Exhibit A in evidence that the Arizona Diamondbacks owners are still trying to figure out exactly who they want to shake down for what in terms of stadiums:
“It’s been limited to this point just because we haven’t felt an urge or a need at this point. So, [I] see it maybe accelerating a bit in the near future, but we also have to focus on downtown, too, which we haven’t done enough of, to see if it’s a viable option to stay. There’s still a lot of work to do there. What it would look like if we were to retro or refurbish [Chase Field] and if there’s any sort of development opportunities around it. But I think the day of standalone stadiums is not nearly as popular a move or model as what we see now with mixed use and with multiple acres. We just have to see what’s out there – you know, land availability, proximity, partnership opportunities, what the abilities are downtown. There’s a lot for us to do.” —Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall last week
And Exhibit B:
“Once the agreement was reached — how the Diamondbacks decided what needed to be done … I just wouldn’t know the facts,” [MLB commissioner Rob] Manfred said during a spring training media event last week. “I have every confidence that Chase Field will be in condition to be a major league facility this year.”
The commissioner said he would leave it up to the Diamondbacks to comment on whether the team has begun talks for a new stadium site.
“It really is a local matter,” he said.
“It’s a local matter” is what commissioners say when nobody is asking them to use their muscle to extract stadium concessions — or when the league as a whole is cutting loose an unfavored owner to drift in the wind, but given that Manfred already used his bully pulpit on this subject two years ago when he said the team’s current stadium wouldn’t remain “major league-quality” without significant upgrades, that’s clearly not the case here.
What seems to be going on is that now that Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick has successfully used the threat of a lawsuit over stadium maintenance to get out of his lease five years early, he’s now taking his time figuring out what his next move should be. The key phrase in Hall’s statement then becomes “We just have to see what’s out there” — there are a bunch of municipalities in the Phoenix area that team execs could try to play off against each other, as well as deciding whether to try to leverage the lease expiration to get a whole new stadium or maybe a renovated one with new development rights or whatever. Being a kid in a candy store is fun, but if you can only choose one multi-hundred-million-dollar jumbo box, you’re going to want to think carefully about your decision.
Reminder: All this is about replacing or upgrading a stadium that just turned 20 years old last year. Please, everybody, stop asking me if the stadium shakedown business is fated to slow down soon now that “everyone already has a new stadium.” Rod Fort’s old observation remains astute: There’s no reason for a sports team owner not to want a new stadium every year, so long as he’s not the one paying for it.