Umbrellas can help, but afternoon games at Ranger games in the summer are hot, hot, hot. RODGER MALLISON Star-Telegram archives
Umbrellas can help, but afternoon games at Ranger games in the summer are hot, hot, hot. RODGER MALLISON Star-Telegram archives

Arlington

Even if it’s hot, fans flock to watch Rangers — if they’re winning

May 20, 2016 01:13 PM

UPDATED May 21, 2016 06:42 PM

ARLINGTON

Gerry Friberg has access to season tickets in Section 15 at Globe Life Park, a short toss from third base.

But when it’s hot outside, he’d rather stay cool.

He fully supports the plan to build the Texas Rangers a new stadium, complete with a retractable roof and air conditioning — when needed.

“The day games are so brutal that I won’t go to them,” said Friberg, who was at J. Gilligan’s sports bar Friday when plans for the new stadium were announced. “And neither will my wife or anybody else. The last three years I’ve toughed it out. This year I’m not going to do it.”

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Plans call for Arlington and the Rangers to split the $1 billion cost for a new stadium, to be built south of Globe Life Park. The city’s share will be paid — pending voter approval — in part by the half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and 5 percent car rental tax being used to pay off debt for AT&T Stadium.

Friberg is sold on the idea. He went to a game last year in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, where there’s a retractable roof.

“It was 75 degrees. The seats were wide and it was so pleasant. It was beautiful in there,” Friberg said. “I’ve been thinking to myself, if only the Rangers ballpark could put a lid on it. This is the difference between me going there and not going there.”

Like Friberg, many people look toward the sun to rationalize building a domed stadium. When it’s 95-plus degrees in the shade and that baseball helmet of ice cream has turned to chocolate soup, watching sports isn’t much fun.

Commenters on the Star-Telegram’s Facebook page are hot and cold on the issue.

“A retractable roof is a win for everyone …” one post said.

But another said: “I'm glad they are staying in Arlington, but they do not need a new ballpark. ... Baseball is an outdoor sport and it is hot in Texas. Get over it!”

Remembering games in 1980

Summers are always hot in North Texas and 1980 was a doozy. It is still considered the hottest on record, though 2011 surpassed it for the most 100-degree days.

It reached 113 degrees on June 26 and June 27 in 1980 — the hottest days ever recorded in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Rangers’ fans took notice.

On June 26, the Rangers, playing in the old Arlington Stadium, lost to the Seattle Mariners 8-4 with an announced attendance of 9,531. The following night, the Rangers beat the Minnesota Twins 5-0 in front 10,818.

All told, it was above 100 degrees for 42 consecutive days and 69 days in all in 1980. Rangers’ attendance dropped to 1,198,175 — an average of 14,702 fans per game — from 1,519,671 in 1979.

An air-conditioned stadium might have helped boost attendance, but it wasn’t just the heat that kept the fans away.

The Rangers’ record in 1980 was 76-85, which landed them in fourth place in the American League West.

Fast forward to 2011, when there were 71 days above 100 degrees. During July, when 30 of 31 days hit 100 degrees or better, the Rangers played 17 home games.

But because the Rangers were winning, fans still showed up.

On July 24, when the high temperature reached 104 degrees, 43,117 fans showed up to watch the Rangers play the Blue Jays. The next day it was 106 and 35,753 fans watched the Rangers pound the Twins, 20-6.

Overall in 2011 — when the Rangers were the best team in the American League — they drew 2,946,949 (36,382 per game), which was up more 400,000 from the 2010 season.

The following year, the Rangers drew 42,719 per game, the third-best attendance mark in baseball, behind the Phillies and Yankees.

Winning, it seems, is the great equalizer.

Record means more than temperature

On July 30, when temperatures reached 104, the Rangers drew 34,407 fans in a 7-6 victory over the Yankees.

Ray Davis, co-owner of the Rangers, said at Friday’s news conference that keeping fans comfortable during down times is a big reason for building a ballpark with a retractable roof.

Last year, with the Rangers coming off a dismal record of 67-95 in 2014, fans were slow to come back. In 11 of their first 19 home games, the Rangers drew less than 30,000. High temperatures on those days were mostly in the 70s and 80s.

Attendance picked up as the Rangers made their run toward another American League West title and the team ended up averaging 30,763 fans per game, 16th among all Major League teams.

The number of people attending games was actually above average on the hottest days of the year.

On July 30, when it was 104, the Rangers drew 34,407 fans in a 7-6 victory over the Yankees, a team that always draws well in Arlington.

And on Aug. 5, temperature 103, the Rangers drew 31,512 fans in a 4-3 victory over the Astros.

By season’s end, the Rangers won the AL West by two games.

Heat matters, but winning matters more.

Rickey French, who lives a short walk away from Globe Life Park, gets that.

But he also understands the desire for an air-conditioned stadium — and ice cream that doesn’t melt.

“We’re not going out there in July and August. There’s no way. It’s too hot,” said French, wearing a Yu Darvish T-shirt. “I know a lot of people say baseball should be played outdoors, and I agree. But not in the Texas heat.”

Correspondent Nicholas Sakelaris contributed to this report, which includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

Lee Williams: 817-390-7840, @leewatson