Riverside, California. The principal city of the Inland Empire. A city of commerce, education AND agriculture. Home to over 300,000 people. A city located within an hour's drive of Palm Springs, Temecula, the South Coast, Barstow and Big Bear.
The next home of your Angels?
Recently, interviewing with several members of the Angels' press, Arte Moreno stated that the Angels and the city of Anaheim have not had any dialogue regarding a new lease, at all, for months. We can declare this to be at an impasse. Talks are dead, let's face it. By the year 2020, chances are that the Angels, for the first time in 50+ years, will not be playing ball in Anaheim. So...where will they be playing?
Several cities have surfaced, most notably the city of Tustin, who rumoredly had preliminary discussions internally and with the Angels regarding the development of the land at Tustin Ranch and Jamboree. Other cities, such as Irvine and Los Angeles, have reportedly been looked at as candidate cities.
So now, submitting for your approval, the city of Riverside.
This is an off-the-wall, unprecedented idea. No major Southern California sports team has EVER called anywhere home other than the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego. Naturally, this makes a city like Riverside seem totally strange and possible unqualified, just in its geography.
Why Riverside, exactly? I'll break this into portions.
EXHIBIT A: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The city of Riverside, realistically speaking, has an ideal location within Southern California. The city is approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles, 35 miles east of Anaheim, 50 miles west of Palm Springs, 50 miles south of the High Desert, 40 miles north of Temecula and 70 miles north of Escondido. Basically, the bulk of the Southern California populace is within 2 hours of Riverside (accounting for traffic), in all directions. It is a much more central location within Southern California than almost any other city.
Also, with regards to location, Riverside sees the convergence of three major Southern California freeways: State Routes 60 and 91, and Interstate 215. When Riverside experienced booming growth, it became America's most congested city; however, though it still experiences significant bouts of traffic congestion, the city is no longer even in the top 15 congested cities in the country. In particular, there is a significant portion of land, approximately 485 acres, directly southwest of the University of California, Riverside (about one mile south-southeast of the junction of the three aforementioned freeways), at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Chicago Avenue, where a stadium, sufficient parking, and possibly even development space could be built. If that were not to be sufficient enough, just a half-mile east of that location, at the intersections of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Canyon Crest Drive, there is ANOTHER piece of land, this one slightly larger (closer to an even 500 acres) and closer to the 215 and 60 freeways. Between those two pieces of land is university agricultural property, which could presumably is negotiable for purchase from the university. If so, this could double (and possibly even triple) the amount of land which Arte Moreno and company could use for developmental space (i.e. shopping, housing, etc.). Also, given that the land is directly southwest of university property, this could be an opportunity, with regards to shopping and entertainment development as well as baseball itself, to create directly accessible and possibly even affordable entertainment within walking distance for the approximately 21,000 students currently enrolled at UCR.
One supposed chink in the armor? Riverside, despite its size (which is about 10% less than Anaheim by population, but 62% larger by area), does not have a major airport, only having the small municipal airport used mostly for general aviation. But Anaheim doesn't have a major airport either; the Angels make their flights out of nearby John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Likewise, the Angels could make their flights either out of Ontario International Airport (20 miles west), Palm Springs International Airport (50 miles east) or, if it could be further developed, San Bernardino International Airport (just 15 miles north, but with no scheduled passenger service currently).
EXHIBIT B: ANGELS HISTORY WITH THE INLAND EMPIRE
Believe it or not, the Angels have quite the history with the Riverside metropolitan area, though some of it is common knowledge. For example, for over 30 years the Angels trained in Palm Springs every spring, and currently their Class-A Advanced affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers, play just 12 miles north of Riverside, in the heart of San Bernardino, and before THAT, their A-Advanced affiliate was in nearby Rancho Cucamonga. (On a side note, imagine, then, THIS possibility, be it far-fetched: the 66ers, somehow, moving to the AAA Pacific Coast League, to be replaced with a A-Advanced affiliate in Palm Springs.)
However, individual Angels made their mark in the Riverside area. Bobby Bonds could perhaps be the most accomplished of them all at the MLB level in general (he was born, and lived in, Riverside proper for most of his life), but others with more significant Angels-specific resume include Troy Glaus (Norco), Troy Percival (Moreno Valley), Adam Kennedy (Riverside) and Garrett Richards (Riverside, though raised in Oklahoma). Several others could be added to this list, those who played for the Angels but briefly (such as Alvin Davis and Scott Karl).
EXHIBIT C: FEASIBILITY
Riverside is quite capable of handling a stadium. Though it is supposed that Arte would want to fund a stadium himself, without using taxpayer money (thus making economic feasibility a non-issue), there are many other degrees to feasibility that need to be met.
Firstly, the land. Discussed above, this land is certainly large enough to support a major-league stadium. But is it larger than the land Angel Stadium currently sits on in Anaheim? Using the original site of 485 acres at MLK and Chicago as the gauge for Riverside, the answer would be yes. Angel Stadium currently sits on approximately 160 acres of property (at least, 160 acres of property belonging to the Angels). A move to the 485-acre site at MLK and Chicago would constitute a tripling in land--certainly more than enough to accommodate adequate parking, a state-of-the-art stadium, and developed shopping, dining and housing to surround it.
Secondly, there could still be money matters to be handled. Does the stadium get a naming deal? If so, who? What businesses are centered in the Riverside area that could possibly seek naming rights to this new stadium? Well, in Riverside County there are surprisingly more than a few options--and if the search were expanded to nearby San Bernardino County, the options nearly double. Most notably and interestingly would include Lucas Oil and Fender Musical Instruments Company, who have their headquarters and manufacturing, respectively, based in nearby Corona. Other options include Altura Credit Union and Farmer Boys (both Riverside), Icee (Ontario), Monster Beverage (Corona), HelioPower (Murrieta), CO-OP Financial Services (Rancho Cucamonga), and Maisto (Fontana). (Me, personally? I love the idea of Fender Field, with a giant replica Stratocaster at the entrance.)
Thirdly, the team name, which obviously isn't as big of a factor as the previous two. The Los Angeles Angels would be a complete slap in the face at this point, as Riverside is an hour's drive away from LA, and the case can't even be STRETCHED to fit that name to this location (at least with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you could at least say that there's historical precedent, given that Anaheim used to be a part of Los Angeles County). The Riverside Angels? Not happening. The Anaheim Angels? Still not happening. The logical solution? Rechristening the team as the California Angels, its longest-tenured name with the most history attached to it.
I can see it now: the outfield concourse, with the signature rockpile tranferred over, lined with a miniaturized version of the orange grove paseos that Riverside is famous for. The structures of UCR providing a view beyond the left-center field wall, Interstate 215 and State Route 60 running concurrently beyond the right-field wall, gracing the foreground base of Box Springs Mountain Park. A much, MUCH closer view of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest far beyond the outfield and the freeway. A whole new Angels experience for the generation to come, localized in Southern California's most rapidly-growing metro--the House that Trout Built.
Now, of course, other factors are absolutely to be taken into consideration, both big and small. But let's be honest here: Arte Moreno is probably looking at as many options as he can. I'd be surprised if he hasn't looked at moving the team out of state, even, and I'd be a bit surprised as well if Riverside hasn't crossed his mind. Let's hope a bit further of a look is given to this possibility--because it just might be the best fit.