After a long time in the wilderness, mostly due to concerns about the nexus of sports and sports betting, Las Vegas has become a hotbed of professional sports over the last few years. The NHL were first in, the Golden Knight beginning play in 2017 and achieving immediate success. The WNBA followed suit the following year, but the jackpot was the city’s success in luring the NFL to Vegas, with the Raiders moving there for the 2020 season. But the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported today that the city of Henderson, about 15 miles southeast of Vegas and on the road there from Phoenix, reached out to the D-backs to discuss a potential move.
Both sides now saw the project is dead. The city said “While a proposal for an Arizona Diamondbacks ballpark has not moved forward, the city of Henderson would welcome conversations with other major league franchises that may be considering a move to a different market.” And in a statement, the Diamondbacks said, “A number of cities have expressed interest but we have not pursued any because we have not received permission from MLB and our desire is, first and foremost, to stay in Arizona.” However, it clear from the documentation obtained that Henderson’s proposal and subsequent discussions definitely went beyond vague speculation.
For example, it appears there were significant email exchanges between D-backs President, Derrick Hall, and Henderson City Manager, Richard Derrick. At the beginning of this year, Hall sent Derrick an email with the subject line, “Have not forgotten you!” and saying, “Hopefully there is still strong interest there as we go through the MLB motions.” The newspaper also says that the team “sent nondisclosure agreements to multiple real estate professionals for the Henderson proposal.” I wonder if the architectural plans which we discovered in May, rather than being potential locations in Phoenix, were perhaps part of these discussions and intended for Nevada?
The proposal submitted to the team by Henderson included a ballpark with seating for around 36,000 fans, including four thousand standing. Four suggested locations were included, one of which would have been less than ten miles from both the Las Vegas Strip and McCarran International Airport. Estimates included in the plan put the cost of building the stadium at a billion dollars. It states “The ballpark would be publicly-owned and exempt from property tax,” but there are some very interesting figures included in the plan (p.36, if you’re interested), such as the breakdown of anticipated spending by game attendees. They would, apparently, be charging $20 per car for parking...
We also get the following snapshot of projected operating expenses for the team and ballpark, which I’m curious as to the accuracy:
- Stadium Operations $30,188,031
- Player Compensation $138,337,000
- Major League Team Operations $21,400,000
- Scouting & Player Development $15,000,000
- Amateur Player Acquisition $15,000,000
- Marketing, Publicity & Ticket Operations $15,000,000
- General & Administrative $25,000,000
- MLB Central Office Expenses $12,350,000
At first glance, Henderson might seem a bit of an odd choice. But it’s not that different from the Cardinals and Coyotes decamping to Glendale (though the jury’s still out on the success or otherwise, especially in the latter’s case). The Braves’ new stadium is also located about 10 miles from Atlanta’s downtown. The obvious advantage of a plan like that is not only cheaper land, but also the capacity to grow beyond the ballpark, as the Braves have done (and the Cubs are also attempting to do in Mesa, with Wrigleyville West).
This is third bit of information to come out recently, suggesting the team is looking to move from Chase Field. As well as our ballpark find in May, the following month VenuesNow.com reported that the team had “selected HKS, the architect that designed their spring training facility, to plan a stadium to replace Phoenix’s Chase Field.” It all has to be rather embarrassing for the team: Hall repeatedly states that the team doesn’t want to move, but the Diamondbacks’ actions all appear to point in a very different direction. And moving to Scottsdale would be one thing, but this proposal, to leave Arizona entirely, goes in a considerably more unpleasant direction.