The Arizona Diamondbacks are threatening to sue Maricopa County unless they're allowed to escape their lease because the county won't pay for $187 million in Chase Field renovations.
In a letter obtained by 12 News (below) that was sent from the county to the team's executive officer, Derrick Hall, county Supervisor Clint Hickman rejects the team's demand to allow it to begin searching for a new stadium many years before its current lease is up.
In the March 23 letter, Hickman tells Hall that the baseball team may begin negotiations for a new stadium in 2024, four years before the lease expiration, but not before. Hickman explains to Hall that the lease restrictions are there to make sure taxpayers "would not be left with an empty stadium in downtown Phoenix prior to the expiration of the 30-year term."
"The team specifically agreed that all the cities and towns within Maricopa County would be irreparably harmed by any attempted or actual relocation of the team," the letter states.
The Board of Supervisors approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 1994, causing taxpayers to fund $238 million of what was then called Bank One Ballpark. Some residents were outraged at the deal, and a homeless man shot and wounded former Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox because of it. The Diamondbacks, which had agreed to a 30-year lease in return for the free money, now say it's not enough.
As reporter Brahm Resnik covered in the 10 p.m. story on Thursday, Hickman's letter was in response to a March 16 request by AZPB Limited Partnership, the team's owner, to be granted "the right to take such actions as it deems necessary in order to move and play Diamondbacks' baseball games in a location other than Chase Field."
The Diamondbacks began lobbying the county for the move in January, with Hall reaching out not only to county officials but to Governor Doug Ducey. On Thursday, Hall released a statement saying the county is obligated to fund $187 million in capital improvements over the life the stadium or the facility will "spiral" into something that's no longer state-of-the-art. If the team doesn't get what it wants, it'll take the squabble to court, he warned.
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