Rangers owner thanks Arlington voters for approving ballpark funding
A day after a resounding election victory for its new $1 billion baseball stadium, the Texas Rangers launched a website Wednesday asking fans for ideas on food, technology and anything else that would help create the “ultimate fan experience.”
Backers of the proposition to allow public funding for up to half of the project were still bubbly the morning after a 60-40 percent winning margin ended months of contentious community debate over the retractable roof, climate-controlled stadium.
The ballot initiative lost in just five of the city’s 137 voting precincts. A whopping 62.7 percent of the 186,000 registered voters cast ballots, most of them cast early.
“It feels as good as it did last night,” said Rangers spokesman John Blake.
The Rangers’ new website asks for help creating “an atmosphere that is welcoming to fans and intimidating to opponents.” It seeks ways to “improve your travel and parking experience” and asks fans to tell the favorite part of their experience at Globe Life Park, as well as desirable features at other ballparks they have visited.
Fans can also rate the importance of equipping the stadium with state-of-the-art technology, access to group hospitality areas, architectural style, pre-game meeting space and other features.
“I love that,” said Mayor Jeff Williams. “I think it shows you the character of the Rangers ownership to be seeking fan input.”
Blake said designing the stadium is “the first process, and that’s where we feel this input is vital.” The Rangers are close to choosing an architect for the project, he said. Construction is expected to begin next summer, with the new stadium opening in time for the 2020 baseball season.
“There was a bidding process, and we’re trying to finalize that,” Blake said. He expects a decision “fairly quickly, so we can get them involved in this early process … of figuring out what we want.”
The election sets a lot of things in motion, though city and Rangers officials said timelines and schedules haven’t been nailed down yet.
Now we’ll roll up our sleeves and start the planning process in terms of making this happen.
Jay Warren, city of Arlington spokesman
“We didn’t want to get too far and invest staff time and staff resources until we knew what the voters wanted to do,” said city spokesman Jay Warren. “Now we’ll roll up our sleeves and start the planning process in terms of making this happen.”
Warren said preparation for selling the bonds “could take a couple of months or up to a year.”
The voter approval allows the city to extend a half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel-occupancy tax and 5 percent car-rental tax, which are currently used to pay down the city’s remaining $155 million debt from construction of AT&T Stadium. Officials are looking at ways to restructure that debt so some of the tax revenues can be redirected to building the new stadium.
The proposition also included authorization for a maximum 10 percent game ticket tax and $3 parking tax — they work like surcharges — that the Rangers would use to help pay their costs. The team hasn’t decided yet whether to use those two sources, said Rob Matwick, executive vice president of Rangers business operations.
The 60-40 margin of victory surpassed the 55-45 margin for the Cowboys Stadium proposition in 2004, but fell short of 65-35 majority in the 1991 election that funded the original Ballpark in Arlington.
In Tuesday’s election, the 83,919 early ballots outnumbered the 26,668 ballots cast on election day by a 3-1 margin, according to unofficial tabulations. Additionally, there were 6,191 absentee votes.
Of 137 precincts, the proposition lost in five, one by a 5-3 vote. Four precincts recorded tie votes, and 19 precincts had no votes at all.
The City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 at City Hall, 101 E. Abram St., to canvass the election results.
UTA political science professor Allan Saxe had predicted early on that the stadium vote would win in a blowout. But he recently walked back that prediction after talking with voters as the presidential race became more contentious. On Wednesday, he said the big turnout on election day was the key to the wide margin of victory.
“It was a good day to have the election,” he said. “A lot of people went to the polls, and a lot of people are Rangers fans.”
He said he believes another factor that influenced voters was last month’s groundbreaking for the $250 million Texas Live! entertainment complex, being built next to Globe Life Park and the new stadium site.
“When people can see things happening, I think they’re willing to go along with other projects,” he added. “I know it impacted me.”
Staff writer Max B. Baker contributed to this report.