With the Texas Rangers quickly ousted from the baseball playoffs, attention in Arlington now turns to the Nov. 8 stadium election.
So will the team’s dismal play on the diamond against the Toronto Blue Jays hurt the team’s standing with voters?
Backers of the proposed $1 billion retractable-roof stadium say the playoff defeat won’t affect support for the Nov. 8 ballot measure. Opponents say it if any minds are changed, they’ll likely move to the opposition camp.
Outside political experts don’t see much impact at all.
City voters are being asked to approve the use of revenues from a half-cent sales tax and other sources to finance up to $500 million, or half the cost, of a new stadium.
Stadium supporters say they still expect the favorable outcome predicted by their recent poll which shows 54-40 percent backing for the measure. (The opponents have cited their own poll showing their side in the lead, 46.5 percent to 38.9 percent.)
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, chairman of the Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers political action committee, said the premature finale for the Rangers, losing three straight games to the Toronto Blue Jays, is painful but said it “makes no difference at all” in the stadium vote.
“What’s so great about the Rangers organization is that it’s not just a one-year wonder at all,” Williams said. “It’s a sustainable franchise that has risen to be one of the best franchises in the major leagues.”
Unlike the Rangers, he said, “some of these other teams have to win because they don’t have a chance next year.”
But some stadium opponents said the team’s first-round knockout in consecutive seasons could sway some voters.
“I think, from the fan perspective, it’s kind of a ridiculous thing for the owners to be saying we need to pay for a new stadium when the franchise has struggled over 50 years now,” said Andy Prior, media liaison for the political action committee Citizens for a Better Arlington and its Save Our Stadium campaign.
“Usually fans reward teams and owners for winning,” said Prior, who describes himself as a third-generation Rangers fan. “They haven’t won the big one.” (The Rangers did make consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.)
Observers of the stadium debate said they don’t expect the loss to affect the upcoming vote.
“The yes vote was never predicated on a winning or losing season,” said Allan Saxe, associate political science professor at UT Arlington. “It’s a matter of pride and a matter of economics. Arlington wants to be known as an entertainment center. And if they lose the Rangers, it’s going to be a big blow to the city.”
However, Saxe said a World Series victory would have rendered a “much bigger margin” of victory for the pro-stadium crowd. “Oh boy! It would have passed 70 to 30, but now it’s going to be 55 to 45, or something like that.”
Tim O’Hare, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, which voted to side with the stadium opponents, said he expects no impact on the election.
“Voters are smarter than that,” he said. “Trying to determine whether or not the Rangers are good for your city is not dependent on how they do in one playoff series. This isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.”
Randy Ford, owner of the popular sports bar J Gilligan’s Bar & Grill in downtown Arlington, said business at his “little one-horse saloon” picked up after each of the Rangers’ two home playoff games last week.
“Yes, it’s disappointing this morning. Yes, it sucks that they lost — and starting in the heat didn’t help,” Ford said, referring to the proposed climate-control feature of the new stadium. But he said tips earned by his bartenders and servers are spent at other local businesses, helping the economy.
“If we didn’t have the Rangers, we wouldn’t have this cash flow,” Ford said.
Some opponents say their side would have benefited from a Rangers’ World Series victory.
“No one would want to tear down the stadium where the Rangers had their win,” said Warren Norred, spokesman for the Save Our Stadium campaign. “The fans are a superstitious lot.”
Norred also said the Rangers’ early loss will allow a sharper focus on the election.
“The end of the season reduces the emotional aspect of what we’re dealing with,” he said.