County deal allows Diamondbacks to commence ballpark hunt

The Arizona Diamondbacks can officially commence the search for a new ballpark after Maricopa County signed off on a deal that will allow the Major League Baseball (MLB) team to leave its Chase Field home as soon as 2022, ending legal action between the two parties.

The Diamondbacks have played at the Phoenix stadium since the ballpark opened in 1998 to house the MLB expansion franchise. However, the team has been unhappy at the county’s efforts to ensure Chase Field (pictured) remains up to date with modern stadia standards and last year launched a lawsuit seeking to break its 30-year lease in an effort to search for a new home.

The Arizona Republic newspaper reported that under the terms of deal that was approved by the county board of supervisors yesterday (Wednesday), the Diamondbacks can immediately commence a search for a new ballpark site in exchange for dropping its demand that the county fund $187m (€157.6m) in upgrades at Chase Field.

If the franchise secures a new location in Maricopa County, the team could leave Chase Field without penalty in 2022, five years earlier than the current lease deal. If the Diamondbacks leave Arizona after 2022, the team would have to pay penalties of between $5m and $25m.

Diamondbacks majority owner Ken Kendrick said: “We will do everything in our power to ensure a safe and friendly environment while being diligent in determining the best long-term stadium option for the D-Backs. Our front office will continue to focus on our team on the field, the fan experience and the key role we play in the Arizona community.”

County chairman Steve Chucri, who helped broker the agreement, stated his belief that the league wouldn’t seek to implement a clause allowing the team to move out of state if insufficient progress is made on stadium work. Adding that the agreement would keep baseball in Maricopa County for the long-term, Chucri said any such move by MLB would be met with legal action.

“Although it may not be perfect, (the deal) best captures what's good for the county, what's good for our community, what's good for the taxpayer and what's good for the team,” Chucri said.

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