The protracted fight between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County has reached a boiling point. The Diamondbacks announced tonight that they had filed a lawsuit in Arizona Superior Court against the Maricopa County Stadium District, the legislative body that operates their stadium, in an attempt to get out of their lease, which runs until 2028.
The stadium was built in 1998 with Maricopa County taxpayers covering $238 million of the $364 million price tag. By MLB standards, it’s middle-aged. The Diamondbacks and the county have been arguing for almost a year over who is on the hook for the $187 million that the building needs for repairs, and it got to the point that former County Supervisor Andy Kunasek allegedly told team owner Ken Kendrick to “take your stupid baseball team and get out” and go back to “fucking West Virginia.”
The Diamondbacks are now seeking to escape the lease altogether and get approval to negotiate a new stadium deal. Here’s Kendrick:
“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. We have made a promise to our fans, who have been partners with us on the building of this stadium and our franchise, to provide the best experience in all of baseball in a safe and welcoming environment. The inability of the Maricopa County Stadium District to fulfill its commitments has left us with no other option.”
The Diamondbacks offered to pick up the whole tab in exchange for cheaper rent and greater control over the stadium, but the county refused. An outside investment group negotiated a deal to buy the stadium, but it fell apart in November and the investors blamed the Diamondbacks for being “unreasonable and rather dubious.” County officials have refused to pay more for the building because they want to protect the initial investment that taxpayers made (and were not able to vote on).
Maricopa County Board Chairman Clint Hickman issued a statement on the lawsuit, calling the Diamondbacks’ characterization of a crumbling stadium as “outrageous”:
“It is disappointing 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 Maricopa County Stadium District has spent millions during the off-season on concrete and steel work that keeps the stadium safe and looking great for each baseball season.
The Diamondbacks have expressed dissatisfaction with county ownership over the past year, yet when presented with a potential buyer last summer, the team didn’t have the courtesy to meet with them. It seems the team just wants a new stadium now. Maricopa County is committed to keeping the Diamondbacks at Chase Field through the term of the contract. That is good for the taxpayers who made the investment that brought major league baseball here.”
It’s unsurprising that the Diamondbacks and Maricopa County would disagree about the playing conditions at the stadium, so the third-party investment group’s assessment that the team “greatly exaggerated” its estimates seems closest to the truth.
You can read the full lawsuit below.