Arizona Diamondbacks Seek Stadium Options, Sue Maricopa County

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PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 04: Arizona Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall during the MLB opening day game against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on April 4, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

All is not well in the desert. On Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County, where the team’s home in Phoenix is located. While the team is not seeking any damages from the county, the suit could see them leave Chase Field before the end of the 2028 season, when their lease on the stadium ends. The Diamondbacks have played at Chase Field since they were added to the league in 1998.

Arizona Diamondbacks Seek Stadium Options, Sue Maricopa County

What Each Side Claims

The Dbacks and the county have disagreed for nearly a year over the condition of the stadium. The team claims the facility is in disrepair and requires an upgrade; the county feels differently. According to the organization, the Stadium District, a county-run body that oversees the park, has not met its obligations in regard to improvements to the stadium and cannot pay for the $185 million in repairs that the team claims need to be done.

Team President Derrick Hall stated that the team has no desire to leave Chase Field. In March, he explained that the team had been trying for four years to complete a deal that would absolve the county of financial responsibility in exchange for control and management of the facility. No such deal went through, and now the team feels it must seek other options for a stadium. The front office stated that the suit will not affect fans, and the team seeks nothing from the taxpayers.

The county, on the other hand, claims that the team just wants out of its contract early so that it can get a new stadium. Clint Hickman, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors of the county, responded that claims of disrepair were “outrageous”. Hickman said the county would remain committed to keeping the Diamondbacks in Chase Field for the taxpayers who helped bring baseball to Arizona.

Small Likelihood of Success

It’s important to note that all the Diamondbacks are seeking at this point is the removal of the clause in the lease contract that restricts them from exploring other stadium options. They are not seeking to terminate the lease, and they are not seeking any damages or funding. Once the suit comes before a judge, the Dbacks face an uphill battle. Generally, judges opt to not alter a contract unless it is clear that, when the contract was first formed, one of the parties was negotiating at a severe disadvantage or some other inherent unfairness was clearly present.

In most cases, as long as the parties to the contract negotiated with equal bargaining power and agreed in good faith to the terms of the contract, judges will not rule in favor of the proposed alteration. They will presume that each party knew what they were getting from the contract, and that they did, in fact, get what they wanted. Though it is possible that a judge could rule to alter the lease contract, it seems an unlikely outcome.

However, if the Diamondbacks can prove that the stadium is in disrepair and that the county truly cannot pay to address the issues, the case could turn in the team’s favor. Under those circumstances, the county would have failed in its duty to keep the facility up to certain standards. The proper recourse would then be to allow the Diamondbacks to search for other stadium options.

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