Texas Rangers petition drive backs wine sales at ballpark

Posted Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers are backing a petition for a November ballot a measure that would allow wine to be a permanent drink option for fans at the ballpark.

The baseball team needs to collect more than 22,000 certified signatures by early May before the Arlington City Council will approve holding a local option election on whether to allow wine sales throughout the ballpark, and possibly the entire city.

Arlington officials said this week that the proposed ballot item, if approved by voters, would affect more than just the sports venue. It would also allow for wine or liquor stores to open within the city. Residents can now buy wine and beer at grocery stores.

"A city can't conduct an election and say, 'We are going to have it apply only to the entertainment district or south of Interstate 20,'" Assistant City Attorney David Barber said. "If you have a citywide election, it's going to apply citywide."

Since last season, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has allowed the Rangers to sell wine on a temporary basis for fans to drink in certain seating areas. But that waiver will end after this upcoming season if the election is not successful, officials said.

Currently, wine is only sold at very limited locations on the concourse and club levels, but wine cannot be purchased or consumed on the upper level at the city-owned facility.

"You can buy beer at pretty much any concession area in the ballpark. There are very few locations you can buy wine," said Rick George, the Rangers business operations president. "We want to make it more convenient for the fan so they can buy it wherever their seat location is."

Besides making red and white wines more accessible, the team is working with state lawmakers to change the rules so that fans will be able to carry their drinks -- whether beer, wine or mixed alcohol beverages -- from one level to another.

The ballpark's liquor permits currently restrict where certain beverages can be purchased and consumed, meaning a fan can't buy a beer on the concourse level and then take the escalator to the upper level with it.

"It's a portability issue. We want to be able to allow our fans to bring the beverage of their choice on different concourses," said George, adding that other stadiums don't face those restrictions. "People get to an escalator and then the usher says you can't bring that up here so they will try to chug it."

To get on the November ballot, the Texas Rangers must collect more than 22,000 signatures, which equals 35 percent of the registered Arlington voters who participated in the last governor's election, Barber said.

The council could call for the local option election no sooner than 30 days after the petition is returned and the signatures are certified.

"If they get the appropriate number of certified signatures, then the council has no option and has to call the election. And then it is up to the voters," Councilwoman Sheri Capehart said.

Capehart, who led the successful campaign to allow south Arlington restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages, said she supports the Rangers' effort because it would put the Ballpark on equal footing with Cowboys Stadium.

"Right now they are at a distinct disadvantage," Capehart said. "If they say that they need this, then I am willing to support that initiative for them."

If the election is successful, Capehart said, wine stores and liquor stores could not open unless they had the appropriate zoning.

Staff writer Patrick M. Walker contributed to this report.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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