Diamondbacks owners to taxpayers: Give us blank check to upgrade 18-year-old stadium, or we’ll sue to move

Hold onto your hats: The owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks have issued an ultimatum to their Maricopa County landlords, saying unless taxpayers agree to upgrade or replace 18-year-old Chase Field, they could move the team out of town.

We are not prepared, nor are we willing (or obligated), to expend $187 million, or any monies, to solve the deficiencies the District acknowledges exist.

So there is not misunderstanding, we would very much like to remain in downtown Phoenix. However, if the District makes that impossible, the principals of the Diamondbacks will look elsewhere.

Now, there’s one small problem with the D-backs threatening to bolt Phoenix: They have a lease that requires them to stay put through 2028, and prohibits them from even talking to other cities until 2024, a la the old Tampa Bay Rays lease. To get around that, the team owners repeatedly cite the need to maintain a “state-of-the-art facility,” something they say the county is failing to do by not spending that $187 million for upgrades to such things as lighting, improved luxury suites and scoreboards, and enhanced video surveillance. The problem with that is that the county doesn’t appear to have actually put a state-of-the-art clause into the Diamondbacks’ lease — something team officials try to get around by listing all eleven times that the county mentioned a “state-of-the-art facility” in its annual financial reports:

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 7.21.18 AMWe’d already heard hints that the Arizona Diamondbacks execs might be seeking upgrades last month, when team CEO Derrick Hall declared Chase Field to be “too big” for the ideal modern baseball stadium. (Translation: Fans won’t run out and buy high-priced tickets ahead of time because they know there will always be plenty available.) The new letter significantly ups the ante, though, declaring that even $187 million in needed upgrades wouldn’t be enough:

Even if the District had been able to identify adequate financial resources to fund the $187 million anticipated maintenance and repair costs, it would make no economic sense to make that investment in what would then be a 30-year-old facility. This should not rule out the possibility of retrofitting Chase Field if it is determined to be the best option. However, the $187 million would cover only basic maintenance and repair costs. It would do very little to upgrade the stadium to a “state-of-the-art facility” — it would mere enable an aging building to remain open.

The letter also includes much whining that team owners spent all this money on this stadium that their team plays in and they get all the revenues from, and this is the thanks they get? Oh, and that “if permission is not granted [for the team to move if it decides upgrading Chase Field isn’t feasibly], we will ask the Court for all appropriate relief.”

In short, then, this is a shot across the county’s bow: We know we have a lease, but we think you should pay untold hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade it or maybe replace it, or else we’ll move, and if you won’t let us move, we’ll sue you. It’s the mother of all nastygrams, and like all such missives, it’s meant less to spell out legal niceties than to intimidate the recipient into talking about ways to make the issue go away. If the public discourse around the Diamondbacks’ stadium demands shifts in coming weeks from “Wait, didn’t we just build them one?” to “How much does the public have to spend to keep the team owners happy?” then you’ll know it has done its job.


23 comments on “Diamondbacks owners to taxpayers: Give us blank check to upgrade 18-year-old stadium, or we’ll sue to move

  1. If you google “State of the art” and look at the wikipedia description, you will see that the term “state of the art” is considered an overused term and a “lie”. It also ties the term to legal proceedings.

  2. Two things will probably happen: the taxpayers will be outraged at this absurd extortion attempt, and public officials will give up any leverage they may have and will rush to placate the team. This is Arizona, where everyone gets a free stadium – or two – just by demanding it. The Coyotes are looking for their second free arena in a dozen years, and the baseball team wants another one after 18 years. Why not? As the mayor of Phoenix has said, all of these welfare moochers are “great assets” to the community.

  3. If taxpayers actually DID get outraged at extortion attempts and actually DID hold elected officials accountable, we would have far fewer of these situations to talk about.

    But Americans let stuff like this walk right on by without even a sideways glance most of the time. Because, sports. Because “major league city” and other such nonsense.

    Chase Field is a mallpark, a series of team stores with a big green patch in the middle of it and a pool. But to think about replacing it after 18 years (or even 30) is ludicrous. Unless Kendrick and company want to pay for it, in which case, fine.

    If I’m the Maricopa County Stadium Authority (or whatever it’s called), I say, “Well, good luck with that, Derrick. See you in court.”

  4. If Kendrick had not done the $207 million contract with Zack Greinke, maybe he would not already be appearing to be so desperate and greedy.

  5. This is interesting insomuch no one really care all that much about the Diamondbacks. Even when they were good, opposing teams’ fans would regularly out-draw Diamondback fans. Not to mention, even though Chase Field is an indoor facility, who in their right minds would want to watch a sporting event when it is 110+ outside. You still need to walk outside to the car, drive said car to the venue, park, walk inside the venue, find your seat, and get your pillow nice and ready for the inevitable nap. Phoenix started as a Suns town until Sarver ran the franchise completely into the ground. Now it is a Cardinals town, which is somewhat ironic considering when old-man Bidwell was running the team he literally ran the franchise into the ground. Speaking of which…

    I have to give credit to Michael Bidwell. He championed for a new stadium and made promises once the venue was built. For the most part, he has held up his end of the bargain, as the Cardinals have become one of the best run organizations in professional football. He has also significantly upgraded facilities and reinvested into the team. Granted, there are still some under-handed things he has done in regards to the stadium (controlling signage and revenue, parking, etc); but for the most part, he’s the one who’s been above-board.

