Texas Rangers co-owner Ray Davis deemed putting a roof over Globe Life Park too expensive, so the club and the city of Arlington have agreed to jointly fund the building of a $1 billion stadium that will feature a retractable roof and crowd-pleasing air conditioning.
But if Davis, or anybody else with the Rangers, actually did conduct a study about climate-controlling the baseball cathedral originally known as The Ballpark in Arlington, he did so without calling the person who might know best — the man who built the place.
David M. Schwarz, the architect who designed the mere 22-year-old stadium on Randol Mill Road, was not called for his opinion. He was not informed that the building that elevated the then 42-year-old into a new stratosphere of prominence is soon to be an overpriced parking lot for 81 nights out of the year.
Schwarz, whose firm is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and once had an office in Fort Worth (he still owns a residence in the city), discovered the stunning news just like everybody else. His buildings — Bass Hall, Cook Children’s Medical Center, the Cowgirl National Museum, the Chase Bank building and so many more in Sundance Square — are synonymous with Fort Worth.
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$191 million Cost of Globe Life Park in 1994, with $135 million coming from the city of Arlington through a half-cent sales tax.
“It made me sad, but you know, that’s not particularly surprising,” Schwarz said in a telephone interview with the Star-Telegram on Wednesday from his D.C. office. “I don’t know the new owners and I don’t know what their thoughts are, so it’s very hard for me to have an informed opinion; as a result, I don’t. I don’t know what they plan on doing with the old ballpark. It was designed so you should be able to do something with parts of it if you want to, so I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion. But as the ‘artiste,’ if you will — and I put that in quotes — it makes me sad.”
David M. Schwarz Architects beat out 16 firms in 1991 to build a palace that would replace dilapidated Arlington Stadium, an outdated minor-league park, and launch the Rangers into a new era as a bona-fide big-league franchise.
At the time, George W. Bush and the late Edward W. Rose were ownership partners. Tom Schieffer was in the ownership group and became the team’s president in 1991. North Texas summers were just as brutal then as they are now, so naturally there was discussion about building a new stadium with a roof.
“There was a great deal of conversation about it, and both Tom Schieffer and George Bush felt very strongly that baseball is an outdoor sport, and it’s meant to be played outside,” Schwarz said. “And since most of the games are in the evening, the bulk of the games didn’t happen at times where it was impossible to be there. But the fact that it is an outdoor stadium was very much a part of what the ownership at that point wanted.”
Built from Texas granite and red brick, The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 at a cost of around $191 million, and to widespread acclaim. Schwarz followed through in remarkable detail the wishes of Schieffer to create a retro-style ballpark that reflected the distinct flavor of the state of Texas, from the Longhorn head reliefs to the carvings depicting great moments in the state’s history.
“If you look at my work, our work is all about the detail, it’s all about the iconography,” Schwarz said. “We put an enormous amount of thought into the imagery and iconography in our buildings.”
Said Schieffer: “I’m not an objective observer when it comes to The Ballpark in Arlington. I love the ballpark, I loved being a part of the creative team that built it, and in my heart it will last forever. I also will always be grateful to the citizens of Arlington for partnering with the Rangers to build it. In the end, whatever they decide on the ballpark’s future will be fine with me because it’s their ballpark.
“We spent an enormous amount of time on it, and David Schwarz had the best idea about it: He said that individual details, people don’t notice, but it’s the sum of the details they notice. And what we wanted to do was build a ballpark that people, when they came into it would remember it, and when they saw it on television would remember it and instantly know where they were, and I think we did a good job of that.”
The Rangers’ newest owners, billionaires Davis and Bob Simpson, were approached by Arlington officials fearful of advances from Dallas and determined to nip in the bud any wooing of the club once the lease on Globe Life Park expires early in the next decade. Davis said he was asked what would keep the team in Arlington for generations to come, and he said moving into a retractable-roof stadium before the lease expires would be mighty nice.
George [Bush] assured me it would be there for 100 years. If he had stayed owning the team, it might have.
Globe Life Park architect David Schwarz
Schwarz was certain his ballpark would serve Rangers fans for multiple generations. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ballpark two years ago, Jon Zubiller, an architect at Schwarz’s firm, compiled a list of 20 little-known facts about the ballpark. In closing, he wrote: “As some other teams may look to abandon their stadiums after only 20 years, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was designed and built to last for generations and is just stepping into its prime.”
Just stepping into its prime …
“George [Bush] assured me it would be there for 100 years,” Schwarz said. “If he had stayed owning the team, it might have.”
Schwarz, who would later build American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas, attended a Rangers game last summer.
“The Ballpark in my mind, and in my heart, has worn very well,” Schwarz said. “It’s not a building I look at and say, ‘Gee, I wish I had done a bunch of things differently,’ or I’m a more mature architect now or any of that stuff. I think it’s a very good example of our work, and a very well-executed building.
“The Ballpark is a very important building to me. I have a lot of myself invested in it. It strikes me as much sadder than it would be if some retail building or office building that we designed got torn down.”
The new stadium will require an architect to design and build it. If Schwarz’s phone lights up with a Rangers phone number, he said he will listen.
“Oh sure, but I’d also be interested in talking to them about what you could do to retrofit the old place,” Schwarz said. “Baseball is about nostalgia and history. It seems to me sad just to tear a baseball park down. I think this park has become part of the Rangers’ heritage. It’s too bad to see it go.”