rumor flying around that there are plans to demolish the Rio and build a New Baseball stadium.

So the question: Who has more leverage with the city of Anaheim?

October 17, 2018 at 12:13 PM

Its a great idea. There’s not really any other place nearby for a third park, excluding squeezing another park into an already overcrowded area, or demolishing hundreds of houses.

Wherever a third park is built, assuming its not adjacent to the other parks, it needs to be its own thing. Park hopping to park 3 should be rare. The third park needs to be a full day experience from opening day, so people don’t fill the roads or busses going back and forth. I don’t expect Disneyland to have another park nearby for a long time, but I expect the planning to be underway. Disney hasn’t built a new park in the USA since DCA, and not good one since Animal Kingdom, so they need to be working to make sure they get it right, even if they don’t have a location yet.

October 17, 2018 at 12:24 PM

FWIW, the Angels aren't going anywhere. If they did not opt out of their lease, they faced an additional 10-year term where they would be stuck in a stadium that has not seen any significant upgrades since 1998 (aside from the video board upgrades done in 2009 and last season). The opt out is all about the Angels wanting leverage in the situation to force either better lease terms or an upgraded/new stadium within the next decade - something the team feels that it deserves based on the attendance it draws compared to other MLB teams that boast shiny new tax-payer funded stadiums.

As of right now, the Angels don't have anywhere else to play, so if a deal can't be worked out with Anaheim, they would be in serious trouble with MLB. The only other stadium capable of staging an MLB game within the LA region is Dodgers Stadium. While MLB typically alternates home stands between NL/AL teams that share the same TV market (Cubs/White Sox, Yankees/Mets, Reds/Indians, Nats/Orioles, Giants/As, and Angels/Dodgers) there are still instances where both the Dodgers and Angels have home games scheduled on the same day (though they might be able to use Petco in San Diego).

The bottom line is the Angels moving out of their current stadium within the next 2-3 years is a virtual impossibility (unless they went all the way to Montreal), so this discussion is pretty moot even if you don't consider the logistics involved with Disney acquiring the land and trying to integrate it with their current property. It's not even worth the effort dreaming here since this is a non-starter from the get go. Good click-bait though.

October 17, 2018 at 12:36 PM

Yeah... not gonna happen. It might not be the newest stadium around, but it's by no means run down and is actually one of the best as far as accessibility to fans, which is probably part of the reason they have high attendance. It's easy to get in and out, as compared to Petco for example which is stuck right in the middle of the city. This is just negotiation.

October 17, 2018 at 1:35 PM

How big is the site? Would a third park even be feasible? I mean, I know Disney is good at shoehorning entire destinations into incomprehensibly small spaces (DCA, Downtown Disney, and the Grand Californian), but if this is even smaller, can it even be done? Disney World has all the space it needs to leisurely build up their property, so it's always interesting to see how Disneyland makes use of its space. I'm still dumbfounded when I stand in Toontown and think of how close the freeway is to the backside of the structures. Disney always does a good job of making you feel like you're NOT right in the middle of Anaheim (until you go up on the taller rides... we will see how Galaxy's Edge fares in this regard).

October 17, 2018 at 1:50 PM

@Shaun Fisher, a quick look at Google maps shows that including the parking that surrounds the stadium, the area is larger than either of Disney's current Anaheim parks, or roughly 3/4 of them both combined. So enough space for a full size amusement park and a parking structure.

October 17, 2018 at 1:57 PM

Have to agree with AngryDuck - Angel stadium and its parking lot are the easiest to negotiate, which is the reason I will drive from Acton to Anaheim for a game. Yes Dodger stadium is closer but it really isn't an accessible area with limited roads to get to the parking lot and limited stadium entrances which have long lines due to the inept screeners -"How did you get the ice in the water bottle?" my answer - "by freezing it." agree that the Angels are trying to get a better deal and (hopefully) a "better" stadium out of their deal. Besides Walt Disney partnered with Gene Autry on the development of the Angel team.

October 17, 2018 at 3:08 PM

Of course the Angels want a new stadium - what owner doesn't? Something will eventually happen. The owners won't be getting any local tax dollars to help their situation, so they're going to either have to pony up the cash for a massive renovation, a new stadium on the parking lot (as with many other stadiums), or wait for another city like Las Vegas or Portland to give them a sweetheart deal to move.

But the status quo will not fly indefinitely. Something has to happen, and unless an owner is filthy rich like Stan Kroenke or the late Paul Allen, they just don't want to spend their own money without a big local contribution. The Angels can't just continue to wait for 10-15 years. Then again, I'm surprised there's been no movement with the A's or Rays.

The question is what will happen and when will it happen?

Let's imagine the Angels move to Las Vegas. What will happen to the site of Angel Stadium? Will it become a bunch of apartments or a neighborhood? An office complex?

I really don't know what is going to happen. I'm interested to keep up with the developments, though. I think it's a fascinating situation, and it's unfortunate that Anaheim and Disney have such a poor relationship with one another, because Disney having that land for a third park would be incredible for the theme park industry, and for the city of Anaheim. The distance could be worked around, as was mentioned, it's not really different than the Universal Orlando resort and recently purchased land.

