Maricopa County asked a court on Friday to dismiss the lawsuit from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The county is seeking to settle the disagreement in out-of-court arbitration.
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Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall talks about the team’s negotiations with the county about improving Chase Field. Credit: Tom Tingle/The Republic | azcentral.com
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Maricopa County officials say the Diamondbacks’ contract with the stadium district prohibits the team from looking for a new home until 2024. Credit: Nick Oza/The Republic | azcentral.com
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County officials talk about contract with D-backs
Maricopa County abruptly canceled its search for a new Chase Field events manager Monday, heightening uncertainty surrounding its conflict with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The events-management contract is a key part of the Diamondbacks’ argument that the team should be allowed to break its lease at the 19-year-old stadium to look for another home.
The Diamondbacks have complained that the current manager has failed to attract enough non-baseball events to generate revenue for stadium repairs, a claim the county disputes.
The county recently put out a request for proposals seeking bids on a new 10-year contract to begin July 1. It drew two bidders.
On Monday, however, the county sent brief letters to both announcing the cancellation of bidding. The bidders were Select Artists’ Associates/SMG, the current manager, and R Entertainment, both based in Scottsdale.
Neither company responded to requests for comment.
“The idea is just to cast the net again and see if we can get more fish,” Maricopa County Stadium District Director Daren Frank said. “There’s a world of people out there that provide this service, let’s see if we can catch more.”
A strained relationship with current manager
The decision was a surprise, given the June 30 sunset of the current contract. Frank said the county might try to extend the contract with Select Artists’ Associates a few months while officials regroup.
But the county’s relationship with Select Artists’ Associates has been strained by the drama with the Diamondbacks.
“It was our understanding that we were going to enter into an invitation to negotiate an extension of our Booking Manager Agreement which expires June 30, 2017 … at the conclusion of the 2016 Diamondback MLB season October 1, 2016,” company CEO Charles Johnston wrote in a 2016 email to Frank obtained by The Arizona Republic under the Arizona Public Records Law.
“(T)his unfortunate turn of events is having an effect on our ability to book business,” Johnston continued. “… I am growing increasingly concerned about the negative impact that this evolving matter is having on us financially. Our being blindsided and not knowing what is going on has been a significant embarrassment to me and our staff. After 19 years of hard work and commitment to the Maricopa County Stadium District I am indeed disappointed to be the forgotten Booking Manager.”
The Diamondbacks didn’t bid on the contract, even though team president Derrick Hall said last year he wanted to take over the contract and do a better job attracting events.
Leo Beus, the high-powered Phoenix attorney handling the team’s lawsuit, said Friday the team no longer trusts that events revenue can cover up to $187 million in stadium repairs and upgrades the team says are needed.
The county did not cancel the bid process because the bidders were unqualified, county Chief Procurement Officer Kevin Tyne said. However, he and Frank would not provide additional details on their reasons for halting the solicitation.
The baseball team has “reasonable approval rights over the selection of the booking manager,” according to stadium agreements.
When asked whether Diamondbacks officials objected to Maricopa County’s solicitation terms or bidders, team spokesman Josh Rawitch and Beus declined to comment.
“That’s not why it’s going back,” Frank said. “We’re just looking to rebid it” within three to five months.
However, Tyne said county officials might consider options other than rebidding.
Maricopa County could evaluate “in-house partnerships, re-solicitation, all sorts of variables,” he said.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney declined comment. The supervisors discussed the bid cancellation Monday in a closed-door session.
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