Judge refuses to grant order to block Angels name change

Friday, January 21st 2005, 6:52 pm
By: News On 6

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Call Southern California's American League team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

A judge refused Friday to grant a preliminary injunction to Anaheim in its attempt to keep the Angels from adding Los Angeles to their name.

``In summary, the court feels that the city of Anaheim has failed to show a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits (of its arguments at an upcoming trial),'' Superior Court Judge Peter Polos said.

Polos told lawyers for the city that the stadium lease requires only that Anaheim be in the team's name. Earlier this month, Polos denied the city a temporary restraining order after Anaheim sued the Angels, claiming the name change wasn't permitted in the team's lease.

``We're obviously disappointed that the judge wasn't able to grant the preliminary injunction,'' Anaheim spokesman John Nicoletti said. ``We still feel we have compelling evidence, and we look forward to a trial.''

Nicoletti said the next court hearing was scheduled March 8.

The team said the name change is meant to increase fan base, advertisers and broadcast contracts, by emphasizing its connection to the nation's second-largest media market.

The Angels' vice president of communication, Tim Mead, said outside of court that the team will keep Los Angeles in its name and it doesn't have control over whether people want to drop ``Anaheim'' from the official title.

``How other teams, how media entities refer to us, that's something that evolves over time,'' Mead said.

Anaheim, which has provided nearly $30 million in public subsidies to renovate the club's ballpark, said the change hurts its ability to market itself as a tourist destination _ a key issue for a city that depends on a hotel room tax as its largest source of income.

Branding has become an integral part of marketing a professional sports team, industry observers said. Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of the Anschutz Entertainment Group that runs Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, said Angels owner Arte Moreno is just trying to increase the team's fan base.

``By extending his name to Los Angeles, his belief is his revenue streams from new revenue, in particular media and sponsorship, will dramatically increase over being the Anaheim Angels and Arte Moreno is willing to spend millions of dollars to fight this battle in the city of Anaheim,'' Leiweke said Friday at a conference of marketing and advertising executives. ``Branding is everything in sports today.''

The city of Anaheim has been joined by the city of Los Angeles, which called it ``improper'' for the Angels to use the name of a municipality in which they do not play or pay taxes.

When founded in 1961, the team was the Los Angeles Angels. It became the California Angels with the move to Anaheim in 1966 and then the Anaheim Angels in 1997.