Richard Greene

Texas Live! Hotel the first of exciting openings for Arlington entertainment district

With the opening in a couple of weeks of the new Live! by Loews Hotel in Arlington, the city gets to celebrate the next phase of expansive development in its entertainment district.

The project’s managing director, Scott Nassar, succinctly summed it up recently, telling the Dallas Business Journal: “Arlington is up and coming. It’s very unique because it’s an immersive destination with different sporting events. People love sports here in the state of Texas, and we feel we’re at the epicenter coming forward.”

Adjacent to the Texas Live! complex, which has exceeded its own targets for success, the five-star, 300-room hotel delivers another achievement imagined with the 1994 opening of The Ballpark in Arlington.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will set into motion a series of events that will rapidly unfold over the next few months, culminating with Opening Day at the retractable-roofed Globe Life Field in April.

The Texas Rangers have been preparing for the move across the street from their home of the past 25 years, and they will do that with tribute and ceremony for the place where all of this started.

The occasion provides an opportunity to look back and trace the origins of what has become a national destination in Arlington’s ever-growing tourism economy.

With the change of ownership of the ballclub in 1989, the city was faced with the challenge of protecting its Major League status. A new ballpark would be required to support the Rangers’ emergence as a top-tier team.

There was a persistent assumption at the time that the Rangers’ future would unfold in Dallas, perceived to be the place where sufficient resources could be found for a new ballpark.

As has happened in years past, Arlington was being underestimated. In the traditional fashion of its “can do” reputation, voters showed up in record numbers in a 1991 election to form a partnership with the team to build the facility that would keep the team where it belonged.

The vision for a new ballpark included the potential of development around the new stadium that would further enhance the city’s economy.

After the opening of The Ballpark in Arlington, while I was touting tourism numbers of six million annual visitors, the city began to see record new investment in real-estate projects within a mile of the Rangers property.

Next came much more. Voters decided to support the relocation of the Dallas Cowboys. As a former mayor at the time, I assisted in promoting that move by pitching owner Jerry Jones on all our city had to offer. He interrupted my spiel, saying: “I know all of that, Mayor, that’s why I’m coming to Arlington.”

Then, when Rangers owners sought to put their fans and players inside the comfort of an air-conditioned ballpark, Arlington voters, for the third time, agreed to extend the partnership and build Globe Life Field now nearing completion.

The results can be seen miles away approaching Arlington from any direction. And that six million visitors I was so proud of has now grown to 15 million. Convention and visitors officials have projected that number to double in coming years.

It was all anchored originally by the opening of Six Flags Over Texas. In 1961, the developer of that project actually considered it to be a temporary solution to financial problems with his vision for an industrial park.

Nearly six decades later, Arlington’s development is far from finished. As Mayor Jeff Williams is quick to say, “Stand by, more is on the way!”

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