Before the Texas Rangers and the city of Arlington decided to ask voters to fund a new $1 billion retractable-roof stadium to keep fans cool, the team considered other options to provide relief from the heat, including a massive shade structure on Globe Life Park.
The metal canopy would have cost at least $80 million and extended up to 100 feet over sections of the current seating area. While shading at least 75 percent of the stadium’s spectators, it still would have left those closest to the field exposed to the sun during a day game.
Also, the “ginormous” shade structure would have only lowered the temperature by a few degrees, taken at least three baseball seasons to build and changed the character of the beloved ballpark that many fans say they want left alone.
Pat Tangen, a principal at Populous, the Kansas City architecture firm that led the study of the issue for the Rangers, said the canopy would have been so large it would make the ballpark feel enclosed, but not a lot cooler.
A massive shading canopy is ‘technically feasible, complicated to deliver,’
Pat Tangen, a principal at Populous architecture firm
“The canopy would change the entire character of Globe Life Park,” Tangen said. And on top of that, building the structure would have been a major hassle for the team. He said a canopy is “technically feasible, complicated to deliver.”
Ultimately, the Rangers decided to pursue a roofed stadium and gain the ability to host events at the facility 365 days a year, like the Cowboys do at nearby AT&T Stadium.
Last week, the Arlington City Council voted to put the new ballpark proposition on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved by voters, the city will share up to half the cost of the $1 billion facility with the team. The deal would also extend the current lease, due to expire in 2023, for 30 years.
To pay for its part of the deal, the city would extend and redirect part of its half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel-motel tax and 5 percent car-rental tax. The sales tax is currently paying down the city’s remaining $175 million share of the AT&T Stadium’s construction costs.
The new ballpark would be built next door to Globe Life Park, which could be at least partially demolished. Knocking down the fan-favorite park that opened in 1994 has become a sensitive election issue.
Watching the grass grow
The Rangers recognize that fans love the current 48,000-seat ballpark, which has hosted two World Series and an All-Star Game. Roughly 57 million fans have pushed through the turnstiles over 22 years. Changing the building, while still finding a way to deal with the heat, is a tough proposition.
“It is a beautiful building,” said Rob Matwick, Rangers executive vice president for business operations. “And say what you want, but part of that charm, part of that appeal, of coming to a major-league baseball stadium is the asymmetrical feel. … That is what people love and tend to romanticize about.”
Aiming to keep the existing structure but still beat the heat, former Rangers owner Tom Hicks in 2007 paid HKS architects for a study that looked at installing a movable roof over the ballpark. It would have required massive foundation work outside the ballpark. Matwick said the estimated cost for doing the work was also staggering — $325 million — on a building that cost $191 million to build.
“It just became an option that was chosen not to pursue,” Matwick said.
The poor people that get absolutely blasted in left field, there is no way I can fix that,
The ownership group led by Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, which bought the team in 2010, hired Populous in 2014 to look into the idea of installing a shade structure. The team, which has spent $60 million on improvements to the stadium since 2010, was looking for a similar, retrofitting solution to the summer heat.
Populous worked with two Dallas firms — Walter P Moore structural engineering and Manhattan Construction — on the study.
They discovered that the trick would be to create shading that not only would provide relief for fans but also, at the bare minimum, provide the four to six hours of the sunlight needed to grow Bermuda grass, with morning sunlight being the best, Tangen said.
They studied various sizes — canopies that cast shadows on 25 percent to 95 percent of the ballpark’s fans — before settling on the option that extended out 83 to 110 feet and provided shade to at least 75 percent. (The current shade structure extends out 25 feet.) They also looked at where the sunlight hit during certain hours of the day during different times of the year.
The study found that during a day game on June 21, most season-ticket holders closest to the field would still be in the sun. But during a typical night game starting at 7 p.m., 84 percent would be shaded.
“The poor people that get absolutely blasted in left field, there is no way I can fix that,” Tangen said.
Once the 75 percent option was selected, then the group was faced with figuring out how to build it.
That would require installation of a 125-foot span — a 25-foot section was going to extend over the concourse to provide cover for fans standing there or visiting the concessions. While the Rangers looked at roofing made of fabric, metal roofing to match the existing design became the favorite.
(The Rangers also briefly studied what is called a cable concentric ring structure that would have been made of lighter steel and a fabric covering at a cost of about $68 million, but it was quickly rejected as being not being a good fit with the classically designed ballpark.)
Holding the metal shading structure up would require installing a new column on the concourse as well as additional reinforcement of the decking. But the bigger work would have been to strengthen the 60 existing columns with massive pieces of steel so they would be strong enough to handle the additional weight.
It was going to be like trying to thread long pieces of steel from the roof down through the spaghetti bowl of the existing structure,
Mark Penny, a senior vice president of Manhattan Construction
“It was going to be like trying to thread long pieces of steel from the roof down through the spaghetti bowl of the existing structure,” said Mark Penny, a senior vice president of Manhattan Construction in Dallas. Manhattan built the ballpark, which was originally called The Ballpark in Arlington.
There was also the complicated logistics of getting the work done, Penny and Tangen said. Since the steel pieces were so large, and had to be lifted so high, it would have involved parking one or more large cranes on the playing field to build the shade structure, Tangen said.
Since the Rangers needed to use the ballpark as the work was being done, the cranes could only be on the field for about five months to allow time for the team to rework the field for the next season, Penny and Tangen said.
There also was the problem of lighting, since the standards could not all be located in the same position, casting different shadows on the field. The design team even consulted with a lighting consultant, Penny said.
“You’re trying to keep playing conditions as consistent as you can,” Tangen said.
Tangen said the project would have taken three seasons, with some prep work for installing each new canopy piece taking place during the season. But based on his experience with other renovation projects at the ballpark, including Vandergriff Plaza, it would have taken up to five seasons to complete, Penny said.
“The structure looks simple, but the logistics made it nearly impossible to build,” Penny said.
Seeking a year-long solution
In the end, Tangen and Penny said it is not surprising the Rangers opted not to install the bigger canopy.
“When you think of the canopy, you think ‘What is the big deal?’ But it is a pretty big deal,” Tangen said. “To balance shade, fans and grow grass. How do you build it? What kind of disruption does it make? And what does it do to the overall affect of the buildings? It’s a lot.”
Other sporting facilities have shade structures, such as Baylor’s McLane Stadium in Waco, which Populous designed and the Rangers actually reviewed. Populous also designed the new ballpark for the Atlanta Braves that includes a shade structure. The major difference: The canopies were part of the original design.
“My point about Baylor is that you designed it and built it that way from scratch so you plan for that,” Tangen said. “All the structural stuff comes together at one time.”
But for Matwick and the Rangers, the shading structure still wouldn’t give them the control that comes with a retractable-roof stadium. Matwick points to the Cowboys, who are handling 120 events a year, only 10 of them Cowboys games.
“Like they’ve done with their special-event business, I think that is the other piece here,” Matwick said. “The shade structure would not have made us any more viable in the winter for events, where the roof can.”
“We pursue business 365 days a year, and I think that is another piece that this particular study would not have addressed or solved.”