The Diamondbacks and Maricopa County have reached a preliminary agreement allowing the team to immediately begin searching for construction sites on a new stadium, reports Rebekah L. Sanders of the Arizona Republic. The agreement comes under the condition that the D-backs drop a preexisting $187MM lawsuit against the county that was brought forth in early 2017 after club ownership alleged that the County had neglected to abide by contractually agreed upon maintenance and repair obligations.
Per Sanders, the new agreement would allow the D-backs to leave Chase Field in 2022, five years before the end of the initial 30-year lease, if the proposed construction site is in Maricopa County. Leaving Arizona of their own accord would require the organization to pay $5-25MM worth of penalty fees, though the agreement allows the D-backs to leave the state free of penalty if relocation is mandated by Major League Baseball. County chairman Steve Chucri tells Sanders that the County would likely bring forth a new lawsuit against MLB in that scenario, though he also emphasizes that such a scenario is “incredibly unlikely.”
You’ll want to read Sanders’ report in full for comprehensive details of the new arrangement, though generally speaking the preliminary deal absolves the County from its obligations to pay for repairs and allows the municipality to retain ownership of the land in downtown Phoenix. In exchange, the D-backs can spend their own resources on maintenance and seek reimbursement for a portion of their investment while simultaneously exploring new construction sites. The team would also inherit the ability to book entertainment events at Chase Field, with revenue being allocated to repairs.
At the time the initial suit was brought forth, D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick called the situation “extremely unfortunate” and alleged that the County had “forced” the club to take legal action with its failure to meet contractual obligations. County official Clint Hickman wholly dismissed the notion and called the Diamondbacks’ allegations “outrageous,” citing millions of dollars of offseason investment in structural reinforcement and accusing D-backs ownership of “just [wanting] a new stadium now.”
Kendrick struck a different tone in a statement issued to the Republic, calling the agreement the “best opportunity” for the club “to remain in Arizona for the long term” — a goal he dubbed the team’s “primary focus.” Unsurprisingly, local government officials offered mixed reviews to Sanders, with some expressing trepidation over the manner in which the agreement was “fast-tracked” and others striking a more optimistic tone about keeping the D-backs in Maricopa County well beyond the end of their previous agreement, in 2027.
Whether the agreement leads to the selection of a site and, ultimately, the construction of a new facility for the D-backs remains to be seen, though securing the rights to a new facility would be the latest boon for an organization that is increasingly poised to bolster its payroll due to additional revenue streams. The Diamondbacks are in their third year of a reported $1.5 billion television contract and have upped their spending accordingly, heading into the 2018 season with a franchise-record $131MM payroll that shattered the previous high-water mark by more than $19MM. In fact, prior to the 2018 season, the Diamondbacks had only twice had an Opening Day payroll in excess of $100MM.
The potential advent of massive revenue boosts for the Diamondbacks will become ever important as the club determines how to proceed with face of the franchise Paul Goldschmidt, who’ll be eligible for free agency following the completion of the 2019 season.