1990s Texas ballpark now “old,” not entertaining enough

One of the first “retro” baseball parks that ushered in the stadium building boom in the ’90s is about to be demolished.

What was once called The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 in Arlington, Texas, just two years after the iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the baseball park that made teams want to have one just like it. Since then, most teams have gotten a publicly-financed stadium.

But with the report today that the Texas ballpark is going to be replaced, a new life-expectancy is being set for the stadiums that started the building boom: just 22 years. It also reinforces the notion that a city’s stadium-building boom never actually ends.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports a news conference this afternoon will unveil details of an “economic development project,” said to be a new $900 million stadium. It will be funded with a sales tax, just as soon as that tax pays off the Dallas Cowboys stadium that was fairly recently built nearby.

What’s the matter with the “old” ballpark?

It’s the 11th-oldest park in baseball, a sport that requires new, flashier, better, and more profitable venues.

The Texas Rangers, who have a lease in the current ballpark until the next decade, reportedly were going to be lured to nearby Dallas. That’s a cocktail that’s perfect for getting public funding.

“We need to show love for the Rangers right now, y’all, ” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams told the Rotary Club of Fort Worth last week, according to the newspaper. “The Rangers don’t want to leave, but there are other cities, and we know one that starts with a D that wants to take it. … Right now is a key time for us.”

The old joint was built in an era where teams demanded stadiums for baseball, when fans were expected to attend baseball games.

Those days are over, according to the newspaper. Fans want more entertainment options. So Arlington will build a little city of entertainment, which will include room for a baseball game or two.

Rangers rendering

City officials have already agreed to pay $50 million toward construction of Texas Live! with the Rangers. That project will include 100,000 square feet of restaurant, bar and retail space, 35,000 square feet of convention space and plans for a 300-bed, high-rise luxury hotel to be built directly across from Globe Life Park.

The city’s $50 million share is considered an incentive grant, Schrock said. The city recalled money from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation for the grant, and plans to replenish the funds over about 15 years.

For the hotel adjacent to Texas Live!, the city agreed to provide the developer with tax breaks that include refunds of hotel occupancy tax, property tax, sales tax and mixed beverage tax for 30 years, plus hotel occupancy and sales tax for 10 years from the state. The state comptroller’s office recently determined that the project is eligible for a refund of those taxes, said spokesman Kevin Lyons.

The precise dollar value of the tax breaks, which will be applied to both the hotel and the entertainment complex, will depend on how many people book hotel room nights, eat meals, drink beverages and buy retail goods.

Where would city leaders come up with the idea? St. Louis, which built an entertainment complex around the new home for the Cardinals.

It’s not enough anymore that a baseball stadium is a great place to watch a baseball game.

  • wjc

    Just insane!

  • tboom

    I read somewhere this week that the Twins need a new ballpark, it seems that in order to field a competitive team, Target Field is no longer a viable option.

    • wjc

      Heh!

  • PaulJ

    It sounds like they just need to spur the developement of some venues around the park. But isn’t that what parks are supposed to do? Maybe they could put our new stadium inside the MOA, home plate is already there.

  • Rob

    sticking taxpayers with the bill every time a new stadium gets built – and making sweetheart tax break deals with developers to get them built – is American Exceptionalism at its finest.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    What this tells me is that Oriole Park at Camden Yards is probably the one true iconic ballpark of the era. It may end up like the other iconic ballparks that have survived various design and building booms: Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium and Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. The first two may never be replaced unless they fall down on their own. Dodger Stadium and to a lesser extent Kaufman Stadium are on their way to the status of places the locals don’t want to see changed. (I believe both continue to attract fans at a substantial clip even when the teams are/were doing poorly.) Baseball should require of its teams that they honor the contracts (aka leases) that they have signed.

  • lindblomeagles

    The Ranger’s desire for a new ballpark, while outrageous, does appear to be in line with what other professional sports teams have asked for. If you’ll recall, the Vikings began their new stadium pitch shortly before Red McCombs bought the club in the late 1990s, barely 20 years into their stay at the Old Metro Dome. Governors Ventura and Pawlenty made the Vikings wait more than a decade before giving into the Vikings’ request under Governor Dayton, but they did take care of the Minnesota Twins and the Golden Gophers somewhere between 25 and 35 years after both teams moved into the Metro Dome (and just by coincidence, the Twins ALSO requested a new stadium at the turn of the century, close to the time the Vikings did, about 20 years after making Metro Dome home). What prompted the Vikings and Twins to seek stadium deals in the late 1990s / early 2000s? Toronto’s Sky Dome, Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the Cardinals (NFL) move to Phoenix, the Rams move to Saint Louis, and expansion teams (Jacksonville and Carolina in the NFL, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida in the MLB) in both the NFL AND MLB. At some point, sports, stadiums, and cities aren’t going to be able to do these stadium deals, but we haven’t quite reached that point yet. What continues to keep the Cubs, Red Sox, and Dodgers in their stadiums is these clubs learned how to create, maintain, and grow fans even when they don’t play well.

  • Mike Worcester

    Good grief have they even paid off the bonds on The Ballpark yet? (Maybe, it has been twenty years, but still….)

  • jon

    If we rebuilt houses like we rebuild stadiums my neighborhood would have been demolished and rebuilt twice by now…
    (It’d probably also have several technology upgrades including a jumbotron of ever increasing size)

    Of course the construction crews to undertake rebuilding every house in the country every ~20-30 years probably means that most of us would need to work in the construction trade…

    But alas when I threaten to leave the city doesn’t even offer me a new house much less a new house and no taxes…