Arizona official calls baseball “parasitic,” tells D-Backs owner “go to West Virginia”

To recap briefly the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ stadium squabble: In March, team execs sent a letter to Maricopa County, saying if they didn’t get $187 million (or maybe more) to upgrade (or maybe replace) their 18-year-old stadium, they’d sue to break their lease and move. In April, county officials wrote back that most of the $187 million in proposed upgrades in a 2013 county study was for things that the lease explicitly says the team should be paying for, so seriously, guys?

That should be enough epistolary bad blood for anyone, but the Arizona Republic just turned up another letter, this one from County Supervisor Andy Kunasek to Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall in April that included some remarkably pungent language for an official missive from a public landlord to its whiny tenant:

Your slanderous public comments and attempts to rewrite history demand a response. The false narrative you are trying to sell impugns the character and competence of many dedicated people who have worked diligently to protect the interested taxpayers who paid for and own the stadium…

My instinctive concern for the taxpayer is amplified by my belief that this facility should never have been built using taxpayer funds, and to turn the music up louder, THEY WERE NEVER GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THAT DECISION AT THE BALLOT BOX. I have no intention of compounding that wrong by supporting your obscene demand that we provide another massive infusion of taxpayer money to the private business that currently employs you…

As for your business, profession baseball is evolving into a parasitic enterprise which is well on its way to destroying its host. … I suggest that you focus on your job, which should be the development of a success product (a winning team), which will improve the fan experience and in turn, will increase ticket sales and reignite a desire for people to attend and watch professional baseball in Arizona. Or, if you want, run for a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Maybe you can become the personal valet your owners want on the Board. Please quit trying to do both jobs.

Boom! And if that weren’t enough, the Republic reports that Kunasek hand-delivered the letter, and added a few more choice words at the time:

As Kunasek delivered the letter to the team, he directed a profanity-laced storm at Hall, calling on owner Ken Kendrick to “take your stupid baseball team and get out” and go back to “f–king West Virginia,” according to team notes that Kunasek does not dispute.

Kunasek, a fiscal-responsibility Republican who’s been in office since 1997, has already said he’s not running for re-election this year, so this was an opportune time for some venting. As for what it’ll mean for the Diamondbacks’ future, Hall wrote back with a long letter about what the Diamondbacks allegedly do for the local economy, and concluding:

Your candor with respect to this issue will cause us to move forward in a different direction from what we had anticipated and hoped, and where we had tried to find resolution in the past to no avail.

So that’s a threat, albeit probably an idle one unless Hall and Kendrick really think they can win a court case to break their lease, which seems questionable at best. More likely they’ll wait to see who’s on the county board after November, and see if they’re more willing to play ball. Kunasek certainly set the battle lines for any future stadium talks, though, which isn’t bad for a parting shot after 19 years on the job.

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14 comments on “Arizona official calls baseball “parasitic,” tells D-Backs owner “go to West Virginia”

  1. So the lease runs until 2028, good luck.

    Anywhere you go in the Phoenix metro (and you’re not abandoning the Phoenix metro for….where? Montreal? Portland? Really?), you’re in Maricopa County, pop. 4M+.

    I doubt Phoenix is going to build you a ballpark. Glendale definitely can’t. Scottsdale? Maybe you’ll upgrade Salt River Fields with 20,000 more seats and a roof somehow?

    The Dbacks do a lot in the community, it’s one of their big things, and kudos to them for that. And I have always liked Derrick Hall. But this makes no sense. He has no leverage.

  2. Owners like to pretend that there are always other parties willing to pony up a half-billion or more to fund their business; sometimes they’re right but mostly it’s just a ploy to induce panic in vulnerable and ignorant pols. There are usually plenty of those to be found, and Phoenix/Maricopa/Arizona is no exception. I fear Kunasek will be replaced by someone more pliable. Soon we’ll be talking about how to placate those miffed Diamondbacks owners who could, as we know, just up and move away at any time if they’re feeling slighted.

    1. “it’s just a ploy to induce panic in vulnerable and ignorant pols…”

      Which is kinda amusing, because we so rarely hear about elected officials being voted out for not doling out subsidies to team owners, or even for losing a team altogether. But as they say about squeaky wheels…

  3. D-backs need to relocate to Frisco, TX, where our response to any and every request from our various sports owner “partners” is to whip out the book of big ceremonial checks and call a press conference.

  4. That letter underscores what should be a strong point of publicly-owned stadiums: namely, that owning the park gives the public’s representatives the final say.

    In all other spheres of life, the owner of a building dictates the rules to the building’s tenants. There is no reason that it can’t be the same way in sports, if the municipalities or counties that own the stadiums would only assert the clout that they have.

    1. Except a good portion of local leaders roll over and hand the sports owner a blank check most of the time.

      1. That’s true. But this letter demonstrates that these local leaders actually have the power in the relationship, if they only choose to assert it.

    2. It should also be set up where if a municipality builds almost an entire stadium for a team, the team has to maintain and upgrade it for the life of the lease.

      should go like this:
      “We just built a $400 million stadium for you and you signed a thirty year lease. Don’t ask us for a dime for 29 years.”

  5. Let’s hope Mr. Kunasek is not running for another term as County Supervisor because he plans to run for Governor… or maybe President….

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