Is Arte Moreno looking at a move of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim back into L.A. proper? Apparently so.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Angels owner Moreno has been engaged in some early discussions with AEG about the potential of building a new ballpark in downtown Los Angeles. Timing is of the essence: Angel Stadium will be 50 years old in 2016 -- and that happens to be when the Angels can exercise an escape clause from their lease. If the team doesn't invoke the escape clause, they're committed to staying until 2029.
Now, the Angels are a great draw in Anaheim, and the 1997 renovation overseen by Populous and Robert A.M. Stern Architects brought the facility into the modern age. But there is only much a renovation can do to an old ballpark; it can't raise the roof of the concourses and it can't magically expand the cramped suite level. And, one suspects, Moreno has already figured out that he can't wring out any more revenue out of the existing ballpark.
Of course, there's a huge risk into moving downtown: you can bet a lot of hardcore fans who appreciate the charms of Angel Stadium -- easy freeway access, tailgating (i.e., pounding some some tall boys before the game) and cheap beer -- won't make the move to downtown Los Angeles, which is culturally and physically a world away. He's already got the mondo TV deal -- priced at $3 billion over 20 years, enough of a hike to allow the team to invest in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson -- and runs his own radio station, basically leaving only ballpark operations as a way to increase revenues. There are no territorial issues: the Angels share the same territory with the Dodgers. But the ability to draw a considerably more upscale audience relatively close to Dodger Stadium -- where the team played in its early days, before the opening of Anaheim Stadium -- may be worth the risk to Moreno, who so far hasn't been afraid to pull the trigger on big moves.
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