Drama is playing out in Phoenix, where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County are butting heads over maintenance at Chase Field.
This spring, the D-Backs publicly voiced their frustrations with Maricopa County, stating that deferred capital improvements were due at the ballpark. Citing a clause in their lease that states that Chase Field must be maintained as a “state of the art” ballpark, the D-Backs publicly chided the county for falling behind, and that necessary repairs at Chase Field would now cost $187 million over a 12-year period. The team also warned that they may look for a home elsewhere if the issue was not resolved.
The county was fairly blunt in turning down the request, and little has played out publicly since. However, the Chase Field issue is back in the news, with reports that Maricopa County supervisor Andy Kunasek had some very harsh words for the D-Backs, team president Derrick Hall, and owner Ken Kendrick. More from the AZ Central:
County Supervisor Andy Kunasek sent a letter to Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall as the dispute reached a climax in April, describing the baseball business as “evolving into a parasitic enterprise.” He accused Hall of selling a “false narrative,” slandering county board members and doing “irreparable harm” to taxpayer confidence in government.
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.
Hall wrote back to Kunasek detailing his “verbal assault” and reminding him of the economic impact the team provides.
“For now, I will assume that based upon your comments, there is no interest on behalf of either the City of Phoenix or Maricopa County in furthering the past partnership (with) the Diamondbacks,” Hall wrote. “Your candor with respect to this issue will cause us to move forward in a different direction.”
On Friday, Kunasek, who has said he will not run for re-election this year, told The Arizona Republic he probably “shouldn’t have said a couple of words” but said they weren’t worse than locker room talk.
“I’m very passionate about the issues here. As a steward of the taxpayer, I’m deeply offended and continue to be,” he added. “I apologize for any bad language I probably shouldn’t have used, but I’m not going to deny it. I won’t do it again.”
Aside from this sparring, there is a fundamental disagreement over whether the D-Backs or county should be on the hook for some of these costs. The D-Backs recently requested a $650,000 reimbursement for repairs they have already made around Chase Field, and asked for a five-year, $64 million capital improvement plan that would cover amenities such as new scoreboards and renovated lounges. County officials contend that while they should, and will, cover structural repairs around the ballpark, most of the D-Backs requests are cosmetic in nature, and should therefore be covered by the team.
Some of the sentiment locally–and this was recently reflected in a separate opinion piece on AZ Central–is that the county should not have to make a commitment to a facility that it already paid for with $238 million in public money and that the D-Backs requests are simply too high. The team, meanwhile, feels that the failure to maintain Chase Field is a violation of their agreement, and they have already discussed a legal battle. The D-Backs’ lease at Chase Field runs through the 2027 season, but the team can begin negotiating for a new facility in 2024. Unless the two sides can repair their rapport, this issue figures to be in the public eye for some time.
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