With an election on a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium for the Texas Rangers less than two months away, the ballclub and city leaders want to clear up rumors about backroom discussions on repurposing the old stadium while maintaining its charm.
The rumors, they say, are true.
Rangers co-owner Ray Davis and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams did not provide many details, but did confirm that the 22-year-old Globe Life Park will not come down.
“We don’t need to have all of these answers today,” Davis, co-chairman and managing partner of the Rangers, said in a statement. “However, I want to be clear that we can develop the solutions while still maintaining the aesthetic and character of this beautiful building.”
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Williams boiled it down: “No. 1 is that the ballpark will not be bulldozed, and it will be standing for another generation.”
The comments followed an Aug. 18 Star-Telegram report citing sources as saying the Rangers and its development partner, The Cordish Cos., were working on preliminary concepts that included opening restaurants, additional offices and even residential condos in the wide concourses behind the stadium’s facade. The ideas included potential redevelopment of the field as a park or amphitheater.
There are political implications. A second career for the ballpark could soften the opposition among some residents, who seem as concerned about bulldozers as the city’s commitment to pay $500 million of the stadium’s cost.
Residents will vote Nov. 8 on whether to allow the city to extend a half-cent sales tax, a 2 percent hotel-occupancy tax and 5 percent car rental tax, which are paying down the city’s remaining debt on its share of the AT&T Stadium construction costs. City officials are looking at ways to refinance the debt and begin using the tax revenue to start building the new stadium.
Tuesday big day for Texas Live!
The announcement of repurposing efforts “answers a very key question that we’ve heard in the campaign,” said Brian Mayes, campaign manager for Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers political action committee, the highest-profile supporter of the proposed stadium. “Voters now can have confidence when they go to the polls that they will be voting to help build a state-of-the-art ballpark to keep the Rangers, with no new taxes, while also knowing the current ballpark will be repurposed for other uses that will help the Arlington community.”
Warren Norred, spokesman for the Citizens for a Better Arlington PAC and its opposition election campaign, Save Our Stadium, says the only way to truly save the old stadium is to defeat the new one.
“We are on the eve of an election,” Norred said. “And no adult voter should believe what a candidate or campaign says on the eve of an election.”
Should the stadium proposition win and Globe Life Park be repurposed, they would dovetail with Texas Live!, a planned $200 million mixed-use entertainment complex to be built almost adjacent to both stadiums.
Like the proposed stadium, Texas Live! is a public-private partnership of the city and Rangers, and will feature 100,000 square feet of shops, eateries, bars and music venues, plus a 35,000-square-foot convention annex and a 300-bed high-rise luxury hotel.
A media event to update the progress of Texas Live! is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday at Globe Life Park, featuring Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred as keynote speaker. Officials have said the project will break ground after the playoffs.
Designed to be repurposed
Significant portions of Globe Life Park, which opened in 1994 as The Ballpark in Arlington, have been earmarked for preservation since serious planning for the new stadium began a couple of years ago. Davis, in the statement, said the expansive, signature centerfield office complex is “at capacity with tenants, and we hope those companies will remain.”
“Our existing retail store and the Hall of Fame space can both be used as retail spaces to support” the Texas Live! development, on the south side of Randol Mill Road, he added. “As plans for a new ballpark development evolve, we believe the interior of the ballpark could be refitted for another purpose while still providing options for additional development.”
Williams, who also is Vote Yes! campaign chairman, said the original architect of The Ballpark in Arlington had designed it to someday be repurposed.
“Look at those concourses, and those big ‘Ranger Green’ trusses,” he said, estimating that the concourses range in depth from 100 to 200 feet. “Those are big spaces that will work well for restaurants, retail, convention space and more offices.”
But he said even a plan for fully repurposing the stadium might include razing parts of it to allow convenient public access to whatever becomes of the field — such as the amphitheater example, a use that also would give reason to preserve a certain amount of stadium seating.
Williams said it’s “way too early” to speculate on how such a project would be funded, whether by city tax revenue, tax breaks, Rangers’ money or combinations. But no matter what, he insisted, that redevelopment would pump big revenues into the local economy.
“This is just being smart,” he said.