  6. Being a regular at least 10 Dback games a year, I’ve noticed no degradation of BOB since the park opened. The food has gotten worse, the knick-knacks more expensive and in smaller quantities (really? I get there before the gate opens and opening day pins are already sold out?!). $187M is a lot of coin for something that is not broke. I am positive our Mormon legislators will approve this though so the Mormon contractors can contribute a healthy tithe to the colonial masters in Salt Lake City.

  7. Arizona voters have show that they can get outraged about these sort of things.

    After the Maricopa county board took and end-around past the Phoenix taxpayers and approved the sales tax increase to build the Diamondbacks a stadium, two of the three county officials who voted for it were voted out of office and the third, Mary Rose Wilcox, was shot.

    Larry Naman is a free man again, so I would encourage the Maricopa officials to tread lightly.

  8. Call their bluff. The D-back have no leverage. The next largest metro areas without teams, have half the population of Phoenix. And Phoenix is growing rapidly. By 2028 they could probably replace the D-bags with two teams.

  9. Maybe the county can pay for a new stadium by cutting even more polling places. Surely they don’t really need more than 10 for everybody, right?

  10. Their stadium is kind of like the overrated hometown Coors Field. Out of date the day it opened. Go Rockies! My prediction…70-92.

  11. Agree with Jay here… there really doesn’t appear to be tremendous support for the franchise locally. I’m sure when they won (past tense) they are more popular, but who isn’t?

    It’s a good thing for team owners that I am not in charge of anything… because this is a situation that absolutely demands that elected officials not only ignore the team’s ‘request’, but refuse to discuss any upgrades or repairs that aren’t ironclad requirements of the lease until August of 2027 at the earliest.

    It’s not the taxpayer’s problem that you might still be paying Johnson and Schilling (not really, but it’s not all that long ago that you were) or that you might end up paying Greinke for longer than either of those guys.

    When did “I suck at managing my own business” become a reason for public subsidy?

  12. If I were Phoenix city officials, I’d tell the D-backs’ ownership, very politely, to go to hell. Go ahead D-backs, sue. You will be laughed out of the courtroom. And where are you going to move to? Montreal? Portland? Please, just hush.

  13. ‘When did “I suck at managing my own business” become a reason for public subsidy?’

    Well, that’s not really the case with MLB and NFL franchises. Everybody’s making a ton of money. They ask for subsidies because communities are silly enough to give them. Some would probably accuse them of “sucking at business” if they –didn’t– attempt to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

    And I seriously doubt the Diamondbacks intend to use cities outside The Valley as leverage – they’re probably hoping to find another Glendale willing to throw a $billion at them. (Hey, how much $ to upgrade “Gila River Arena” for baseball?!?!)

  14. The fact that they manage their businesses poorly and are still profitable is not a contradiction. Many businesses operate profitably despite poor leadership (sometimes appallingly so). You need look no further than NFL and MLB teams to see that is true.

    As for “taking advantage” of opportunities presented, Keith, how low would you go with that?

    MLB and NFL owners are, for example, “not taking advantage of opportunities” by not engaging in human trafficking, opioid drug marketing or prostitution (at least, I’m not aware of any that take advantage of these particular “opportunities”).

    Why is it that some “opportunities” are just business and others not?

    As there appears to be no language in the contractual agreements that requires the city/state to perform or pay for the requested upgrades, I’m not sure how this is an “opportunity”?

    Why not ask for a space shuttle? Or $100 Billion (in best Dr. Evil voice, naturally)

  15. The fact that some MLB/NFL teams are poorly managed is irrelevant. Even the mismanaged can afford to build their own facilities. That’s reason enough for no public subsidies.

    “Why is it that some “opportunities” are just business and others not?”

    For the examples you give – maybe legality?

    They ask for them because it’s not illegal to do so and because communities give them. (I’m just guessing here, but I assume they don’t ask for space shuttles because they know it ain’t gonna happen.)

  16. I started a petition to stop this BS…please sign and share!!!

    https://www.change.org/p/tell-the-diamondbacks-not-to-leave-chase-field?recruiter=163736639&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=des-lg-share_petition-no_msg&fb_ref=Default

  17. https://www.change.org/p/tell-the-diamondbacks-not-to-leave-chase-field?recruiter=163736639&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

  18. Extortion is not legal, Keith, even if the target readily agrees for fear of losing his or her team/child/grandmother/house/school/library.

    It’s certainly true that host cities do buckle under to these threats and agree to subsidize highly profitable businesses with public funds. However, kidnapping someone’s wife or child usually results in ransom being paid also – yet the courts don’t usually consider this “consent” (see: duress)

    Prostitution, on the other hand, is legal in some states… so franchise owners are clearly leaving money on the table (pun not intended) there.

    The Washington NFL franchise can use a nick name that many (most?) people find offensive, yet no-one can stand up at one of their games and yell a slightly different racial epithet in the stands for fear of prosecution.

    Inconsistencies abound, don’t they?

  19. You could try to claim extortion but you’d probably have to convince a court that losing the team would cause significant damage to the community. And we know how flimsy that argument is. A whole lotta irony there.

    In any case, I agree that demanding a subsidy for a highly profitable business isn’t exactly noble. But the problem isn’t in the asking – it’s in the giving.

  20. That’s rich coming from the owners of the Diamondbacks, being Koch Brothers supporters, and looking for government subsidies.

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