Guest Editorial: The First of Many Potential Twists, Turns & Politics Around D-Backs Future at Chase Field or a New Ballpark

Recker McDowell —

First it was the renderings. Now it is a potential architect.

These are but the first of many twists and turns for the Arizona Diamondbacks, their future at Chase Field or potentially a new ballpark.

The latest has the D-backs hiring architecture firm HKS to do designs on a possible new ballpark. HKS designed Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for the D-backs and Colorado Rockies as well as the renovations at Maryvale Baseball Park for the Milwaukee Brewers. The firm has also designed new stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. HKS is also the architect for that little $5 billion stadium in Los Angeles for the Rams and Chargers.

The Diamondbacks potentially picking an architect to draw up new stadium blueprints comes after another prominent sports designer, MEIS Architects, briefly posted some renderings of a potential new Arizona ballpark.

These are the first two scenes in what could be a much longer storyline for the D-backs and their future home.

Chase Field was built in 1998. It’s capacity, just under 48,700, is too big by today’s baseball and sports fan standards. The Diamondbacks are averaging crowds of 26,250 at games this season.

Many of those same architects who have been pitching the D-backs ballpark designs contend many new and future baseball stadiums should seat 30,000 to 35,000. That could put a premium on tickets and outfit a ballpark with more social and standing areas fans like.

Stadiums and arenas are increasingly viewing themselves at entertainment destinations. That means having food, drinks and social areas for millennials and other younger consumers. The D-backs have also started booking more non-baseball events at Chase Field including concerts, WWE wrestling and a drone league competition. A new or renovated ballpark could be seen as more event and millennial friendly.

A new ballpark would also allow the D-backs to offer new and improve premium areas, concessions and bars. Those all help propel revenue. If you check around the country, ballparks, arenas and football stadiums aren’t sticking around for that long unless you are at Fenway Park, Lambeau Field or Wrigley Field.

New or renovated ballpark machinations also mean plenty of political twists and turns. Chase Field does not have an emotional hold on the region. But its downtown Phoenix location brings the 21-year-old ballpark plenty of supporters. The stadium and adjacent Talking Stick Resort Arena have been part of downtown Phoenix’s growth over the years.

The Diamondbacks can look at a big renovation (and downsizing) of Chase Field. Whether that is operationally and financially feasible is another question.

We can also expect to see other locations in and around downtown Phoenix as well as other parts of the Valley pop up as the team ponders its options. Some of that will be noise and social media rumors.

Some of that noise, legitimate or not, will lead to talk of ballpark plans in Portland or maybe Montreal.

Ballpark renderings and pondering a future at Chase Field or another stadium will make for fun chat on Twitter, around water coolers and for local media.

Just get ready for more twists, turns and politics as the storyline and process unfolds.