Questions over Arizona Diamondbacks' future lingers

- After a surprising season that reinvigorated Arizona Diamondbacks fans, questions still linger about the future of the MLB team in Phoenix, as well as the future of Chase Field.

While it has been a season to remember for Diamondbacks fans, also on deck all season was the fight between the team and Maricopa County, over the Downtown Phoenix stadium that they call home.

An assessment of Chase Field called for a little under $200 million worth of improvements and renovations to the stadium. Chase Field, once known as Bank One Ballpark, opened in 1998. 

The lease between the Diamondbacks and Maricopa County said the team takes care of cosmetic work for Chase Field, and the county is on the hook for capital repairs.

County officials said they have fulfilled their end of the deal by building Chase Field with $238 million's worth of taxpayer money 19 years ago, and taxpayers are debt free.

That's led to a courtroom showdown.

Technically in the lawsuit, they're not looking for money," said Grady Gammage, Jr., attorney for Maricopa County. "They're looking for the right to get out of their contract and play somewhere else. On the other hand, they'll publicly say they don't want out of the contract to play somewhere else."

Meanwhile, there are pictures released that show the conditions of Chase Field. The County, however, maintains that Chase Field is not in dire straits.

"What happened here is a few years ago, when the Atlanta Braves became the first team to demand and get a new stadium just 20 years after building the old one, I think a lot of teams around baseball started perking up their ears and say, 'oh hey, maybe we should be thinking about that, too,'" said Neil deMause, who is one of the preeminent voices on stadium funding.

deMause co-authored the book "Field of Schemes", and continues to track teams sticking taxpayers with the bill throughout all major sports. deMause said there's nothing that shows subsidizing team stadiums is worth it.

"You're mostly just moving money around," said deMause. "People spend money at a new Diamondbacks stadium or an old Diamondbacks stadium, that's just not a net benefit to the State of Arizona. Even if they do spend a little more money there, that's money they're not spending at Suns games or going to the movies or something like that."

deMause also thinks the threat of "looking elsewhere" is an empty threat to the fans, as well as the County.

"I think it's extremely unlikely the Diamondbacks will move anywhere else," said deMause. "Major League Baseball has done a really good job of putting teams in the biggest markets, and Phoenix is a good solid midsize market, and there just aren't many of those out there. What are they going to do? Go to Charlotte, or Portland, Oregon or something like that, Where you would face a smaller market?"

For fans who are possibly worried about what just happened in San Diego with the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, football is different than baseball, at least when it comes to money, according to deMause.

"Baseball is extremely different than football in terms of economics," said DeMause. "In football, you can pretty much put a team anywhere. You can put it in Las Vegas, you can put it on the moon, and you'll get a cut of those national TV dollars. In baseball, you have to have not just a fan base, but a cable subscriber base because so much of the money depends on local TV deals." 

Meanwhile, the Maricopa County Stadium District approved a $3.7 million construction contract for Chase Field earlier in the month, which will cover some steel and concrete repair work. Meanwhile, the two sides are waiting to meet with another judge over the dispute.

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