The Arizona Diamondbacks and the owners of the stadium they play their home games in, Maricopa County, have to go back to the bargaining table over Chase Field.
After negotiations between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County over the state of Chase Field broke down and the matter was taken to court, the two sides have been ordered to take their dispute back to where it started.
The Associated Press reported that Superior Court Judge Karen Mullins sided mostly with the county on Thursday, refusing to allow the Diamondbacks to void a clause in their lease of Chase Field that would have allowed the team to look for a new home. While that was a defeat for the Diamondbacks, it wasn’t a clear victory for the county either. The county sought a complete dismissal of the suit that the Diamondbacks brought back in January.
Effectively, Judge Mullins told both sides that a court of law wasn’t the place for them to settle their differences, but with a mutually-agreed-upon independent arbitrator instead. Mullins referred to language within the lease in her ruling. While that ruling is noble because it seeks to save the court the burden of deciding a matter between a privately-owned business and a county department, it’s shortsighted because working out a deal agreeable to both sides has already proven difficult, which is the reason why the two sides were in court to begin with.
It seems clear that the Diamondbacks are unwilling to accept anything short of major renovations to Chase Field. The lease says that it’s the county’s responsibility to keep Chase Field a “state of the art” facility but is vague when it comes to what exactly that means or who gets to decide what entails whether the stadium is “state of the art” at any given time.
The Diamondbacks say that it will take $187 million to bring Chase Field, nearing two decades old, to their definition of state of the art. The county stadium authority maintains that is has the necessary resources to make repairs and upgrades that are necessary for the function and safety of the facility, but is challenging the necessity of all the renovations that the Diamondbacks are asking for.
The Diamondbacks have the support of MLB in the matter, which is no surprise. A major upgrade to Chase Field would benefit all of MLB.
It’s uncertain how long the two sides will spend in arbitration, or even if either side will approach the hearing in good faith. It’s entirely possible that when the arbitrator makes her/his ruling, one side or both parties may take the matter right back to court.
If this dispute is a baseball game, this arbitration could prove to be nothing more than a rain delay before the issue of what happens to Chase Field is back before the courts.