The Arizona Diamondbacks had plenty going for them this off-season after poaching Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke and re-branding the team’s uniforms (not so popular depending on who you ask).The D-Backs were finally in some headlines again, and it looked like the team was about to recharge a fan base that hasn’t had much to root for the last couple years.
Then, this happened:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 24, 2016
Yes, you read that correctly. The Diamondbacks are threatening to leave a stadium that hasn’t even cracked twenty years old yet, claiming that $187 million in repairs need to be done in order for the D-Backs to stay put through their lease, and Maricopa County should be on the hook for it.
D-Backs CEO Derrick Hall held a press conference on Thursday, March 24th, explaining a fifteen-page letter that he sent to the county (view here via The Arizona Republic), demanding the D-Backs be released from their lease so they may explore other options for a home.
As Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic writes, the stadium requires several repairs that the county has not taken care of including “painting the facility, fixing lights, maintaining landscaping, improving luxury suites, replacing heating and cooling systems, and updating scoreboards and display boards.” As a result, the Diamondbacks claim that repairs and renovations have snowballed into $187 million.
“We want to make sure we have a facility that is state-of-the-art”, Derrick Hall was quoted as saying.
It’s one thing for the Diamondbacks to say the county is on the hook for maintenance, and that much of it could have been avoided if the county had fulfilled their obligations in the first place. It’s a whole different thing to say the stadium isn’t “state-of-the-art”.
I assume Derrick Hall has never visited O.co Coliseum, where the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders share the least desirable structure in all of professional sports. As a matter of fact, historic Wrigley Field didn’t even have a replay board until recently.
If you’ve been to Chase Field lately, you’ll see that the grass is just as green as always, the scoreboards look pretty nifty, and that fans of the Diamondbacks and the fans of popular visiting teams (Dodgers and Giants fans own the place when they are in town) have a pretty decent time there. It certainly didn’t seem like Zack Greinke was turned off by the state of the ballpark when he inked his long term deal with the D-Backs.
In his letter to the county, Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall referenced the Atlanta Braves, who will be leaving Turner Field, which reopened as baseball facility a year before Chase Field opened in 1998. He argued that the Braves doing so is smart, as it’s not wise “to throw good money after an aging and outdated facility.”
While it makes sense to reference the Braves leaving a stadium just as new as Chase Field, all the Braves are doing is shifting cost from one government to the other. Instead of working with Atlanta-Fulton County to renovate the now nineteen-year-old Turner Field, the Braves are now working with Cobb County to partially fund the construction of a new stadium. Any way it’s cut, government money is being spent, and while Cobb County hopes they’ll cash in on their investment, they are still footing 45% of the bill. Additionally, the Braves can at least say their stadium was never meant for baseball, as it was a renovated hand-me-down from the 1996 Olympics. Chase Field was built specifically for baseball.
In defense of the process, the Diamondbacks are just part of the age old trend of sports teams demanding that their government foot the bill of stadium construction and renovations. The Diamondbacks’ own local neighbors, the Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Suns, have been fighting with for government funding for years when comes to stadium funding.
It makes it that much more refreshing when you see a 100% privately funded stadium like AT&T Park in San Francisco, or Las Vegas Nevada’s T-Mobile Arena, which hopes to be hosting an expansion NHL team soon.
Local tax paying D-Backs fans should stand their ground and let their government officials know they’re not footing the bill. Outside of a great 2001 World Series championship, the team hasn’t given fans much to root for. If that means letting the team off the hook a bit for their lease, then so be it. The D-Backs stadium demands for repairs are just too unreasonable. The county shouldn’t give in to a baseball team that hasn’t done much of anything memorable since 2001, yet claims its stadium is the reason why it can’t compete with other teams.