Richard Greene

Quick action secures Arlington’s future as a major league city

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams (at podium) speaks to an election night crowd Tuesday as voters supported a new Texas Rangers stadium.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams (at podium) speaks to an election night crowd Tuesday as voters supported a new Texas Rangers stadium. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

When the history of Tuesday’s landslide victory to keep the Texas Rangers baseball team in Arlington is written, it will begin with describing the kind of foresight that made it all possible.

Interestingly, the part of the story that was crucial to the city’s success was one of the elements of the project that was so prominently used by opponents in trying to defeat the measure.

Here is how it unfolded:

Among the first appointments that Mayor Jeff Williams scheduled right after taking office was with Rangers co-chairman and managing partner Ray Davis.

The purpose was to determine what the ownership group had in mind for the team’s future as its lease on the city-owned Globe Life Park was approaching maturity.

Doing so with eight years left on the lease would be challenged as premature and unnecessary by those leading the opposition.

Among their favorite attacks on the proposal to build a new ballpark was to say that voters could turn it down and the city could come back later and re-negotiate a better deal.

There was plenty of time left to do so, they claimed, and no hurry needed since the Rangers weren’t going anywhere anyway.

What the opponents either didn’t realize or didn’t acknowledge was the very significant advantage Arlington had over any other city that would like to create a public-private partnership to move the Rangers from Arlington to their town.

But to seize that advantage meant the city needed to act now and not later.

Waiting would have meant a couple of things would have made it much more difficult to ensure that the team remained in the city.

First, waiting would certainly result in a bidding war breaking out in the region, with multiple cities fancying themselves as the new home for the Texas Rangers.

It would begin with Dallas — Williams had personal knowledge of the intentions and already-developed plans of Dallas political and business leaders to lure the Rangers.

But others had also expressed an interest.

And, “why wouldn’t they want the Rangers,” the mayor would ask, begging the obvious answer.

Secondly, waiting until later would undoubtedly mean a new ballpark would cost more, with the forces of inflation and an even faster pace of escalating construction costs.

Wisely recognizing that Arlington could avoid both those pitfalls and a much greater risk of losing the team, the mayor proposed moving forward immediately.

The objective was to produce the kind of facility the team required much sooner than could be realized anywhere else.

Arlington controlled the current lease and didn’t have to wait until it ended to achieve the results the team wanted. The Rangers’ goal is to provide a superior experience for their fans in an enclosed, air-conditioned ballpark.

Whatever time was left on the lease in the existing facility would be added to a new 30-year lease in a new ballpark, ensuring the Rangers would remain in Arlington into and beyond the mid-2050’s.

Opponents, many of whom hurled insults and threats at City Council members and went on to conduct a nasty campaign of personal attacks on proponents, would have none of that explanation.

Such an attack was doomed for failure at the outset. Arlington’s legacy is one of seizing opportunities and building a great city.

With the extraordinary success of the two partnerships that had already built two professional sports venues, voters recognized the potential.

Now the finest ballpark in the land will become a reality in the center of Arlington’s booming tourism and visitor industry.

Credit the strong leadership in the mayor’s office.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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