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Relocation on the table for Diamondbacks as stadium deal expiration looms

Posted 2/20/24

PHOENIX — A plain piece of paper inscribed “Snakes Alive” became a de facto rallying cry as the Arizona Diamondbacks stormed to their first World Series appearance in 22 years last …

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Relocation on the table for Diamondbacks as stadium deal expiration looms


PHOENIX — A plain piece of paper inscribed “Snakes Alive” became a de facto rallying cry as the Arizona Diamondbacks stormed to their first World Series appearance in 22 years last fall. But come Opening Day in 2024, a better slogan might be, “Snakes Survive?”

At least in Arizona.

Speaking to the media Monday, Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick left the door open for a possible relocation of the MLB franchise amid growing talks of possible league expansion and the continued uncertainty of Chase Field as a viable home ballpark.

“It’s not where we’re spending time or energy,” Kendrick said. “We may run out of time in Phoenix. We hope that won’t happen. We’re continuing to have meetings and ramp up our dialogue in every way we know how to do that.”

CEO Derrick Hall said the organization still has “conversations with local, interested parties. We still do take the phone calls and take the meetings, but we have been focused on Chase (Field).”

The Diamondbacks’ lease at Chase Field, their home ballpark since the team’s inception in 1998, expires after the 2027 season, and there haven’t been any reported negotiations of an extension at this time. Today, Chase Field, originally known as Bank One Ballpark, is the fourth-oldest stadium in the National League.

In recent years, the structure’s retractable roof can only be opened and closed without any fans in the building because of safety hazards. Issues with the complex’s air conditioning, an essential for fan experience and player safety in the notoriously scorching summers of Phoenix, have also been an issue.

Instead of repairing the roof, the club has added new LED lighting and a new sound system to Chase Field.

“The roof is in a position where we have learned how to deal with it,” Hall said.

Attempts for a new home have been ongoing by the franchise since at least 2016, when a potential deal between the Diamondbacks and private investors fell through. The Diamondbacks filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County seeking $187 million in repairs at Chase, but that lawsuit was resolved two years later as the Diamondbacks agreed to drop the suit in exchange for being allowed to look for a new stadium location.

Hall, who revealed Monday the club has sold 2,500 new season tickets since the World Series, previously estimated the necessary renovations at Chase Field would cost nearly half a billion dollars, which has caused the franchise to lobby for a new home altogether, whether that be in Arizona or elsewhere.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has recently made it known that he would like to have a two-franchise expansion process underway by the end of his term in early 2029, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported. Several cities have been mentioned as potential expansion sites, including Salt Lake City, Nashville, Charlotte, Sacramento, and Montreal.

Kendrick said Monday that most prospective cities would most likely prefer acquiring a franchise via the relocation avenue rather than the billion-dollar expansion operation.

“There is likely to be, in time, an expansion of our sport to a couple of additional cities,” Kendrick said. “Cities are letting MLB know their interest in getting a team. They would be happy with a brand new franchise, but they would certainly be very happy with a successful existing franchise.”

In 2021, Manfred observed that expansion fees would eclipse $2 billion. Although the league does not have a set relocation fee, Manfred told Sportico in December 2022 that under the present guidelines, the commissioner would have the authority to impose a relocation fee. Most recent relocation talk surrounds the Oakland Athletics, whose estimate of a $300 million relocation fee is far more affordable for a city looking to host a franchise rather than starting from the ground up.

Even with the increasing possibility of new MLB cities popping up, whether that be through expansion or relocation, Kendrick is adamant the Diamondbacks’ focus is on the Valley, but is conscious of alternatives in an uncertain time.

“We aren’t having those conversations,” Kendrick said. “But there are opportunities available. There are other cities that would covet having Major League Baseball. We’re not in dialogue with those communities, but we are aware of what is going on.”