The Arizona Diamondbacks’ primary goal is to stay in its home state, but the team is not completely shutting the door on Henderson, either.
Not yet, anyway.
“I think we’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to,” Derrick Hall, team president and CEO, said in a Friday interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In a proposal submitted to the team last year, Nevada’s second-largest city envisioned a retractable-roof ballpark in west Henderson. Renderings show the ballpark near a planned development that would be home to retail, offices and residential buildings.
The city had four potential sites in mind.
A consultant estimated the stadium would cost $1 billion to construct. According to the proposal, the ballpark would be publicly owned and exempt from paying property taxes.
Not rushing it
The team released a statement this week saying it had received interest from “a number of cities,” but had not pursued any because it did not have permission from Major League Baseball and it wants to stay in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks have expressed interest in a development around a ballpark, similar to an entertainment district near the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park.
“Obviously, as we’ve gone through this, we’ve realized we want to stay in Arizona, we want it to work in Arizona, so we’re going to do everything we can looking here first,” he said. “It’s nice to know that there’s other markets out there that are interested, and I’m interested in hearing what they have to say one day.”
If the team doesn’t get what it wants in Arizona and opts to look at a different market, Hall said he would have to go through the Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office.
“We haven’t forgotten about anybody who has expressed interest,” he said. “You know, it’s something that we’re focused on here internally each and every day, what the future is going to be, but we haven’t been so aggressive with that timeline, as I’ve mentioned.”
But the Diamondbacks, he said, are looking at what it would take to improve Chase Field and are in no rush for a future home.
Hall downplayed the seriousness of the talks with Henderson, adding that the parties didn’t meet or negotiate.
“I would say, at the time, we were in a much faster frame of mind when it came to when we were hoping to have a decision on what we going to do, be it stay here, build new in Maricopa County (or) go elsewhere, but we’ve really slowed that down as well.”
Henderson’s city manager, Richard Derrick, exchanged emails with Hall last year and early this year about the proposal, and Hall had signaled an intention to run it by the league’s commissioner.
In an email on Sept. 4, 2018, Hall thanked the city manager for the proposal.
“As you know, we have kept your interest as confidential as possible and plan to continue doing so,” Hall wrote. “But now that you have officially responded to the request, for future steps, we will need to notify Major League Baseball and seek permission in order to be in relocation policy compliance. They understand the sensitive nature as well, naturally. Just an FYI.”
On Nov. 27, 2018, the city manager emailed Hall to give an update on developments in the city and invite him to tour sites during a visit to Las Vegas.
“If I am going, I would like to for sure. We plan to go visit the commissioner just after the New Year to discuss next steps with you regardless,” Hall replied. “I will let you know schedule. Have not lost interest at all.”
Hall told the Review-Journal he has always thought of Las Vegas as a viable market for professional baseball, and noted the success of the Vegas Golden Knights and excitement swirling around the fast-approaching relocation of the Raiders.
“I applaud and I salute the progessiveness and aggressive thoughts when it comes to attracting teams and/or companies and, I do, I think they’re fully capable and it’s exciting,” he said.
Not for leverage
Hall said he ultimately did not go to the commissioner for permission to move forward. The team’s focus, he said, shifted to improvements at Chase Field and preliminary talks in Arizona.
Despite the stalling of communication with the city, Hall said he remains impressed with Henderson’s professionalism and level of interest.
Hall also said the team has a good relationship with officials in Arizona. A Maricopa County spokesman said elected supervisors did not want to comment on the team’s possible relocation.
Last year, the team reached an agreement with Maricopa County to resolve issues with Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. The agreement, which included a provision to dismiss a lawsuit the team filed against the county, allows the Diamondbacks to pay to leave as early as the conclusion of the 2022 season.
But Hall insists the conversations with Henderson were not intended to be used as leverage in Phoenix.
“That’s why, obviously, we never had any conversations with anyone about interested parties outside of here,” he said.