The city of Arlington is apparently ready to again play ball with the Texas Rangers.
Sources with the city say there will be a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Friday to make an “important economic development announcement.” Speculation is that the city and Texas Rangers have agreed on plans to build a stadium with a roof that would be funded in part by a half-cent sales tax once AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys, is paid off.
The ballpark would cost approximately $900 million and be split equally between the city and the Rangers.
Voter approval would be required to use tax dollars for the ballpark.
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Officials with both the city and the baseball club declined to comment Thursday, including about a target construction date or location for the new park.
But Arlington officials have made no bones about their desire to keep the Rangers in town after the team’s lease at Globe Life Park expires in 2024. City leaders don’t like to talk publicly about it, but there have been rumors that business and political leaders in Dallas were trying to lure the team away.
“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, speaking generally about the city’s desire to keep its team. “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.”
Globe Life Park, which opened in 1994, still enjoys a reputation for providing baseball fans the nostalgia of classic understated architecture combined with modern restrooms, concessions and luxury boxes.
For many fans, the ballpark still feels new, although it is now the 11th oldest facility in Major League Baseball. Eighteen other clubs now play in newer stadiums. Six ballparks have retractable roofs and one has a fixed dome. Cleveland’s Progressive Field opened the same year as Globe Life Park, which was originally known as The Ballpark in Arlington.
The lack of a roof and accompanying air conditioning is considered one factor that can keep fans away from Globe Life Park, especially during the dog days of summer, when the temperature can stay in the mid-90s even during night games.
Requires voter approval
Voters would have to approve using money now designated for paying off the AT&T Stadium debt for another project.
The city originally issued $298 million in bonds in 2005 to build AT&T Stadium, which has become arguably the most famous landmark in the NFL and has hosted major events including a Super Bowl, college football championship and a country music awards show. That debt was supposed to take until 2035 to pay off, but by refinancing and making payments early the city says it’s possible to retire the obligation by 2021.
A city official reached Thursday afternoon declined to discuss whether Arlington was ready to re-purpose that debt capacity to keep the Rangers. In addition to building AT&T Stadium with bonds, Arlington built Globe Life Park with $135 million in debt, and that obligation was paid off early in 2001.
“For more than four decades, Arlington and the Texas Rangers have had a strong relationship,” city spokeswoman Susan Schrock said. “That relationship was further strengthened last year with the announcement of the public-private partnership between the city and the Rangers for the proposed Texas Live! development in our entertainment district. We look forward to continuing that relationship for many years to come. The city has no other comment at this time.”
Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ executive vice president for business operations, also declined to speculate on the team’s future beyond the end of its lease in 2024.
Paying off its bonds early has put Arlington in a favorable light with New York credit-rating agencies, making it cheaper for the city to borrow money for future projects.
“Our taxes are coming in stronger than expected and we’re able to pay this down faster,” Arlington City Treasurer Ethan Klos told the Star-Telegram last week. “I would think the citizens would be proud of this. They voted and said we are willing to do this for 30 years, and we’ve been able to do it in a whole lot less.”
Texas Live! on the books
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.
Texas Live! is set to be built at the southwest corner of Randol Mill Road and Nolan Ryan Expressway, catty-corner from the ballpark’s first-base entrance. Construction is expected to begin this fall.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.
Baseball under a roof
Of the 30 Major League Baseball teams, six play in retractable roof stadiums and one plays under a fixed roof. The stadiums with roofs:
- Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Marlins Park, Miami Marlins
- Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers
- Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros
- Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays
- Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners
- Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays*
* Roof not retractable.