Chase Field Stadium Improvements

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The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors are battling over who should pay for improvements at Chase Field. That battle has heated up, with county supervisor Andy Kunasek using some harsh words against the D-Backs. Kunasek will talk about the fight.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon: a county supervisor explains his explosive comments regarding the Arizona Diamondbacks. And we'll hear about a new key-sized GPS tracking device. Those stories next, on Arizona Horizon.

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TED: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is preparing to expand her campaign operations in Arizona, this after limited polling indicates that Clinton is in a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump. The Clinton campaign is reportedly transferring funds to the state Democratic Party to hire additional ground operatives. The move shows increasing confidence by Democrats that Arizona is in play for the presidential election. The last Democrat to win the state was Bill Clinton in 1996.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors continue to disagree over who should pay for improvements to Chase Field. That disagreement reportedly includes county supervisor Andy Kunasek using some harsh words against the team's front office. Andy Kunasek joins us now to talk about all this. Welcome back to Arizona Horizon.

ANDY KUNASEK: Thank you, Ted.

TED: Got some explaining to do here, but we'll get to that in a second. Let's lay some groundwork. The fight between the county and the Diamondbacks--describe it for us.

ANDY: The County, 20 years ago I guess it is now, built this Diamondbacks stadium--at that time Bank Bank One Ballpark, now Chase Field--it's always been held out as probably the best agreement in major league sports between a team and the local host government landlord. So it's actually been going pretty well, I think as things lined out what everybody's responsibilities were very clearly, and really until the last couple of years it's worked flawlessly.

TED: It sounds like the diamondbacks are now saying about $187 million is needed to upgrade the stadium to what they say is a state-of the-of-art facility which they think is clearly outlined in the agreement. Are they right?

ANDY: No. They are wrong on that front. First of all, the $180 million amount is a very large number. It's a shocking number. I think it is put out there to shock people, and quite frankly it includes all manner of things over the next, I don't know, 10-15 years to make it state-of-the-art. Our role--the county's role, the state and district's role--is really to maintain… it was first to build it, and then maintain the systems and the basic structural components.

We've got a few different funds that bring money in from operations, some rent from the team, some monies that we generate through non baseball events… but all of the money that comes in there is for the benefit of the stadium itself. We have programmed that money back in with the team to determine and prioritize what is needed, and then we do it during the offseason. A lot of repairs.

TED: And the Diamondbacks are mentioning things like suite renovations, painting and a new scoreboard. Does that count to you as repair work?

ANDY: No, it really doesn't. There are…it's broken down into certain other categories. Fan experience is kind of the "software," if you will. We are in charge of the hardware. So if it is the facility and the structure of the facility, and the major systems--HVAC, those types of systems--and the roof which we are familiar with, the opening roof that allows them to play on natural turf--that's on our side.

TED: So things like girders, beams, joints into the roof, those sorts of things…If those are a problem, the county is responsible?

ANDY: Right. The district is responsible and our only funding mechanism is what we generate through those uses and the rent. So some of the arguments, or I guess complaints, are that they are the only professional team that pays rent. I don't know if that's the case, but without that agreement that they are a party to in that contract, we really wouldn't have the resources available to make those repairs.

TED: When we talked about this earlier in the year when this first broke out, the reports were the Diamondbacks were concerned there wasn't enough non-baseball action going on to reinvest back into the facility. They were the 200-pound-gorilla and there weren't any other primates to be found, if you extend the metaphor. Did they have a point? Could you guys have used that facility for more events to reinvest?

ANDY: I believe--and we can look at the history of it, too, that's important-- for the first ten years of the stadium, the team was doing those events. They were booking events. During that first ten years, they in total generated $77,000 over ten years. Last year, it's my recollection that through our process, our booking manager, a total of over $2.3 million in the one year. And I think net to the district was about $800,000.

So we have… I believe the performance, if past performance is used, I think the country and its process has done quite well. I think there's a little bit of…I don't know, I would call it envy. Unfortunately I think the Diamondbacks, the team, sees the success that the county and booking managers had and they for some reason think that should be theirs.

TED: That they didn't get a good enough deal?

ANDY: To me the $800,000 that net district is a lot of money, and those are big dollars to a guy like me. But if you look at the amount of money that they talk about trying to claw back from the taxpayers, it's really small change compared to the payroll. You look at the outflow on a Major League Baseball team and what they are spending, and it seems like an unhealthy obsession with the revenues that are rightfully the peoples.

TED: The Arizona Republic, with an information request, found out that back in this meeting in April you delivered a letter to Derrick Hall and called the team a parasitic enterprise, accused Hall of selling a false narrative, accused him of slandering board members--irreparable harm, you said, the Diamondbacks were doing to taxpayer confidence in government--and then you said, "tell king Kendrick to take his stupid baseball team and go back to… freaking… West Virginia." We will put it that way for the big audience. What was that all about?

ANDY: You know, the letter that I wrote was from me as one member of the Board of Directors, and it very clearly, I think communicated my frustrations. You know? So line by line if you want to go through them, I can tell you what i was thinking as I wrote it and the months of thought I had before getting to the point of writing it. The stadium is down the street from my office at the county. I left the county and I hand-delivered the letter. And it just so happened that Derrick was getting on the same elevator, because the District Office and the Team Office share the same reception.

And you know, I explained to him. He said, "What are you doing here?" and I said "I am delivering a letter to you, and I don't think you will like it but it says what I feel." So naturally, or I guess as maybe to be expected, two guys walked through the parking lot and we continued to discuss it and… I did. I chose some words--or i shouldn't say I chose them--but I used some words I probably shouldn't have. I do feel I would apologize if I offended his personal space or whatever you mentioned. Verbal assault--I think he used that term. I just can't imagine someone in professional sports isn't used to some direct language. That said, I shouldn't have chosen those words.

TED: But it's interesting. Obviously profanity is one thing, we understand that, emotions get high… but "take your stupid baseball team and get out." Some would say that that "stupid baseball team," the economic impact on the area--you're talking some $8 billion--generates a lot of tax revenue and they are saying this is a pretty good fair rate of return on a $238 million investment. Are they wrong?

ANDY: Well again, I would let my letter stand on its own.
And as far as my remarks go that he put together and compiled into his follow-up letter, the comments about "take your team…" I guess where I was, my state of mind at the time was, I really harken back and wish we had the days--and I never thought I would say this because I used to butt heads with the Colangelo Group quite often--but there was never any doubt in my mind that they were completely committed to Arizona, to Phoenix, to Maricopa County, to delivering a top notch product here...

TED: You don't think the current ownership is?

ANDY: If they do, they don't show it very well, I don't think. I really had no doubts about the Colangelo Group, and as you move forward I think my comment about "take your team back to West Virginia" was probably a reaction to… when the Mountaineers came to the ball game last year and played the Sun Devils, I understood that somebody made a big deal to get a suite and root on the Mountaineers to beat my Sun Devils.

TED: But Again, the idea that the Diamondbacks have an economic impact on the area, and just "take your team and go home…" I mean, do you agree that keeping that team where it is is a good thing?

ANDY: I think to have Major League Baseball in the Valley, it should be downtown. I do think there are, you know, very positive economic benefits.
We can haggle over how much it really is or how much of it is just monies that would have gone somewhere else but it is not new money to the economy. I am a baseball fan and I want baseball in Arizona. I want a home team I am proud of and that includes all the way to the ownership. So, I think it is a two way street.

TED: Good to have you. Thank you for joining us.

ANDY: Thank you.

Andy Kunasek: Maricopa County Supervisor

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