Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Arizona Diamondbacks have signalled their intention to focus on Chase Field as their home in the Phoenix area, potentially setting up redevelopment of the ballpark rather than attempting to relocate to a new stadium.
The long-term future of the D-backs at Chase Field has been a matter of debate in recent months, but president Derrick Hall has now said the results of a May 2018 deal with Maricopa County, through which it secured management rights to the ballpark, have changed the thinking behind any potential relocation.
Hall told the Forbes website: “We had urgency before because we didn’t control the stadium. We didn’t book the stadium. Now we do. Now that we do all that we can slow down a little bit. There’s no time crush. We’re going to continue to look here. We’re going to kick the tires around Maricopa County. But we’re going to stay here. My focus is on Arizona. And we’re going to do everything we can to stay at Chase Field.”
In November, the D-backs reportedly spelled out their demands for a smaller, more intimate ballpark than Chase Field, through a 67-page document the team shared with officials in Henderson, Nevada in 2018 amid a search for potential stadium locations.
Henderson responded with a detailed proposal to build a stadium and entertainment complex close to the Las Vegas strip, however these talks were said to have subsided in February 2019. The Diamondbacks are said to have sought a 36,000-42,000-seat stadium, with a retractable roof and 5,000-seat concert hall.
In May 2018, Maricopa County signed off on a deal with the Diamondbacks that will allow the team to leave Chase Field as soon as 2022, ending legal action between the two parties. The Diamondbacks have called the 48,519-seat Phoenix stadium home since the ballpark opened in 1998 to house the MLB expansion franchise.
However, the team became dissatisfied at the county’s efforts to ensure Chase Field remains in line with modern stadia standards and in 2017 launched a lawsuit seeking to break its 30-year lease in an effort to search for a new home.
Under the terms of the May 2018 deal, the Diamondbacks were permitted to commence a search for a new ballpark site in exchange for dropping its demand that the county fund $187m (£144.1m/€173.2m) in upgrades at Chase Field.
If the franchise secures a new location in Maricopa County, the team could leave Chase Field without penalty in 2022, five years earlier than the current lease deal. If the Diamondbacks leave Arizona after 2022, the team would have to pay penalties of between $5m and $25m.
The D-backs’ lease deal at Chase Field expires after the 2028 season, meaning the team has time to play with, regarding its stadium options. Concerning moving options, Hall said: “We’ve kind of tapped the brakes on that. Let’s figure out what’s going on here.
“Not only with what we have going on immediately booking the stadium, but making sure we understand that business, which we’ve gotten really good at. Let’s see if we can logistically work with this. What does it look like to retrofit this place?”
Under the Henderson proposals, the team was also said to be seeking 45-70 acres of shops, restaurants, offices and residential development surrounding the stadium, as MLB franchises continue to pivot towards a model of seeking smaller stadia with the ability to drive greater revenue through more varied seating options and surrounding multi-purpose development.
Hall added: “The way downtown is going, the way our relationship with the city and county and state is going, we’re going to do everything we can to stay here. But we’ll see. There’s a lot to do. For us to stay, you know the new model is mixed-use. A smaller ballpark. Higher ticket demand. Make sure you have enough mixed-use around you. You have hotel, restaurants, entertainment. So, if there’s something we can do here we’re totally looking at it.”
Image: Chase Field