D-backs file suit against county to seek other stadium partners

PHOENIX -- Seeking relief to look at alternative stadium options or partnerships, the Arizona Diamondbacks filed suit today in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Maricopa County Stadium District.

"It is extremely unfortunate that we have been forced to take action today following several years of attempts to resolve this matter out of court," D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said in a statement. "We have made a promise to our fans, who have been partners with us on the building of this stadium and our franchise, to provide the best experience in all of baseball in a safe and welcoming environment. The inability of the Maricopa County Stadium District to fulfill its commitments has left us with no other option."

At issue are the cost of capital repairs and improvements to the stadium, which opened in 1998. An assessment done by the Maricopa County Stadium District concluded that $185 million will be needed.

The D-backs contend that $135 million of that figure are capital repairs that the Stadium District is responsible for. The team has said in the past that it would take on those costs in exchange for a reduction of license fee payments and the ability to book the stadium for non-baseball use.

The Stadium District has denied that request.

"We have spent more than four years suggesting alternative solutions that would help the Maricopa County Stadium District hold up its end of our agreement, including multiple offers for us to assume all of the financial responsibilities they currently hold," Kendrick said. "All of our offers have been denied."

While there are structural areas that the team feels need to be addressed in the near term, Kendrick said there are no immediate safety concerns for fans.

"Our fans can rest assured that today's filing will have absolutely no impact on the day-to-day operations of the D-backs and the upcoming season and that for 2017, Chase Field is completely safe," Kendrick said. "Our focus remains on operating to the best of our ability both on and off the field and we are looking forward to the start of Spring Training and Opening Day."

In a statement, the county responded: "The team simply wants out of the contract that makes them stay and play through the 2028 season. Saying the facility is in disrepair is outrageous. The Maricopa County Stadium District has spent millions during the off-season on concrete and steel work that keeps the stadium safe and looking great for each baseball season."

The D-backs emphasize that they are not looking for money in the suit.

"It should be made clear that the D-backs seek no damages in this suit nor are they seeking any taxpayer funding," D-backs attorney Leo R. Beus said in a statement. "They are asking the court for the ability to remove the contract restriction that prevents the Diamondbacks from exploring other stadium options.

"The franchise's investment in Chase Field and impact on the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County and the state of Arizona is profound, and its commitment to the community is unparalleled. The Seidman Research Institute of the ASU W.P. Carey School of Business has concluded that the taxpayer has earned an exceptional 10.2 percent internal rate of return on its original $238 million investment in Chase Field. ASU-Seidman also calculates that every dollar the taxpayer invested in Chase Field has resulted in $16 of economic growth, or a total of $3.8 billion, which has resulted in over 53,933 job years of Arizona employment in the past 20 years.

"The Diamondbacks owners and management have been willing to meet with the group of potential buyers the Maricopa County Stadium District recently presented, yet that group was unwilling to provide even the most basic information about who they were and how they planned to provide a viable long-term home for D-backs fans -- something the Maricopa County Stadium District has admitted it cannot do.

"The Diamondbacks have held up their end of the original deal, putting more than $485 million into the construction, operations and maintenance of Chase Field in order to keep the ballpark looking as it does today. The team's ability to play its games at Chase Field is at risk, so the Diamondbacks must now turn to the court to simply ask that they receive relief from the Maricopa County Stadium District contract provision that prevents the Diamondbacks from even exploring alternative stadium options."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.