ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks brass enters another season with no stadium deal

Feb 19, 2024, 3:28 PM

Ken Kendrick...

Arizona Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick and president and CEO Derrick Hall speak during spring training at Salt River Fields. (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

SCOTTSDALE — At spring training a year ago, Arizona Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick and president and CEO Derrick Hall anticipated having a stadium announcement to make in the coming months.

The process has been slower and more difficult than leadership expected.

As spring training 2024 gets going, no deal has been agreed upon despite the Diamondbacks’ lease at Maricopa County-owned Chase Field expiring in 2027.

Hall called it a long work-in-progress, which has caused some internal disappointment.

“We’re at the point where we’re just trying to figure out the best possible partnership, public-private, we can have that would keep us at Chase Field,” Hall said Monday. “That’s been our preference, to stay at Chase and invest in Chase. … There’s a bit of frustration on my part because we thought we’d be at a position now where we could announce exactly what’s happening. … Is there a timetable? We are to the point where we really have to know because our lease is running out.”

“We’ve let them know that we are prepared, we meaning my partners and I, to invest hundreds of millions of dollars of our money into that stadium,” Kendrick added. “We already have invested a couple hundred million dollars of Diamondback money into the stadium. The citizens through a sales tax initiative back in the early 90s have invested roughly an equal amount of what we’ve invested. But we’re in a stadium that’s more than 25 years old, we are one of the oldest stadiums without improvement in baseball. These stadiums are like any asset, they waste away without significant capital improvement.”

Kendrick said “Chase Field reimagined” remains the ideal outcome over a new ballpark given the price of building a climate-controlled stadium from scratch — which he said has been on the drawing boards.

The Diamondbacks have played at Chase Field since 1998 when it was called Bank One Ballpark. Footprint Center is an older building but one that underwent significant renovations in 2020, which Kendrick brought up as an improved fan experience he wants to achieve.

Hall explained that the organization has had conversations with other “local interested parties,” but the focus remains on downtown.

Kendrick clarified they are not having conversations with cities outside the area, but he acknowledged opportunities with looming expansion by saying, “They would be happy with a brand new franchise, but they would certainly be very happy with a successful existing franchise. It’s not where we are spending time or energy. We may run out of time in Phoenix, we hope that won’t happen. We’re continuing to have meetings, we’ve ramped up the dialogue every way we know how.”

He denied threatening Maricopa County with relocation, saying the Diamondbacks are part of the fabric of Arizona.

Arizona’s “all-in” plan includes renovating Chase Field over three or four offseasons since the D-backs don’t have another place to play and events like bowl games and concerts bring fans back during the winter.

Kendrick said a round number for renovating the park is $400-$500 million. To compare, the ballpark was built for $365 million in the 1990s with public and private funding.

Entertainment taxes at the ballpark can raise money, but Kendrick said he’d like to avoid that burden on fans.

“We, not the county, not the taxpayers, have been investing in the infrastructure from the start date of the stadium to now and our investment is greater than the money the sales tax created,” Kendrick said. “The amount now based on, again, the cost of doing anything in life is way greater today than it was in the mid 90s, we think the $400 million-plus would make that stadium a vibrant stadium that would last another 20 to 25 years. That’s our game plan.”

The ballpark has undergone some work this offseason with a new sound system and LED lighting, which were prioritized over fixing the roof cables. The roof will open and close without fans as it has the past two seasons.

“The roof is in a position where we have learned how to deal with it,” Hall said.

Limiting capacity is not in the plans (48,519). Arizona had an attendance of 24,212 per game, an increase of 4,395 from 2022, according Baseball Reference. Hall said 2,500 new season ticket accounts have been made, many of which during October’s World Series run.

Upgrading amenities, clubs and family areas to enhance the fan experience along with necessary infrastructure improvements are among priorities.

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