The sparring between Maricopa County and the Arizona Diamondbacks over deferred maintenance at Chase Field reaches another level, as county officials told D-Backs management the team is responsible for most of the necessary work.
As you’ll recall, the Arizona Diamondbacks dropped a bombshell on Maricopa County last month, threatening to break the team’s Chase Field lease if the county didn’t address $187 million in ballpark maintenance and deficiencies. Like most MLB teams, the Diamondbacks have a clause in their lease that commits the Maricopa County Stadium District to maintain a “state of the art” facility. And since Chase Field opened in 1998, there have been plenty of other facilities that have raised the state of the art to a new level, and next season’s opening of SunTrust Park will raise that bar even higher. (Chase Field is the 15th-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, and will move up a spot in 2017.) Now, it’s very debatable whether the Diamondbacks ownership really want to leave, but the threat certainly caught the attention of county leaders, Phoenix residents and many baseball fans.
The response from Maricopa County in a letter to the Diamondbacks: there’s only $35 million in required concrete and structural steel repairs, and the county is responsible for that. Otherwise, the team is responsible for $55 million in annual maintenance and another $50 million in upgrades. The county’s response: binding arbitration.
There are much bigger issues here: it’s pretty clear the team would love to see an expanded role in ballpark management (including events on off-days), and that could be done if the city of Phoenix took control of Chase Field. (That’s a whole other issue: city coffers are not exactly bursting with cash.) It could also be done as some sort of settlement with the county.
Both sides are positioning for some sort of legal battle; with the Diamondbacks bringing a prominent local law firm (Beus Gilbert) onboard, there’s no way this doesn’t make it way to a courtroom in the future.
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