Diamondbacks Highly Likely to Remain in Arizona

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The Diamondbacks gained the freedom to leave the state of Arizona as early as 2022, when it dropped a $187 million lawsuit against Maricopa County claiming funds owed for stadium reparations and improvements. A recent report from the Las Vegas Review Journal indicating that the city of Henderson tried to quietly lure the Major League Baseball franchise to Southern Nevada has only served to increase speculation about its future – or lack thereof – in the Copper State. However, a source with knowledge of ownership’s thoughts tells JohnWallStreet that the construction of a new venue within the state remains the most likely outcome. It is possible that the club will decide to invest in a major renovation of Chase Field, but that is considered a less desirable solution. The franchise will only explore relocation once all other avenues have been exhausted.

Howie Long-Short: Chase Field was built in the mid 1990s. The 2019 MLB season is its 22nd in use, so the building is coming up on the end of its life cycle; most pro sports venues are good for +/- 30 years.

Contrary to reports, the deal the team agreed to with Maricopa County allows it to leave the Phoenix stadium immediately – for another venue within the state. The problem is, there’s no real viable alternative to serve as the Diamondbacks home. The team will continue to invest the funds necessary to keep Chase Field safe and secure while it looks for a long-term stadium solution. Should the building become untenable (think: A/C systems fails), the team can elect to immediately relocate outside the state.

Our source said that there remains a “high likelihood” the Diamondbacks’ future will exist in Arizona. While the litigation settlement referenced allows for the team to move outside the state come ’22, a mixed-use development in suburban Phoenix provides ownership with the greatest growth opportunity (see: Atlanta). The club “has not excluded a future in downtown Phoenix” from its list of potential destinations, either; of course, downtown PHX doesn’t offer the vast real estate desired for a commercial project of that magnitude.

If the Diamondbacks are going to invest in a wholesale makeover of Chase Field reducing the seating capacity would be a good place to start. In fact, it’s probably worth considering even if the team isn’t long for the venue. Creating a more intimate environment and limiting the supply of tickets will only help to increase the value of the remaining seats.

The Diamondbacks did conduct an engineering assessment to explore the viability of retrofitting University of Phoenix Stadium. The building has many of the physical attributes the team desires (see: capacity, climate control), but it was determined that the Cardinals’ home would require an investment of at least $100 million before it could house a baseball team on a temporary basis; the club does not believe the building can play host to both a football team and a baseball team full-time. To be clear, had the price been $25 million the franchise would have at least considered the venue as a temporary home.

Fan Marino: Henderson, NV was among several cities outside of AZ that obtained an RFP from the Diamondbacks in the wake of their settlement with Maricopa County. Discussions never advanced beyond courtesy calls between the team’s operational staff (i.e. not the decision makers) and city officials and the two sides never met in person. 

It’s unclear which cities besides Henderson responded to the RFP, but a source familiar with MLB expansion/relocation discussions cited six locales – in addition to Henderson/Las Vegas – considered capable of supporting a pro baseball team. Montreal, Nashville, Vancouver, Charlotte, San Antonio and the Tidewater region of Virginia were the names given (in no particular order). The ones willing to invest in new stadiums, are the ones that will ultimately land teams.

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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