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Chase Field dispute between D-backs, county heading to arbitration

Aug 17, 2017, 11:53 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Carter Nacke)...
(KTAR News Photo/Carter Nacke)
(KTAR News Photo/Carter Nacke)

PHOENIX — A dispute between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County over Chase Field in downtown Phoenix will head to arbitration, a judge ruled Thursday.

The team filed a lawsuit in January over what it claimed were millions of dollars’ worth of repairs that needed to be made at the facility. The team argued the county, as the landlord, was responsible for the fixes while the county said the responsibility fell to the team.

The D-backs did not seek damages in the suit but wanted the right to explore a possible move from the stadium.

Judge Karen Mullins ruled Thursday that the team was required to play all of its games at the ballpark through 2027, when the team’s lease expires.

“The team is obligated under the [Facility Use Agreement] to play all games at the ballpark,” she wrote. “Allowing the team to pursue alternative options or partnerships does not preserve the status quo of that obligation.”

Grady Gammage, one of the county’s attorneys, said the arbitration decision was good news for taxpayers.

“Resolving this dispute through arbitration is better for the taxpayers rather than using expensive litigation,” he said in a release. “We look forward to working through the issues as the arbitration proceeds.”

Earlier this month, D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall said the stadium was hit with “near-catastrophic” flooding when an air conditioning unit gave out.

“Over a month ago, we had a huge power outage with the heat downtown and, when the power came back on a Sunday before a day game, our chill system, our air-conditioning system, went down and we had huge gushing and rushing water leaks throughout the entire ballpark in major spots,” Derrick Hall told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

The Diamondbacks and Maricopa County have been at odds for nearly a year over the condition of the team’s home.

Eighteen months ago, 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.

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.

Owner Ken 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.

The county fired back at the assertion that it has not lived up to its side of the lease agreement.

Hall has said there was 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 last year 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.

“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.

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Chase Field dispute between D-backs, county heading to arbitration