Two weeks after Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee decisively lost a re-election bid over his handling of the Braves’ stadium deal, an Arizona politician’s tough tact in dealing with the Diamondbacks demand for $187 million in upgrades to Chase Field came to light this week.
Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek told Diamondbacks’ president Derrick Hall: “If it were up to me, I’d let you take your stupid baseball team and get out … go back to (expletive) West Virginia, or wherever.”
A story in Monday’s Arizona Republic detailed Kunasek’s bean-ball letter and his profanity-laced exchange with Hall after delivering it in April.
Kunasek, like Lee, is a Republican who has won multiple elections touting his conservatism. The team and county have been sparring for years over which party is responsible for upgrades to the $354 million Chase Field, which opened in 1998.
Kunasek called the Diamondbacks’ request for more public money “obscene.”
“My instinctive concern for the taxpayer is amplified by my belief that this facility should never have been built using taxpayer funds, and to turn the music up louder, THEY WERE NEVER GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THAT DECISION AT THE BALLOT BOX,” the letter says.
“I have no intention of compounding that wrong by supporting your obscene demand that we provide another massive infusion of taxpayer money to the private business that currently employs you.”
Cobb taxpayers also were denied the chance to vote on the public investment in SunTrust Park, and it became the central issue in Lee’s race against retired Marine Col. Mike Boyce.
Lee maintained throughout the election that a referendum on the Braves’ deal was impossible and that the team would have moved to another location if he had pushed for one.
Boyce seized on that as the cornerstone of his campaign’s platform, asking voters why they got to vote on a $40 million parks bond but not a $376 million stadium bond.
Boyce won the July 26 runoff by nearly a two-to-one margin. Cobb taxpayers will put more than $400 million into SunTrust Park — $376 million toward construction plus $35 million for 30 years of capital maintenance.
Cobb’s agreement with the Braves defines capital maintenance as dealing with things such as fixing or replacing mechanical systems, concrete, electrical, plumbing and the like.
Back in Arizona, Maricopa County has rejected the team’s request for reimbursement of $65 million in maintenance upgrades, saying the repairs are cosmetic and the team’s responsibility, according to The Republic. The newspaper also reported that the Diamondbacks say $187 million in improvements are needed over the next 12 years, and have threatened a lawsuit to break its lease and leave town if they are not made.
Kunasek’s letter says Major League Baseball “is evolving into a parasitic enterprise which is well on its way to destroying its host.”
“I suggest that you focus on your job, which should be the development of a successful product (a winning team), which will improve the fan experience and in turn will increase ticket sales and reignite a desire for people to attend and watch professional baseball in Arizona.
“Or, if you want, run for a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Maybe you can become the personal valet your owners want on the board. Please quit trying to do both jobs.”
Hall wrote a long reply to Kunasek’s letter, in which he touts the baseball stadium’s economic impact to the area.
“For now, I will assume that based upon your comments, there is no interest on behalf of either the City of Phoenix or Maricopa County in furthering the past partnership (with) the Diamondbacks,” Hall’s letter says. “Your candor with respect to this issue will cause us to move forward in a different direction.”
SunTrust Park is scheduled to open in April, for the Braves 2017 season.