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Angels going to bat against stadium rats

August 08, 2007|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Reacting to news reports that Angel Stadium had been cited 118 times for vermin violations since 2005, the baseball team announced Tuesday that cleaning crews would go to work an hour after each game instead of waiting until the morning.

Officials with the city of Anaheim, which owns the stadium, reacted with anger and embarrassment Monday to news that there had been 33 major citations, in which evidence of rodents or other pests was detected in an area where food was stored, prepared or served. All but two of those violations occurred before the 2007 season.

Angel spokesman Tim Mead said the team also had heard from unhappy fans and sponsors. The new policy, which will be implemented after Tuesday's game against Boston, will put cleaning crews in the stands eight to 10 hours earlier after night games than before. Cleanup for day games has taken place the same day.

"The garbage had been sitting in the seating bowl area after games, and that problem is going to be eliminated as of tonight," Mead said. "This had been discussed earlier in the year, but it needed a resolution now."

The policy change was made at a staff meeting Tuesday morning and was endorsed by team owner Arte Moreno.

Following a closed council session Tuesday, Greg Smith, the city's executive director of convention, sports and entertainment, sent the Angels a tersely worded letter. It called the extent of the violations "quite alarming and of deep concern" and that "it is clear" that the required level of maintenance "is not currently occurring."

City Atty. Jack White said the discussion took place away from the public because he viewed the issue as "a possible lease violation with potential legal remedies."

The team's agreement with the city contains a clause requiring the stadium be kept to a "general quality standard."

Of the 60 restaurants and food stands in the ballpark, 30 had major violations that were discovered in the course of some 400 inspections. The violations were first reported by the Orange County Register.

"I'm pleased to see the Angels are taking responsibility and doing something about the problem, but why did they wait this long to react?" Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring asked Tuesday. "Almost everything I read about happened two years ago."

"Our goal was to show the team we take the problem seriously," White said. "But we don't anticipate any further action. We don't want to blow this thing out of proportion."

Councilman Harry Sidhu said he was pleased with the team's response.

"Angel Stadium is a showplace for our city," he said. "I'm glad the Angels took a prompt action in solving what could be a health and safety issue for our visitors."

Mead said a cleaning crew of about 70 would begin reporting to work three hours after the start of each game and begin picking up half-eaten food, wrappers and recyclables an hour after the game ends.

The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers clean immediately after each game. Their citations were far fewer, according to the Register.

The Angels blamed the presence of vermin on the stadium's open-air design and proximity to the Santa Ana River. They said that in 2005 heavy rains drove rats into the stadium and contributed to a high number of citations. In addition to the implementing of new hours for its cleaning crew, Mead said, the club would probably do more of its own inspections after games and would discuss other remedies with the team's pest control company.

"The situation was bad two years ago; it's gotten better," Mead said. "And now we'll strive to eliminate all health violations."

david.mckibben@latimes.com

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