I know owners don't like to sell, but I wonder if Disney would be interested in buying a baseball team.

October 17, 2018 at 3:27 PM

"I wonder if Disney would be interested in buying a baseball team."

Chuckle.

"After several years of seeking a buyer for the Anaheim Angels, the Walt Disney Company has agreed in principle to sell the team for more than $180 million to an Arizona businessman, a person apprised of the negotiations said today.

The businessman, Arturo Moreno, who earned his fortune in outdoor advertising, would be the first Mexican-American to own a major league baseball team if the sale is approved at a meeting of major league owners on May 15."

October 17, 2018 at 4:18 PM

Arthur Moreno could move the team if and only if someone else will pay for a new ballpark and there is probably a north American city that is willing to unfortunately.

October 17, 2018 at 5:42 PM

That would be an interesting bit of irony considering the reason Disney initially bought the team was to keep them in town.

October 17, 2018 at 10:35 PM

I don't think the Angels are going anywhere. More likely than not, the end result of this will be a new stadium on the site in five or so years, which will virtually guarantee the Angels will remain for decades to come. Moving the team would not only be expensive, but it could also seriously reduce their fanbase and would quite possibly result in a net loss for MLB. That said, there have been some interesting developments recently, and I'm not sure the team's popularity is quite as high now as it used to be.

So, let's say the Angels decide to leave. Could Disney buy the land and build a new park there? Absolutely. How soon could it happen? Probably late 2020s at the earliest. Is it the smartest move for the resort? Honestly, I'd say no right now. The resort needs a lot of infrastructure work in order to support additional attendance, so building a whole new theme park probably isn't the best use of money right now. Yes, they could make a self-contained mini-resort with a park and a couple hotels on the property, but I worry this would be just as likely to cannibalize from the existing parks as it would be to attract new guests. Plus there's all kinds of other hurdles that would need to be cleared.

It's an interesting thought, but I highly improbable one. I still think the third Disneyland Resort park (if it actually ever happens) is most likely to occupy the Toy Story Lot, though I see that as being at least 15 years in the future.

October 18, 2018 at 6:06 AM

And we need a third park because...

October 18, 2018 at 9:29 AM

"Then again, I'm surprised there's been no movement with the A's or Rays."

Actually, the Rays have plans for a new stadium (looks like a giant Tupperware container) to be built in the next 3-5 years. The A's had a site picked out in San Jose, but the Giants muscled them out saying the south bay was their exclusive territory. As of now, the A's are trying to work with the Oakland city council, and might have some decent leverage to stay in the city with the Warriors moving to San Francisco next year and the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in 2020-21. The owners of the Rio supposedly are considering knocking down their aging resort in favor of an MLB stadium, which is reportedly being used as leverage for the A's to get a deal done with Oakland, but I supposed could also be used by Moreno as well in negotiations in Anaheim. However, I simply don't think MLB would allow a team to leave LA. All three Southern California teams have been hugely successful, and while it's possible the Angels could go elsewhere within the the LA Region, I would highly doubt MLB would allow a team to leave the lucrative market.

I think MLB is interested in Vegas, but that would most likely be part of an expansion effort (to get MLB up to 32 teams to avoid the current scheduling snafu of having interleague series happening all season long), and not for a relocated franchise.

Now, if we were talking about the Chargers, then we might have something here (the NFL team is having trouble selling out the 27,000-seat Stub Hub Center for a consistently good team, and is lagging far behind projections for PSLs and season ticket commitments for Kronke's new palace out in Inglewood even as they're being offered at a fraction of the price of what the Rams are selling the same seats at).

October 18, 2018 at 10:39 AM

I seriously doubt Orange County would trade the Angels for the Chargers (IMO for the Chargers it would be best for them if they moved back to San Diego, but that's a different story).

I don't think the A's are moving either, they don't want to leave and at some point we will see a smaller capacity/cheaper privately financed ballpark (30-35 thousand seats) built somewhere in the Oakland area. Just like the Rays they want a new stadium but seem to be fine staying put in their crappy stadium until they can get something worked out. For that reason I don't see much changing in the landscape of Anaheim unless Disney builds another park on their current land or land they can acquire.

Personally i'd love to see the Angels leave (or move, possibly replace that shopping center next to the Honda Center) and Disney takes over that site and builds massive parking structures like Universal Orlando, and then DLR remove their parking and further develop into a proper full fledged resort with all of its parking offsite. But that will never happen as they are spending lots of money expanding the current garage.

October 18, 2018 at 5:23 PM

Right now, the Angels have no where to go. Portland wants a team however, they could not fill a stadium. Charlotte wants a team and they would be able to fill a stadium but, how much of minor league baseball do you kill by doing that. The Diamondbacks keep trying to find a way out of their lease which some in AZ believe Oakland would then swoop in and grab up if nothing has materialized for them.

The NFL is now cringing at how much fan base the Chargers lost by relocating. Vegas might be good for the NFL but MLB? I don't think MLB wants to start franchise swaps like the NFL did.

This might be nothing more than negotiating a significantly lower cost lease until such time as the City is ready to discuss renovations.

Disney would have enormous costs of extending the monorail, additional parking, and what do you "theme" the park as and fill it with?

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