Settlement of Chase Field lawsuit could mean a new ballpark for the Dbacks soon

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Over a year ago the Arizona Diamondbacks sued Maricopa, County Arizona to get out out — or to alter — the terms of their lease for Chase Field. Specifically, they asked for the removal of a clause in their lease with the county which prevented the team from talking to outside stadium groups until 2024 and prevents them from leaving the ballpark until 2028.

Underlying the suit was the Dbacks’ beef about the size and upkeep of their cavernous downtown Phoenix ballpark. Not that everyone was being honest about the specifics of the beef. The Diamondbacks claimed that the county must make over $100 million in necessary capital improvements to the ballpark. The county claims that the 20-year-old ballpark is fine, and that the club merely wanted cosmetic improvements to the park and a reduction in the number of seats in the 48,500-seat stadium in order to increase ticket prices and revenue.

There was considerable acrimony leading up to the filing of the suit, with some Maricopa County officials — uncharacteristically for local government when dealing with a professional sports team — digging in their heels and telling the club to pound sand and live with their contractual obligations. Since the filing of the lawsuit, however, things have been quiet.

Now things are resolved:

According to the [settlement] memorandum, the county would pay no new public money toward stadium upkeep. The Diamondbacks would take control of the Chase Field, keeping revenue from all events at the stadium, and immediately be allowed to explore relocation or rebuilding.

The baseball team must play at Chase Field through the 2022 season. Then they’d be permitted to move to another facility in the county without penalty.

There would be penalties assessed between $5 million and $25 million if the team left the county before 2027.

This seems . . . pretty fair? The Dbacks want a new park — or to have Chase Field made into a new, larger revenue generating park — and the county doesn’t want to pay for it. Under this settlement the Dbacks have an ability to get that new park faster but the county is essentially washing its hands of the team, telling them “good luck.” Yes, it seems like the team is getting a bit of a gift in short term revenues, but the county is saving upkeep money. Everyone is avoiding potentially five years of the team being a lame duck tenant, allowing everyone to move on with their lives faster.

Of course, this also means that the Dbacks are going to actively work for a new ballpark now and will begin working the suburbs and Native American authorities around Phoenix against one another for a fat park subsidy. The Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale — and on which the Dbacks’ spring training facility sits — is a likely candidate, as are Mesa or Chandler or any of the East Valley burbs. None of the communities in the area seemed eager to give money to the Coyotes hockey team, but baseball plays better in Phoenix than hockey, so who knows.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if there is a will to lay out money for the Dbacks. Or if the Dbacks will, in fact, have to take the drastic step of [gasp!] laying out money for themselves.