The Arizona Diamondbacks are suing Maricopa County to look out for the team’s own self-interests.
The Diamondbacks’ ballpark, Chase Field, was built 19 years ago and funded in large part by Maricopa County taxpayers. In using the taxpayers’ money to fund the construction of the stadium, the agreement was that the Diamondbacks lease out the Chase Field.
The county and the team also made an outline about what types of repairs each party is responsible for. According to Rebekah Sanders, an Arizona Republic reporter who has covered the dispute, the agreement states the team is responsible for cosmetic repairs while the county is accountable for capital repairs.
Now, the two sides are fighting over who is responsible for certain repairs. However, the Diamondbacks' pursuit of this case takes advantage of the county full of people who were loyal to them and helped them create the team by paying for the stadium.
While the Diamondbacks want the county to spend more money for repairs, the county simply does not have the money to achieve this, nor do they want to be pushed around by the baseball team.
“The county would argue that they’re not responsible for everything on the Diamondbacks' wish list,” Sanders said.
The Diamondbacks are using this lawsuit as an effort to get out of their contract that keeps the team at Chase Field until the 2028 season and move to a new stadium instead. If they are unable to get out of the contract, they will continue to push for a major renovation to Chase Field largely paid for by the county.
According to Sanders, the team wants make the stadium smaller and add more businesses to the park, which would bring more money for the team. In addition, having fewer seats would increase ticket prices and make the stadium appear less empty.
Other stadiums within the MLB have already done this to increase their sales.
“Chase Field, when it was built, (the two sides) actually wanted it to be among the biggest in the country,” Sanders said. “But the economics of baseball have changed now that everyone has an HDTV and can sit at home and see a free game.”
The Diamondbacks seeking this change is a betrayal to local fans, as the lawsuit could have detrimental repercussions against the county.
“It’s probably going to cost (the county) hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a million or more in legal fees as they fight this in court or arbitration,” Sanders said. “It also means if the county loses that they will be responsible for tens of millions of dollars more in repairs than they were expecting.”
The county has been making major cuts to its budget, and this new lawsuit could be very troublesome.
“The county has already really cut its budget back since the recession, the county also had to deal with tens in millions of dollars in legal fees with Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” Sanders said. “There’s really no extra (money) to go around to cover many more repairs at Chase Field than the county expected.”
If the Diamondbacks do win the lawsuit, the county will probably have to raise taxes in order to pay for everything it would be responsible for. This tax increase definitely wouldn’t sit well with the public.
“There’s an argument that if the team was really on a winning streak there would be a lot more public good will to spend taxpayer money to help the team,” Sanders said. “But right now most public opinion is against the Diamondbacks because taxpayer funding for sports facilities is becoming increasingly unpopular, especially as teams demand more and more expenses than needed in a shorter amount of time.”
The Diamondbacks should not use their leverage of money and other resources to take advantage of Maricopa County and the local residents.
This multi-million dollar team should not nitpick what to pay for and sue the county to get a better stadium. The team should be loyal to its contract and the Maricopa County residents who paid for the construction of Chase Field 19 years ago.
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