Munsey on Ballparks

No more Anaheim in the Angels

by Paul Munsey (archive)

January 8, 2005

The other day, I received an e-mail from a friend informing me that Citizens Bank changed its corporate logo. As a result, they are revising all references to the bank in the Phillies' 9-month-old ballpark. I replied to his e-mail with disgust. It wasn't that big of a deal, but I was already agitated about another ballpark-related story out of Anaheim.

Art Moreno, the owner of the Anaheim Angels, has changed the name of his team to, get this, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Why did he bother to include "of Anaheim" on the end? Was that a bureaucratic trick so some councilman can save some face?

Aside from the fact that I'm getting really tired of constantly having to change the names of teams and ballparks on my site, it insults our intelligence. Baseball is more than just a sport. It's a tradition.

For over thirty years, the American League baseball team in Anaheim was known as the California Angels. They played in a ballpark which proudly carried the name of its host city, Anaheim Stadium. Thirty years is a long time. By 1996, Disney had bought control of the team from the only owner the team ever had up to that point, Gene Autry.

This was a time when the taxpayer-funded stadium construction boom was really picking up steam. Disney wanted to have one of those shiny new ballparks, too. However, in California, it's a little more difficult than in most states for team owners to get the government to pay for stadiums. Since 1923, when the Yankees built their own stadium, there have been only two MLB ballparks built with private funds. Both of them are in California.

Everyone knew Disney wasn't going to move the team, so threatening to leave wasn't an option. The team settled on renovating the ballpark they had. Disney managed to squeeze $30 million out of the city of Anaheim and agreed to fund the remaining $88 million of it themselves.

In those days, naming rights were still a new concept. Edison International (formerly Southern California Edison), which is the major electric utility in southern California, agreed to pay $50 million, over 20 years, to slap their moniker all over the stadium. Of course, Disney had secured the naming rights, and applied that enormous windfall to their share of construction costs.

The one concession Disney made to the city of Anaheim, after squeezing the city for millions of dollars and swindling away the naming rights, was to change the team's name to the Anaheim Angels. As a result, there was still an acknowledgement of the city the Angels called home.

Disney got their new stadium, with all that high revenue club-level and luxury seating, and it only cost them about $55 million. Or so they thought.

Contrary to its public image, most of California gets brutally hot in the summer. A few summers ago, Californians opened their electric bills to find they owed double what they normally paid.

The state government had "deregulated" the electric industry almost a decade earlier. That meant the owners of power plants could sell their product at market prices, but the utility companies, like Edison International, were still subject to strict price controls.

As energy prices skyrocketed and utilities lost billions of dollars, the state finally gave in and allowed them to increase their prices dramatically. It wasn't enough, however, and Edison International declared bankruptcy. The Angels lost their big naming-rights contract, which lead to Disney selling their headache to Art Moreno last year.

It appears that Mr. Moreno can't find anyone to pay for naming rights, so he's trying to squeeze the city of Anaheim by taking away any real reference to the city from the team or their ballpark. Who is really going to call the team the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?"

How much is having the city's name associated with the team worth to Anaheim? I think we're going to find out.

Paul Munsey is the editor of

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