Chase Field opened in 1998, the year of the Diamondbacks’ inception, and has long drawn praise from the baseball community. But if the D-backs have it their way, it may not be their home for much longer, as Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic reports.
In a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, President and CEO Derrick Hall argued that there is no reasonable recourse for the club but to “pursue other stadium options.” The problem, from the club’s perspective, is that the Maricopa County Stadium District — the board-controlled entity that owns the park — has failed to honor its alleged obligation to account for upwards of $187MM in maintenance and repair costs through 2027.
Hall puts it in even more dramatic terms in a statement released by the club today. “This spiral is insurmountable,” he said, apparently referring to the lack of funding for capital improvements, “and will result in a Chase Field that will no longer be a state-of-the-art facility as our agreement requires and may, in fact, become unsuitable for continued use. We cannot risk being put in that position.”
Even if that funding was available, however, the D-Backs say it wouldn’t make sense to use it towards the current, 18-year-old ballpark. Therefore, the team concludes in its letter, a new facility is necessary. While the organization says it strongly prefers to build in Phoenix, it also warns that it willing to “go elsewhere” to find an arrangement to its liking.
Of course, the contract at issue does not permit the team to pursue alternative stadium sites until 2024. While contending that the stadium district has ceded that right by breaching the contract, the club also requests authorization to explore alternatives — a request that has already been denied — under threat of pursuing court action.
Clearly, these maneuvers have set up a political and legal battle over the future home of the franchise. As Harris notes, the city’s hockey and basketball teams are also angling for new public commitments relating to their facilities, so there’s a broader picture at play here.
The Diamondbacks recently locked up a big new TV contract, ultimately dedicating over $200MM of that expected revenue flow to Zack Greinke. But new taxpayer-funded stadiums have long been another popular — yet highly controversial — means of boosting teams’ bottom lines yet further. The Braves’ shocking move out of downtown Atlanta provides a recent model, as Turner Field opened two years before Chase; the D-Backs’ letter calls that decision “economically efficient and responsible.”
Connor Byrne co-authored this post.