Diamondbacks Stadium Threat is in a Word, Obscene
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about the future stadium issues that would be likely haunting baseball fans as many ballpark leases signed in the 1990’s would start coming due. Well the Diamondbacks have started making threats of leaving and the lease they signed with Phoenix and the county still has 9 guaranteed seasons of Diamondbacks baseball to be played at Chase Field.
When this news broke with dueling press conferences on Thursday held by the team and by the officials with the stadium district, it only made me cringe. ON one hand, the baseball team says that the county has not paid for what they claim are $187 million in payments needed to maintain the ballpark. This in terms of contract obligation if true would seem to leave the locals on the hook for said repairs, but the Diamondbacks are likely to get a cold reception by the tax paying community in Arizona, since they just saw the team hand out a $203 million contract over the next 7 years for one of the league’s elite pitchers.
Beyond this though, where will the team go if it did leave. NO major city worth its money in gold will ever build a stadium for a team that it does not already have or will gain through expansion or relocation. St. Petersburg built a stadium before it had a team and by the time an actual team did exist, the facility was nearly a decade outdated, no one will make that mistake again. That leaves two choices, Montreal which still has its Olympic Stadium that was home to the Expos through 2004, and another city which built a stadium, San Antonio. The Alamo dome was home to the NBA Spurs for 10 years until they got a new arena and the NFL team San Antonio thought it could get with the dome when it opened in 1993, that team still does not exist. At best, Montreal’s big O would be a temporary venue until a new baseball specific stadium opened in 2-3 seasons. MLB won’t let a team go their until that deal is signed, sealed and delivered on the desk of Rob Manfred. As for San Antonio, the Alamo dome is at best a temporary venue along the same lines, as a baseball diamond would be shoehorned into the facility the way that it was done in the Los Angeles Coliseum for four years while Dodger Stadium was built. The only difference, right field rather than left would be the cheap side of the park for homers that would be outs anywhere else in the big leagues.
The other reason the Diamondbacks stated as the need for upgrades though is at the same time petty and childish sounding. The reason, Chase Field will be the third oldest facility in the National League behind Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field. Give me a damn break, the place is eighteen years old. Ballparks used to be built as long tern construction projects that would last many generations, yet the Diamondbacks like the Braves are copping an attitude that says, we must be in the newest, greatest, most modern facility to compete. So with that argument, folks in Houston, Cleveland, Arlington, Denver, Baltimore, the south side of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Seattle all must plan to fork over a billion dollars apiece or lose their teams in the next 5-15 years? If this is where MLB is headed, it will forever lose its credibility as a sports organization and what was once a growth touted by Mr. Manfred will be a great contraction. Cities and states are not going to be held hostage by these henchman asking for corporate Welfare and let’s get one thing strait, what the Diamondbacks are asking for, what the Braves received is pure and unadulterated corporate welfare.
The same goes for the fleecing of Florida and Arizona tax payers for spring training sites. A storm washed out the final Astros game in Kissimmee on Saturday night, and how fitting that must have been. The building of new spring training sites for team after team by these two states has proven to be a money loser, as facilities stand vacated that were built within the life time of today’s college grads. Fort Myers has two teams in a pair of facilities, a third stands empty, City of Palms which opened in 1993 when Bill Clinton was a new President. What was once known as Tucson Electric Park opened in 1998 and it along with historic Hi Corbett Field do not have a spring tenant, though the latter now is home to the University of Arizona baseball team. The Champion Stadium facility built at Disney opened in 1998 and it likely will be vacated after 2017 by the Braves with all teams from Central Florida having headed south. Space Coast Stadium in Vierra Florida opened in 1994, it will be vacant for spring training by the middle of the coming week.
We treat today’s baseball stadiums as if they are temporary palaces to be built and torn down within 30, 40 years, not as treasures of great engineering and baseball history. This madness must stop and the fans must demand that it be stopped. People joke about the cost of the proposed wall Donald Trump wants to build, 11 billion or more. That won’t and should not happen. But guess what else should not happen, an equally amount of wasted money on new stadiums for teams that are crying poor because they don’t have the newest house to play ball in. If we as a nation spend another 15 billion dollars on new ballparks, we should demand that the leases are much longer, say 70 years in length, 30 years was clearly a mistake. That money should instead go to what really needs to be done, major infrastructure repair. If teams want new stadiums, come up with the money from your private funds, through the huge TV deals you signed with your cable and satellite TV providers. Ask now, before they too are crying poor because their business model has died like an outdated piece of computing technology.
IN closing, nice move Arizona. You get fans excited about your team by signing a major free agent and making big trades, then say that if you don’t get what you want, you will leave. Good luck finding a better place to play than the ballpark you currently call home.