As far as speculation and blue-sky dreaming go, this has been a pretty good week. In quick succession, Disney announced it was pulling the plug on a planned 700-room luxury hotel as it feuds with the City of Anaheim.
Then, on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Angels announced they were going to “opt out” of their lease with Anaheim for the Big A, now awkwardly named “Angel Stadium of Anaheim.”
Now, let’s assume … just for fun … that there was a 101.5-acre site, very flat and underdeveloped … that was going soon to be available in central Orange County. Maybe it’s now called Willowick Golf Course and is owned by the City of Garden Grove and located within the city limits of Santa Ana. Perhaps it will even be served by a stop on the new OC Streetcar route slated to begin construction later this year or early in 2019.
If you’ve followed this column or other coverage in The Tribune, you probably know that the two cities have been working with the SWA Group to sketch out a possible re-use of the land. In fact, SWA is also the firm which developed Bank One Park (currently Chase Field) for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
How likely or how much of a long shot is the Willowick site as the new home of the Los Angeles Angels of Santa Ana-Garden Grove? Let’s look at the possibilities, pros and cons.
The Willowick site lacks freeway access, which is a big negative. There is a (likely) streetcar stop along the old Pacific Electric right-of-way, which is a plus. However, the line – as presently planned – simply connects central Santa Ana to Harbor Boulevard in southern Garden Grove. If a more extensive network bringing in riders from Anaheim and Fullerton (to the north) or Irvine and Costa Mesa (from the south) were in place, or at least on the drawing boards, that would go a long way toward mitigating the absence of an offramp.
Other cities that the Angels have courted include Irvine and Tustin, but neither have been willing to kick in big subsidies in the form of cash or free land. In Anaheim, especially, in recent years the political mood has shifted from giving millions to billionaires to doing more stuff for the locals. However, Garden Grove and Santa Ana might be a bit more hungry.
It might just be possible to do it all. A stadium for the Angels, a new arena for the Clippers (who are unhappy sharing the floor with the Lakers) in a complex surrounded by parks, water elements, eateries and shops.
Having said that, who knows? The odds of the Angels moving into an old golf course in 2026 might be about as good as the odds of a team moving to an old orange grove in 1966.
Usually Reliable Sources is posted on alternate weeks. And yes, we like to dream. And we promise not to write about Willowick next time out.