Maricopa County seeks dismissal of Diamondbacks lawsuit

The replay screen at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. The stadium is the center of an ongoing controversy between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Maricopa County. (File Photo)

The Maricopa County Stadium District filed a motion Friday, Feb. 10 to dismiss an Arizona Diamondbacks lawsuit and settle the dispute over Chase Field maintenance costs in arbitration.

The dispute between the team and the county stems from the D-backs saying the stadium is in disrepair and the county should cover the millions of dollars in maintenance costs. On the other hand Maricopa County contends those costs do not meet the requirement of a capital repair as defined in the original contract.

When Maricopa County made it clear it would not foot the bill, the team filed a lawsuit wanting to be released from its contract that expires in 2028 and look for alternate stadium options.

However, the county claims the contract states disputes such as this have to be arbitrated out of court instead of “an expensive court fight,” a press release states.

“They signed the contracts. And the contracts say: the Diamondbacks are the tenant, the Stadium District is the landlord, and all landlord/tenant disputes have to go to arbitration,” Grady Gammage, one of the attorneys representing Maricopa County, said in a release. “The simple fact is, they’re not allowed to sue just because they’re unhappy with their landlord.”

The Diamondbacks’ attorney Leo Beus fired back, saying the team spent four years proposing solutions to help the county pay for the facility’s needs behind closed doors without cooperation from the county.

“Now, (the county) would like to avoid a public hearing on our lawsuit and meet in private, as we had done in the past to no avail,” Mr. Beus said in a prepared statement.

“Mr. Gammage clearly identifies the County Stadium District as the landlord and the Diamondbacks as the tenant, and this landlord has made it crystal clear both publicly and privately that it cannot uphold its responsibilities to its tenant.”

Despite the continuing dispute, the county echoed its sentiment of wanting to keep the D-backs in Phoenix.

“We believe the Diamondbacks are a great asset to the community. We will continue to do our part to ensure they are playing in downtown Phoenix, in the stadium taxpayers helped them build,” Denny Barney, District 1, chairman of the Maricopa County Stadium District Board of Directors, said in a release.

The dispute between the team and the county has been ongoing for some time.

The team claimed in 2013 the county did an assessment on the stadium and found it needed about $185 million in repairs and the D-backs believe $135 million of that fall under capital repairs.

However, the team says the county told them it did not have the funds to pay for those repairs. The team believes the lack of funds from the county stems from the county not using the facility for non-baseball events.

In April 2016, the D-backs claimed the county rejected several options to fund the capital repair and one of the county’s representatives had a profane confrontation with club executives.

The dispute came to a head in early January 2017 when the team filed its lawsuit.

“The county and its taxpayers made a deal with the Diamondbacks: we will build you a stadium, and you promise to play in it through the 2027 baseball season,” Mr. Barney said in a release. “We want the team here and we expect them to keep their promise.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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