The Republic writes this morning: “Reports show the team spent about $150,000 from May 10 to Dec. 31 last year to fix freight elevators and purchase back-up lighting supplies.” This is quite the contrast to the position expressed by the team previously, when it was claiming millions of dollars were needed in urgent or imminent fixes. In June 2016, the team said they “have identified several projects that are necessary over the next five years.” According to the D-backs, this winter was supposed to require “structural repairs, suite renovations, new paint, and upgrades to elevators and the HVAC system,” at a total estimated cost of nearly $8 million, fifty times what was actually spent by them through the end of 2018.
This is not a great look for the Diamondbacks. Even though the stadium is hardly ancient, barely two decades old, there did appear to be increasing signs of problems. In just one month last season (June), for example, there were multiple failures in the infrastructure reported. A section of piping burst over right field, during a game against the Marlins causing fans below to be moved out. Later that month, another pipe gave way on the press level, “leading to ankle-level flooding in an air conditioning control room .” The following day, “engineers discovered several leaks in the stadium’s cooling and air conditioning system. At least one of the broken pipes was near Friday’s Front Row restaurant in left field.”
All this apparently gave credence to the team’s argument that the park was in need of urgent repairs. So, I find it rather disconcerting to discover that in the first three months of the off-season, not much significant work was carried out - and what little was done, was on freight elevators and emergency lighting. According to a statement from the team, “It is now our responsibility to better prioritize how and when we take on each while trying to preserve the venue as best we can. Naturally, the safety and security of our fans moves items to the top of our priority list.” Quite how freight elevators are integral to our “safety and security” is not immediately clear to me.
Hall told Arizona Sports, “Let’s prioritize and make sure the money is there, we continue to increase that fund. So that in the case of an emergency - hopefully not catastrophic - we do have the money to address those issues. We’re prioritizing, we’re being smart. That’s the smart, responsible way to go about this.” To some extent, that makes sense: in the event of something big happening, the team needs to be able to fix it. But not so long ago, the team said Chase Field “needs $185 million in upkeep to prevent it from being unsafe and unfit and bring it up to Major League Baseball standards,” and used that as a key argument in their successful argument to take over management of the facility.
The figures released today appear to indicate the team has spent less than 0.1% of that amount on the park this winter. Now, it isn’t all that has been paid out. Over the 2017-18 off-season, the Maricopa County Stadium District agreed to a contract worth $3.75 million, to cover steel and concrete repairs. Still, the optics are not great: it’s hard not to conclude, on the data so far, that the team was misleading about the urgency of the repairs they listed as needed. Now they’ve achieved their goal, and taken greater control of the income streams, the cynic in me feels that “essential” maintenance has now become, to quote Hall, “Let’s prioritize and make sure the money is there.”
There is still time: the figures only go up to the end of December, meaning any work scheduled to be carried out in the first quarter of 2019, or between now and Opening Day will not be reflected in those numbers. It will be interesting to see what more is done.