Richard Greene

How the ballpark made the Rangers winners, cemented Arlington as a major-league city

Never before in the history of Arlington has there been more pomp, ceremony and media attention commemorating the role of a building than has been taking place with the final series of Major League Baseball games at Globe Life Park.

Concluding on Sunday, this will be long remembered as a time when the city’s love for what was originally The Ballpark in Arlington was celebrated in a fashion true to the 150-year legacy of the country’s devotion to its national game.

Sometimes called “the temple” and other times “the palace,” the lifespan of the iconic structure as a place where the most difficult sport of them all to master has unfolded for the past 26 seasons has run its course.

For many, it is a bittersweet reality tempered only by the fact that Arlington remains one of just 30 privileged places in the world where people can gather and watch baseball at its very highest level.

When the 2020 season arrives in six months, the Texas Rangers will host Opening Day across the street inside the new Globe Life Field, built for a new level of comfort for fans and players alike.

That would not be happening if Arlington had not stepped up to the challenge it faced when new owners of the Rangers arrived in 1989 and identified their greatest need in fielding a contending team was a new ballpark.

The team had never played in the postseason since its arrival in Arlington in 1972. The Rangers were viewed as a perennial lower-tier ballclub with scant prospects of moving up. To break into the elite levels of the major leagues, they would need a ballpark that could support such ambitions.

At first, the widely accepted conclusion was that it would be built in Dallas. That conventional wisdom was wrong, as proved by Arlington voters who emphatically confirmed the city’s resolve to protect and enlarge its presence among the country’s major league cities.

Opening Day in 1994 ushered in that transformation and what unfolded was the emergence of the team into the company of winners.

Seven division championships, two American League pennants, and two back-to-back World Series confirmed the value of a first-class facility that changed everything.

So, it is entirely fitting that we celebrate the place where record crowds gathered to support their team when it proved capable of winning championships because it had a home field equal to that of any other team.

In its 25-year experience, the beautiful Arlington ballpark saw more than 66 million fans attend games.

That’s an average of more than 2.5 million each season. By comparison, attendance in the old Arlington Stadium averaged a million fewer in each of its 22 seasons as the Rangers home.

The MLB Fan Cost Index measures what people spend when they attend any team’s games. It gives us some idea of the direct revenue the city receives from sales taxes and rent from the Rangers, along with the significant boost to the city’s visitor and tourism economy.

As important as it is to have such strong financial gains, the real measure of what the ballpark has meant to Arlington residents is the value of intangibles.

The sense of civic pride that comes with the city’s privileged status can’t be calculated in terms of economics. It’s all about how people feel about their hometown.

Considering the events surrounding the end of this era, it is a good feeling indeed and the reason Arlington remains a major-league city.

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.
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