With 48 days until voters weigh in on the proposed $1 billion climate-controlled stadium for the Texas Rangers, Arlington first-responder groups have rushed to the aid of ballpark supporters.
The Arlington Professional Fire Fighters Association, which represents all but a handful of the city’s firefighters, and the Arlington Police Association jointly announced their support Thursday, saying the stadium would boost the local economy and pump revenue into city services such as public safety.
The lead support campaign — Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers political action committee — welcomed the support while indicating that the situation is not critical.
“Their support for keeping the Rangers with no new taxes is further proof of the incredible momentum our campaign is enjoying right now,” Mayor Jeff Williams, chairman of that campaign, said in joint statement. “And stay tuned — we have more big endorsements coming soon.”
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association, which counts as its members about 345 of the city’s 640 sworn officers, won’t be one of them, board member Chris CeBallos said.
But CeBallos, who said he was unaware of the Vote Yes! announcement, said a lot of his members appreciate all the off-duty part-time work they get at Globe Life Park in Arlington and hope the Rangers stay.
“I think most of our members support it, but we’re not going to come out for or against it as an organization,” he said.
The Nov. 8 election will determine whether the city pays up to $500 million to help the Rangers build the new baseball home.
If the stadium proposal wins, the city would extend a half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and 5 percent car-rental tax and redirect part of that revenue to start work on the new stadium. The taxes now are paying down the remaining $175 million in debt on the city’s share of AT&T Stadium’s construction costs.
Opponents say the cited economic benefits are exaggerated and contend that extending the existing taxes beyond their original voter-backed purposes amounts to creating new taxes. And they argue the 22-year-old ballpark is just fine — despite the Rangers’ concerns that blistering Texas heat suppresses attendance at games and opportunities to book events.
“I know personally many firefighters and police officers who are not for the stadium,” said Faith Bussey, president of the Citizens for a Better Arlington PAC, whose opposition campaign is Save Our Stadium. “From everything I know about the leadership of the associations, I don’t think they’re representing the whole.”
The opposition group’s stance contrasts with the those of Arlington Police Association President J.P. Mason and fire association President David Crow, who had this to say in the statement Thursday:
Mason: “By keeping our hometown team we can continue to attract approximately 2.5 million fans each year to shop and dine in our city. But without the Rangers, we would struggle to recoup those lost dollars in our economy.”
Crow: “The millions of dollars in sales tax revenue paid for by the visitors and tourists the team attracts help our city pay for better public safety services. That means safer neighborhoods for Arlington families.”