Diamondbacks chief executive Derrick Hall is lobbying for the city of Phoenix to take over for Maricopa County as Chase Field’s landlord, reports Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic. Hall says the switch would ensure the club’s long-term future in downtown Phoenix. That became a public issue last month when Hall threatened to “pursue other stadium options” because of the county’s failure to honor its alleged obligation to handle $187MM-plus in maintenance and repair costs through 2027.
Should the Diamondbacks swap landlords, it would enable them to potentially secure a Chase Field renovation or even a new ballpark “by taking advantage of the stadium’s municipal authority,” as Harris writes. The Maricopa County Stadium District doesn’t have the authority to raise taxes as a way to aid the Diamondbacks.
Phoenix nearly took the reins as the landlord four years ago, according to Hall, but he said the county put the kibosh on the idea because its officials didn’t want to lose the tickets, suites and free parking they enjoy. Maricopa County spokesman Fields Moseley confirmed that a deal for Phoenix to become the Diamondbacks’ landlord was on the table four years ago, but the county wasn’t interested in giving away a ballpark that cost $238MM in sales tax to build and has no mortgage. Moseley added that the potential loss of a stadium suite isn’t an issue to the county.
“We don’t even use the suite. It’s continually given to non-profits to use. Politicians and management don’t use the suite. We seek out non-profits to benefit,” he said.
In Hall’s plan, the Diamondbacks would pay for the projected $187MM in repairs and renovations at the ballpark over the next 12 years, which would take them to the end of their 30-year Chase Field lease. In return, the D-backs would pay less in rent than their current $4MM-plus per year, control the bookings of non-baseball events, and collect the revenue from those events. For its part, the County Stadium District wouldn’t have to assist in paying for Chase Field improvements. Phoenix, meanwhile, would oversee the property and receive rent from the team. Further, the city would be able to build a major sports facility downtown and expand CityScape, in which Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick is a significant investor. CityScape is a high-rise development that features residential, retail and hotel components.
As of now, there are no negotiations taking place for Phoenix to become the Diamondbacks’ landlord, Hall said, and city mayor Greg Stanton wasn’t available for comment Sunday, per Harris.
On the prospect of the Diamondbacks suing the county to break their lease, Hall stated, “If there is a lawsuit, it’s to find another partner to keep us here. It’s not about greed. It’s about staying here.”
The Diamondbacks have called Chase Field home since their inception in 1998. Only 15 ballparks are newer.