The views expressed below are the author’s opinion and not necessarily shared by Vox Media, SB Nation, the Arizona Diamondbacks, AZ Snake Pit, its writing staff, or community.
I’ve said it multiple times that the future of Chase Field and the Arizona Diamondbacks is what brought me to even begin commenting on the Snake Pit, so don’t be surprised that I have an opinion on the latest news. At first, I thought I could include this as a brief introductory paragraph into tomorrow’s Snake Bytes, but it became immediately obvious that my feelings on the subject warranted enough expression to be posted elsewhere. The rest of the staff will be sharing their views on the subject during tomorrow evening’s round table discussion.
I’ve generally sided with AZPB in the past in their dispute with Maricopa County. The Diamondbacks initial requests seemed simple enough. In private, they asked the county for control over non-baseball booking and facility management. The county simply was not doing enough on those fronts or holding up their end of the contract to generate separate revenue for stadium maintenance (although I do contest just how much repairs identified by the team were actually required versus just being on a wish list). After being rebuffed privately by the Board of Supervisors, AZPB ended up making the dispute public and received those demands anyways after an unnecessary lawsuit.
And not that age should play a factor at this stage, but by the time the Texas Rangers new stadium is complete Chase Field will be the 13th oldest facility in the MLB and 4th oldest in the National League. It’s less about the age of the facility itself but rather the lack of future for it and the surrounding area. A common suggestion is that AZPB should retrofit Chase Field, and redevelop the surrounding area for the desired mixed use commercial activity, but rarely does anyone go into detail as to what that would look like. How many of the surrounding buildings have historic protection status and can’t be altered or torn down? Which parcels have owners who’d agree to sell their land to the team for a price that isn’t prohibitive? Is it worth the effort it would take to accomplish that vision, or should the team start fresh and invest their efforts on a blank canvas? You might face a similar decision with your vehicle. Do you continue to pour money into the 20 year old clunker to keep it on the road as it continues to break down, or do you splurge and start over anew?
Following the Henderson, Nevada report I put the Diamondbacks chances of leaving Arizona around 10%. That doesn’t come from any inside source at all. Just my gut feeling. To be frank, I’d never contemplated Arizona without the Diamondbacks before this report. I didn’t consider it as a possibility, but AZPB would be naive to not explore all opportunities including leaving altogether. It wouldn’t be good business practice to ignore other suitors. Even though I personally feel the odds to be low that they’ll actually leave, it didn’t stop me from imagining what my own personal future would look like.
I’ve grown up with the Arizona Diamondbacks for essentially my entire life. I didn’t migrate here from another state. Sure, I had another favorite baseball team before the D’backs, but I was six years old and didn’t truly understand sports fandom at the time. I grew up with the D’backs like a sibling under the same roof. That’s a different experience from the many transplants of Arizona who’d probably just move on to another team or not care at all. But what would that mean for me? Would I seriously consider a move to Henderson, NV to follow the team? It would be simple enough for me to do so, as I could transition to work from home with my current employer. I’ve always been fond of the Las Vegas metropolitan area because its reminds me of Phoenix with the obvious addition of the Las Vegas Strip. Would my family think I was crazy uprooting my life just to follow a team? Probably, but as I’ve grown up into adulthood together with the Diamondbacks I can’t imagine being more than a drive down the interstate away from the team. Turning on my TV in the Phoenix suburbs to watch the D’backs play in Nevada might not hold the same appeal for me as it does now.
I thought that Henderson’s presentation was about what you’d expect from a municipality eager to acquire a team from each of the four major sports leagues. It’s only a matter of time before they have all four in the Las Vegas metropolitan area in my opinion. They have a significant competitive advantage over other regions. Clark County can tap into substantial tax revenue streams from their successful tourism economy to almost completely fund the construction of a new stadium. That results in nearly no financial penalty to their constituents. It doesn’t matter how you feel about tax money going towards professional sport franchises, because as long as there is a locality out there willing to take that step a business is going to listen to the offer. They’d be stupid not to.
I’ll stop short of going down a political rabbit hole. This isn’t the forum for that. I’m not saying that Arizona taxpayers should take a look in the mirror and decide that maybe it’s right for them to again publicly fund a new stadium. There are plenty of other areas of need where that money can be put to better use. Arizona funding in public education is downright woeful, and even last year’s Red for Ed protests failed to bring it back to pre-recession levels.
Arizona voters repeatedly refuse to consider another potential tax revenue stream in the form of legalized marijuana. States that do tax the sale of the drug saw tax revenues higher than $250 million in Colorado, California, and Washington and as low as $70 million in Nevada in 2018. Among other concerns that come with legalization, I’d like to assume that voters fear our representatives would use that potential revenue stream to their benefit and not ours. I have no way of proving that. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with the use of public funds to build a stadium for a professional sports team, let alone legalize and tax a drug to to accomplish that goal.
My point is that as other regions catch up to Phoenix metro in their growth and seek to lure businesses away, Arizona seems to be stuck in its ways when it comes to identifying creative solutions. Our elected representatives can’t even demonstrate transparency in explaining their methodology behind raising your motor vehicle registration fees to fund the Arizona Highway Patrol, and that is what I would argue is a traditional revenue stream. Can these issues come back to bite Arizona if another municipality makes AZPB an offer they can’t refuse? We now have to at least consider that possibility exists and has been discussed behind closed doors. What would your future look like if the Arizona Diamondbacks left?