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A lucrative events contract at the heart of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lawsuit to leave Chase Field is expiring, leaving open a possibility: Could Maricopa County craft a new agreement that entices the team to stay?

When team officials first said publicly last year that they wanted contract concessions or they would seek a new home, they proposed taking over the contract to manage Chase Field’s non-baseball events. But now an attorney for the team says whoever is awarded the work likely won’t satisfy the team’s concerns.

“It’s not going to affect the lawsuit,” Leo Beus told The Arizona Republic. “… At this stage, we just need the ability to look elsewhere.”

The contract for non-baseball events such as mega concerts, GoDaddy holiday parties and soccer matches is the subject of a closed-door meeting Monday by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Scottsdale-based Select Artists’ Associates/SMG has managed stadium events in the off-season since the stadium opened in 1998, splitting revenues with the county and the Diamondbacks. Its latest five-year contract expires June 30. 

Chase Field repairs dispute

In their lawsuit seeking to explore alternative homes to Chase Field, team officials complained that Select Artists’ Associates/SMG failed to bring as many events as other stadiums. There were five large events and about 200 smaller ones last fiscal year, according to budget documents.

The Diamondbacks contend the low number of events hampers the county’s ability to raise as much as $187 million for stadium repairs and upgrades the team wants.

“Chase Field … is not being utilized to anywhere near its potential for generating revenue through hosting non-baseball events,” the team’s lawsuit states.

The new contract is proposed to run for 10 years, through the end of the Diamondbacks’ lease at Chase Field in 2027.

The county confirmed it received two bids. But until supervisors vote on the contract sometime later this month, the county will not disclose the identities of the bidders.

Because Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall previously suggested the team take over event booking, it seemed likely team officials would bid for the work when it came open.

But team spokesman Josh Rawitch said Friday that the Diamondbacks did not. He declined further comment.

Beus said whoever wins the new contract would not reassure the team. Team officials do not believe any contractor can generate enough money from events to fill the financial gap between the stadium’s reserves and the anticipated cost of repairs. 

Charles Johnston, head of Select Artists’ Associates/SMG, did not return a voice mail Friday seeking comment.

Select Artists’ Associates/SMG has worked hard to attract events to Chase Field, said county spokesman Fields Moseley, especially in a competitive environment that includes facilities like Talking Stick Resort Arena (home of the Phoenix Suns), Gila River Arena (home of the Arizona Coyotes) and University of Phoenix Stadium (home of the Arizona Cardinals).

“It would be great if more events came in, but the reality of this is, you only have a 4- to 5-month window during which to both do repairs and (book events),” he said. 

Chase Field’s limitations make booking more difficult. For instance, concert promoters hesitate to schedule concerts there in the winter because it lacks heat, Moseley said.

Originally, the Diamondbacks had authority over booking of non-baseball events, but traded those rights in return for real-estate management rights, Moseley said. He disputed the team’s contention that revenue from non-baseball events is supposed to be the main source for repairs.

Attorneys for the county and team negotiated during the spring on terms to shift the lawsuit from court to arbitration. Now a judge is expected to decide the next steps.

Beus cast doubt on arbitration, saying it would be highly complicated.

“All we’re asking for is the ability to talk to other alternatives so we don’t risk our franchise altogether when they (county officials) don’t do the capital repairs they’re required to do,” he said.


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