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D-backs president Hall on Chase Field drama: ‘It’s sad that we’re at this point’

Baseball fans enjoy the right field pool at Bank One Ballpark Wednesday, July 20, 2005 in Phoenix during a Diamondbacks/Marlins game. As above average temperatures continue to engulf metro Phoenix, even baseball fans can cool off from Wednesday's high of 108 in the air conditioned ballpark where it remains a constant 80 degrees. (AP Photo/Matt York)
LISTEN: Derrick Hall, Diamondbacks president and CEO

It’s been roughly a week since the battle between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County became public knowledge, and since then each side has had a chance to share its thoughts regarding the matter.

According to the Diamondbacks, the county is unable to fulfill its obligations as the landlord of Chase Field.

The way the county sees it, the Diamondbacks have been unreasonable in their requests, as they have done and plan on doing everything the lease requires of them.

What is the truth? Unless you have read the lease and have been a part of all negotiations between the parties, you really don’t know for sure. But if there is one thing Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall is pleased with, given his disappointment that this has become a public issue, it is that at least their side has been presented.

“Some of the facts are straight,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday morning. “It’s too bad it’s been a public debate of he said/she said.”

Hall reiterated the team’s position that there has been zero desire to leave downtown Phoenix or Chase Field, that over the last four years their discussions have been about them absolving Maricopa County of financial responsibility in exchange for control of the building and managing the building.

“Not owning it — they would still own it, but for us to control the way the Suns do their arena downtown, and it shows that we want to stay,” he said. “And by the way, we even negotiated down to a term sheet that said we were going to play every game throughout our lease at Chase Field.

“It’s sad that we’re at this point and we’ll see where it all goes, but at the end of the day, as we said, we just want to be in a great building, state-of-the-art building that’s safe and sound for all of our fans, and that’s what Chase is right now and we’re in control of the maintenance, well, we have been, and that’s why it looks so good today.”

Chase Field, which opened in 1998 as Bank One Ballpark, will be the fourth-oldest stadium in the National League next season when the Atlanta Braves move into their new ballpark. Its seating capacity of 48,519 is the sixth-most in all of baseball, and while most would agree it is probably too big, you’d be hard-pressed to find fans who genuinely believe the venue is in need of some major overhauls.

But that’s not really what this is about, according to Hall. The way the D-backs see it, the issue surrounds what the stadium will look like in 2028, when their lease is up. Will Chase Field look good and be safe 12 years from now if repairs and upgrades are not made?

Of course not, and while both sides seem to understand that, the question appears to be about who is responsible for paying for it all.

“I think it’s more complex — I think it’s you’ve got the county saying they’re not responsible, even as landlord, for major repairs and costs in the future that were identified and outlined in an assessment,” Hall said. “And we’re saying clearly, objectively, it’s not our obligation but we were willing to make it our obligation in the past.

“So again, we’ll see where we go. We just need a partner who’s willing and wants us to stay downtown and is willing to work with us, and that’s all we were looking for were for options, and then of course it went public and it gets ugly at that point. It’s a shame.”

It’s a shame, he said, because the drama has taken the focus off of a baseball team that made substantial improvements in the offseason and tore through the Cactus League in spring training. Expectations for the D-backs on the field have not been this high in years, and there is a positive buzz surrounding the club.

And yet, less than a week before Opening Day, the conversation is about leases and stadiums and not home runs and strikeouts.

Hall said the players asked some questions after the news broke, but also expressed confidence in the organization to do whatever it can to stay at Chase Field.

Even as ugly as things may be now and could get, as Hall noted, none of this will really impact the immediate future. He said it would really impact things five to seven years down the road, because if their partner, Maricopa County, says it cannot and should not pay for substantial repairs that may come up, it would be tough for the D-backs to know they can continue to play at Chase Field.

With roughly a week to digest everything that has been written and said, most people really have little idea what to expect going forward. When the dust settles it’s possible the D-backs’ position will be validated. Of course, the county could also prevail.

In time, it should all be figured out, but one thing Hall said he and the D-backs do know is how Chase Field would change if the organization was in charge of managing it.

“What it does is it doesn’t raise the question of where the money’s going to come from — the money is going to come from us,” he said. “The money would come from us and we would find ways to raise that money, because then we would be in control of all the revenues, all the non-baseball-game events, which we think we would do a very nice job of.

“So we would be in control of all the events, all of the bookings, all of the revenue, and in exchange we would be responsible for all costs associate with that building. But we were willing to take that on because we obviously care about the building and we care about the longevity of it.”



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