Last week, the Diamondbacks gave Maricopa County an ultimatum: pay to upgrade Chase Field or lose the Diamondbacks. The irony of this is that Chase Field is a fairly up to date facility. Though it’s not the best ballpark in the majors, things are fairly modern. It’s not like, say, Tropicana Field, which might be the one of the most criticized facilites in any major sport.
So why did the Diamondbacks feel the need to issue such an explosive press release while the Rays have been tenuously surfing new stadium options for as long as they’ve been in St. Petersburg without success? The answer lies in each the lease each team has for its respective stadium.
According to the statement put out by the Diamondbacks, their Chase Field lease requires the stadium to be “state-of-the-art facility”. This broad language allows the team to make this type of demand because if Chase Field isn’t state-of-the-art, Maricopa County is breaking the lease. While it’s unlikely that the team makes good on its threat to leave, the lease gives them the leverage.
Meanwhile, the Rays’ lease tied them to Tampa Bay until 2027. Although they finally got permission to search for a new stadium, they had wanted to do so for practically a decade before finally being allowed. Even now, the agreement they have financially handcuffs them. If the team leaves Tropicana Field, they’ll have to pay a $5 million demolition fee and $4 million every year from when they vacate the stadium to 2027. If the Rays had a more favorable agreement with the city, there’s a decent chance they would no longer be at Tropicana Field.
Because of their lease, the Diamondbacks are free to demand upgrades to a stadium that’s already fairly modern. Because of their lease, the Rays are stuck in the ancient Tropicana Field and didn’t have a way out until late last year.