An Important Lesson from the Angel Stadium Deal

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The city of Anaheim made headlines with a deal to sell Angel Stadium and the land around it to an entity in which the Angels baseball team’s owner is a partner. 

The sports pages emphasized that this keeps the Major League Baseball team in the Orange County city for another 30 years. Some commentators remarked on the fact that the sale, valued at $325 million, is less than the 12-year, $430 million contract of its superstart center fielder, Mike Trout.

But accounts of the deal also offer a lesson in sports and stadium economics for California cities that keep chasing such sports facilities. Stadiums don’t boost an area. In fact, they are a drag on land values. 

Take note of a city-commissioned appraisal of the Angels’ land, which was released around the time of the deal. The appraisals actually came in a range. The lower the footprint of the stadium, the higher the value. Indeed the highest appraised value of the land involved a scenario where the stadium was torn down and not replaced, thus opening up the entire 150 acres for development. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it should be a reminder, especially for stadium-obsessed communities like Inglewood or Sacramento. Giant sports facilities aren’t the highest or best use of valuable California land. 

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