BY: ED COLE
– It’s amazing to think that once the Atlanta Braves’ stadium – Turner Field – closes its doors after the 2016 season, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field – will be the fourth oldest stadium in the National League.
It’s a magnificent structure, but like any 18-year-old building, it has to be kept up and maintained, which it has, but in order for it to stay up to code and current, an estimated $187 million will have to be sunk into it for improvements, which the Maricopa County Stadium District told the team they’re not in a position to fund right now.
In response to that news, the team asked the County for permission to talk to other potential partners, and seek other alternatives for staying in downtown Phoenix, and they were denied, much to the chagrin of Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall.
“This argument’s been taking place for almost four years, because they (Maricopa County Stadium District) can’t fulfill their $187 million obligation,” Hall said. “This is their obligation that we’re trying to find solutions to help them with. Of course, we’re trying to field the best team, which again, goes back to the question of our stadium deal as a team. We want to be as competitive as any (team) in the National League. We look to teams, for example, in our division which is in our letter to show the disparagement (between the stadiums in the NL West).”
“We’re going to always fulfill our end of the obligation,” Hall said. “We’re going to provide the best team possible on the field, like the moves we made in this offseason that we’re excited about. We’re going to have the stadium look as good as we can, at least on the exterior, as good as it did from Opening Day back in 1998. Those things will never change. What is changing now, is the County has said there is $187 million that we have seen through an engineering analysis that we don’t have. And then they said, ‘What are you guys going to do about it?’ That’s all. We’re trying to find a solution.”
Hall said the Diamondbacks had a solution a few years ago to “relieve them (the County) of their obligation,” which was to take over the responsibility of repairing and maintaining Chase Field, in exchange for a better deal for themselves. It’s turned into a situation of “who’s taking care of the upkeep of the stadium?” The County says in the original contract for the stadium, it said that the Diamondbacks were responsible for any and all repairs to Chase Field, but Hall maintains that it’s on the County to take care of the building.
“When they come to us, again with the $187 million figure, and say, ‘We can’t fulfill that. We don’t know what to do,’ and so for 3 1/2, 4 years, we’ve been trying to find that solution for them, and bring them a solution,” Hall said. “It’s sad that we came up with a pretty good solution of just let(ting) us go out and look right now. At the end of the day, we may end up back here at Chase (Field), which is where we prefer to be, but we need to see what’s out there, before it’s too late. To be responsible, we owe that to our fans, we owe that to our employees, we owe that to our owners, and that’s why we asked for (permission), just so we could go see what’s out there.”
The biggest fear Hall has right now is where exactly is the money going to come from? If the County can’t come up with the money, and the Diamondbacks aren’t going to kick in any money, because they feel it’s on the County to do it, one of the other alternatives is making the taxpayers pay for it, which Hall's trying to avoid.
“By denying us the right to go look, and just see what those options are, my fear is, you're pointing right back to the taxpayers, which is not what we want to do,” Hall said.
When it’s all said and done, all Hall and the Diamondbacks want to do is provide the County, and it’s taxpayers “a favor,” and “relief,” by looking for alternatives if things can’t be hammered out with the $187 million.
“We just want to make sure we have a facility here that’s state of the art,” Hall said. “If there is nearly $200 million that is necessary just to keep this place open, and safe, that’s fine. We’re going to make that happen, but on top of that, you’re going to need money to make sure we’re state of the art. Our deal is our deal when it comes to a stadium deal, and I think we’ve made it clear that it’s one of the worst. We have made that clear, and if we’re going to relieve them, and help them in other areas, as part of our solutions in private, we would love to renegotiate that.”