The Curse of Harry Sidhu was born on May 24, 2022. That was the Anaheim City Council’s unanimous vote to kill the deal, which anchored the Angels in town for decades and allowed its owner to build an urban village around Angel Stadium.
An FBI agent said Sidhu, a former mayor of Anaheim, gave city secrets to the Angels in hopes of getting a million-dollar campaign contribution. The stench of corruption – though Sidhu denied the allegation – made the deal too toxic to go ahead.
The Angels lost their next 14 games, the longest losing streak in the franchise’s 63-year history. They fired their manager. They finished 33 games out of first place.
That can be fun. This isn’t: This is the year the Curse of Harry Sidhu really begins in Anaheim.
On Saturday, Angels owner Arte Moreno said he planned to meet with new Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken in the coming weeks. He declined to say whether he would consider a third round of stadium negotiations with a city he said had a deal twice in the past decade.
“They have a new administration,” Moreno told reporters in Arizona. “And we will work with that administration. We have been there for a long time. And we’ll see what happens.”
Moreno has all the leverage, thanks to Sidhu.
On the other side of the 57 Freeway, the Ducks’ owners are about to break ground on a neighborhood that surrounds the Honda Center with restaurants, shops, concert halls, parks, homes and offices. It’s a short walk down Katella Avenue from there to Angel Stadium. Angels fans were able to enjoy that stadium town, even though Moreno hasn’t built anything in the Angel Stadium parking lot.
It has no obligation to do anything, even if it wants to develop the city and collect taxes from a parking lot without the city itself developing for more than half a century. Sidhu hastily pushed the city council to reinstate the Angels’ lease as a Plan B if Moreno’s negotiations to buy the land fell through, but neither the mayor nor the city’s public statements shared that with Anaheim residents.
Had Sidhu not offered the angels that insurance, the city would have been hammered because the lease would have run out. Instead, the city is now facing a panel that is allowed to decide on a lease that expires in 2029, 2032, 2035 or 2038, thus potentially limiting the city’s ability to build on the site for another 15 years.
Former Anaheim Mayor Henry Sidhu.
(Karen Tapia/Los Angeles Times)
For Anaheim, that would be the worst of both worlds: The city has to wait for Moreno to decide what to do with his real estate prize; and Moreno could still move the team, or sell it to someone else who would.
“I can’t imagine a future in Anaheim without the Angels,” Aitken told The Times. “As a lifelong fan and season ticket holder, I believe they are an important part of our history and our city. I believe we can make a deal that is mutually beneficial for the residents and taxpayers of Anaheim and the Angels.”
The political climate can be confusing. In April, the city plans to hire a firm to assess the condition of the 58-year-old stadium and make recommendations for maintenance and renovation. .
After the collapse of the stadium deal last year, amid an FBI investigation that led to allegations against Sidhu and fraud convictions against the president of the Anaheim chamber of commerce, the city called for an independent investigation. One of the investigators told the council last month that he suspected “there will be more allegations to come in the coming months.”
The city is pursuing lawsuits related to the stadiums for alleged violations of the Brown Act, which requires public business to be conducted in public. An Orange County grand jury report said the city had “betrayed its constituents” by its “persistent lack of transparency and hasty decision-making in handling stadium property transactions.”
Angels owner Arte Moreno speaks to reporters at the team’s spring training facility in Tempe, Arizona, in 2019.
(Chris Carlson/Associated Press)
Those are a lot of complications. It would be much more if the city and the Angels started negotiations from scratch. Perhaps the council should put the deal that died last year back on the table, this time with transparency, and with public hearings that report back to the council, instead of filling the time before a pre-scheduled vote.
As a candidate, Aitken called the deal “a rotten, no-bid deal.”
However, the dead deal would have served many of the city’s goals.
The city would be out of the stadium business, in which it was making no money. The Angels would cover the cost of renovating the stadium, or building a new one. The city would generate a projected $652 million in revenue over 30 years from the development, the costs of which would be paid by Moreno and/or development partners. The Angels would commit to playing in Anaheim until 2050. The city would gain more than 6,000 new homes.
And, after the city agreed to sell the $325 million land to Moreno for $150 million, Moreno agreed to pay $96 million to build affordable housing elsewhere in Anaheim.
Aitken said he is “not committed” to that plan, though he said he would be open to starting talks with the Angels as a basis.
“I will be very happy to talk to them and do a current analysis of the deal and see,” he said. “I agree that we have more in common than we disagree.”
Aitken, like Moreno, said for now the focus should be on opening day. The mayor said he hasn’t missed a home game in decades, and is excited about the Angels’ April 7 game.
“I’m a season ticket holder,” he said. “Don’t look for me in the suite.”