In 1995, Major League Baseball awarded Arizona an expansion franchise. On March 31, 1998, the Diamondbacks played their first game in front of 50,179 fans in overflowing Bank One Ballpark, now Chase Field. This year marks 20 years since the Diamondbacks’ first opening day in 1998.
There have been many historic moments in the last 20 years, but most Arizonans remember the 2001 World Series, where the Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion team to win a championship, only four years after its inception.
To commemorate the most impactful players from the last 20 years to wear the Diamondbacks’ uniform, the organization released the names of 16 players that fans chose for a 20th anniversary team. The team includes current first-baseman and six-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, all-time leader in almost every offensive category who is best known for his walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, Luis Gonzalez, and Hall of Fame pitcher and five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, just to name a few.
These players have helped the Diamondbacks attract almost 50 million fans to the ballpark, but the Diamondbacks’ contribution to the community extends far beyond the ball field. Fans and non-fans have benefitted from an economic boost to the community as well as the organization’s commitment to service in our state.
The Diamondbacks played their first game 20 years ago, but the organization has had a positive economic impact for longer. 2,627 jobs were created each year during the construction of the ballpark in 1996, 1997, and 1998. The economic output of construction alone was $689.7 million, before a single game was played.
Since the stadium’s completion, Chase Field has employed an average of 1,500 people each year, not including employment generated outside the stadium in hotels, merchandise sales, transportation, etc.
In total, the economic output from the last 20 years exceeds $8.3 billion, or about $415 million per year including taxes from ticket sales, concessions, food, maintenance, merchandise, advertising revenue, utility bills, and hotel bills.
Off the field, the organization’s commitment to the community began in 1997 with the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation. The Foundation addresses three main areas of need: homelessness, indigent health care, and a wide range of children’s programs. The Diamondbacks and the Foundation have given more than $55 million to non-profit organizations across the community.
The Diamondbacks’ dedication to Arizona is something that has been ingrained in the organization since its founding, according to Senior Vice President of Communications Josh Rawitch. “We’re always going to give back to the community,” commented Rawitch, “Even when the team doesn’t win on the field, we know that we can still have wins off the field.”
In 2010, the organization became the first professional sports team to win the inaugural United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award that recognizes organizations that positively impact their communities through corporate responsibility. The Diamondbacks were specifically awarded for their work with the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Phoenix and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).
“We’re blessed to be able to be on a big stage out here and we get to impact a lot of people, not only on the field but off the field. You’re able to use your voice and your reputation as a player to try to help other organizations,” said Diamondbacks legend Luis Gonzalez after his selection to the 20th anniversary team. “Every player that comes here, I think they understand the concept – it’s about giving back and understanding the importance of giving back. That’s something we take a lot of pride in as the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
The Diamondbacks have contributed to our state in countless ways, but the organization’s partnership with Arizona has just begun, according to Rawitch. “What you’ve seen in the first 20 years, you’re going to see more of in the next 20.”