BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINTON, Texas – Last Friday afternoon, the Rangers announced that they and the city of Arlington would embark on building a new home for the Texas Rangers. The current lease on Globe Life Ballpark, originally named The Ballpark in Arlington, expires after the 2023 season. It takes approximately three years to build a ballpark, so all the planning, land acquisition and financing needs to be in place no later than 2021 if a new ball park was in the offing. In short, it was time to contemplate the future.
Clearly, the city of Dallas was already in motion trying to woo the Rangers away from Arlington. Arlington though had one clear advantage. They could tear up the existing lease and get the Rangers moved much sooner. The new park is expected to open no later than the 2021 season.
For Ranger fans that regularly attended games in the old Arlington Stadium, it seems like Globe Life Ballpark should have withstood the test of time to be functional for more than 30 years, the original lease term of Globe Life. It is noteworthy however that the current park that opened in 1994 is younger than just 10 of the other 29 Major League ballparks. Those 10 include the parks in Toronto, Chicago (White Sox) and Baltimore that opened only a few years prior to the Ballpark in Arlington. Boston is the oldest American League park. Oakland, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles (Anaheim), and Kansas City are the other American League parks that are older. Wrigley Field in Chicago and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles are the only two older parks in the National League.
With so much construction since the Ballpark in Arlington opened, which includes two new parks in Atlanta, the norms and standards have become much more demanding. The amenity that is especially missing from Globe Life Ballpark is the retractable roof accompanied by air conditioning. The Rangers looked hard at the option of adding this amenity to the current location, but that was estimated to cost more than half a billion (with a “B”) dollars, such that building a new park from scratch is more feasible. There were also the problematic logistics of the construction to add air conditioning and a retractable roof while the team is playing baseball.
The bottom line is that a new park is the way to go. The initial cost estimate is $1 billion, a figure that is sure to rise. The new park will be located just south of the current location, an area that is currently utilized as parking lots A and B.
Ray Davis, the managing general partner for the Rangers made the announcement Friday. He was very complimentary of the job that Tom Schieffer in particular did with the design of the Ballpark in Arlington. However, he made no promises that the new park would have similar architecture, an aspect of the current stadium that has drawn rave reviews. The new park will be designed with fewer seats. The capacity is anticipated to be in the 42,000 – 44,000 range. That seems to be the trend of newer parks. Teams can sell more season tickets with a capacity closer to 40,000 than 50,000.
There were conceptual architecture drawings, but details are sketchy. The ballpark that is getting much admiration is St. Louis, with the surrounding commercial area dubbed “Ballpark Village”. The Rangers and Arlington intend to build a similar development near the ballpark, which will include a hotel.
For sure, the Rangers should be getting an All-Star game allocated once the new stadium becomes a reality. For sure the retractable roof and air conditioning will assure fans there will be a game when there is the threat of rain; and when the temperatures in the area get into triple digit territory, fans can watch in comfort. There undoubtedly will be other events at the new stadium. It will be a consumer bonanza.
It also will undoubtedly cost fans dearly. Much of the financing will come from some form of fan support in return for seat locations. Bonds were the form for the Ballpark in Arlington. Seat licenses were the form for Jerry Jones’s football stadium next door. More seats will be involved and the cost to participate will far exceed the previous ballpark construction. Ticket prices will escalate on top of that.
On Tuesday night, the Arlington City Council unanimously approved a master agreement that sets out the terms of the partnership between Arlington and the Rangers to build the new ballpark and the surrounding entertainment district. Rangers’ co-owner Ray Davis said in a prepared statement, “Tonight’s action by the City Council is an important step in the process in this public-private partnership to build a new ballpark for Arlington and all our fans. I want to thank and commend Mayor Jeff Williams and the Arlington city leaders for their vision in reaching out to us and helping put together and approving this historic agreement.”
“The Rangers are excited about the possibility of calling Arlington home for many years to come, and we are committed to building a world class facility which will provide the best possible experience for our fans,” Davis continued. “We look forward to working with Mayor Williams, the city leaders and the citizens of Arlington over the next several months to insure that this dream becomes a reality.”
The next step is to put the proposal to a vote on November 8. Arlington residents will be asked to approve to extend the existing venue taxes approved in 2004 to build AT&T Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. This is a one-half percent sales tax, 5% car rental tax, and 2% hotel occupancy tax that will be used to finance the public portion of the development cost.
It seems a shame that the current Globe Life Ballpark is outdated barely 20 years into the life cycle, but as one great baseball man used to say. “That’s the way baseball go.” And that’s the way baseball will be going in Arlington.