Arizona Diamondbacks sue Maricopa County, could leave Chase Field
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks filed a lawsuit Tuesday that could see them leave Chase Field, the team’s downtown Phoenix home.
“It is extremely unfortunate that we have been forced to take action today following several years of attempts to resolve this matter out of court,” D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said in a statement.
The suit does not seek any damages, but would allow the team to explore its options and possibly consider a move.
“It should be made clear that the D-backs seek no damages in this suit nor are they seeking any taxpayer funding,” D-backs attorney Leo R. Beus said in a statement. “They are asking the court for the ability to remove the contract restriction that prevents the Diamondbacks from exploring other stadium options.”
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman responded in a statement Tuesday, calling it “disappointing” that the Diamondbacks are “suing their fans who helped build Chase Field.”
“The team simply wants out of the contract that makes them stay and play through the 2028 season. Saying the facility is in disrepair is outrageous,” the statement read. “It seems the team just wants a new stadium now.”
Hickman claimed the county is “committed” to keeping the team at Chase Field throughout their contract for the “taxpayers who made the investment that brought” the team to Phoenix.
During a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, incoming Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney called the team an asset and said keeping them in downtown is the best thing for the community.
“The Diamondbacks are a great asset to the downtown community, to the county and to the state,” he said. “We need to find a way to keep them playing in Chase Field through the end of the original term.”
The Diamondbacks and Maricopa County have been at odds for nearly a year over the condition of the team’s home.
In March, it was reported that the D-backs were considering ending their lease at Chase Field so they could find a newer, more updated ballpark. The team has called the facility home since its debut season in 1998 and its lease runs until 2028.
According to the team, the Stadium District — which oversees the ballpark and is run by the county — had not met its obligations to fund improvements, and will not be able to pay for $185 million worth of repairs the team said needed to be done.
Kendrick said, despite the team stating Chase Field needs repairs, there is no danger to fans and the lawsuit will not affect how the team is run.
“Our fans can rest assured that today’s filing will have absolutely no impact on the day-to-day operations of the D-backs and the upcoming season and that for 2017,” he said. “Chase Field is completely safe.”
The county fired back at the assertion that it has not lived up to its side of the lease agreement.
Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said in March that there has been zero desire to leave downtown Phoenix or Chase Field, that over the last four years their discussions have been about them absolving Maricopa County of financial responsibility in exchange for control of the building and managing the building.
“Not owning it — they would still own it, but for us to control the way the Suns do their arena downtown, and it shows that we want to stay,” he said. “And by the way, we even negotiated down to a term sheet that said we were going to play every game throughout our lease at Chase Field.
“It’s sad that we’re at this point.”
An investment company approached Maricopa Count in August about purchasing Chase Field. However, that deal fell through after the potential buyers claimed the team would not discuss the idea of a sale.
The team refuted that claim in a letter and reiterated its stance in Tuesday’s release.
“The Diamondbacks owners and management have been willing to meet with the group of potential buyers the Maricopa County Stadium District recently presented, yet that group was unwilling to provide even the most basic information about who they were and how they planned to provide a viable long-term home for D-backs fans — something the Maricopa County Stadium District has admitted it cannot do,” the release said.