With the announcement that the Arizona Diamondbacks are free to seek a ballpark solution after settling a lawsuit with Maricopa County, the team ownership now has some options for the future — which may include a Chase Field renovation or demolition.
The Diamondbacks had sued Maricopa County over the condition of Chase Field, which opened in 1998, arguing that the county had deferred maintenance to the facility in violation of the team’s lease. In response to the lawsuit, the county and the Diamondbacks entered court-mandated mediation and agreed to a settlement where the Diamondbacks can begin the search for a replacement immediately. There are some conditions, but essentially the team is taking over Chase Field maintenance in exchange for the freedom to seek a new home, either in the Valley or elsewhere.
And while there’s been lots of speculation on where the Diamondbacks end up (Glendale, Tempe, Chandler), we don’t think the Diamondbacks will wander too far away from downtown or the East Valley. If you’re been to Phoenix during rush hour, you know the freeways are absolutely jammed, and making your way across the Valley is an ordeal. A downtown ballpark is a compromise, to be sure. The current Chase Field location is a definitely a good one, however, and we’re guessing there has already been talk about what can be done to improve the fan experience there. (First thought: some sort of seating reconfiguration to being fans closer to the action. The back rows at Chase Field are notoriously a long distance from the playing field. And opening the concourses to more outdoor spaces would be an amenity.)
But let’s say the Diamondbacks ownership thinks the future is a new ballpark elsewhere in the Valley. There’s really only one perfect place for it, and that’s in the East Valley. There’s land available with easy freeway access, and the Diamondbacks are already partners with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the team’s spring-training home, and the assumption is that the tribe would be a winning partner on an MLB ballpark on some level. Maybe: Salt River Fields has revitalized a previously run-down shopping mall, and there’s always the potential for some sort of outdoor entertainment complex run in conjunction with an MLB ballpark and soccer stadium should Phoenix Rising land an MLS expansion team. This would be a very big plan, however, and someone would need to step forward to lead it. We’re not sure political leaders in Scottsdale are really ready to tackle this sort of planning and investment, and while the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community running entertainment venues, we’re probably talking $700 million for a new ballpark, depending on whether there’s a retractable roof.
And if the Diamondbacks do move? Well, there’s always the chance you could see Chase Field downsized or torn down for a new MLS soccer stadium. You could see it torn down: the underlying real estate is pretty valuable.
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