Richard Greene

At ballpark, eminent domain worked as it is supposed to work

Archive photo from April 2, 1994, shows the new Ballpark in Arlington in foreground dwarfed the old Arlington Stadium seen in the upper left.
Archive photo from April 2, 1994, shows the new Ballpark in Arlington in foreground dwarfed the old Arlington Stadium seen in the upper left. Star-Telegram

When the Texas Rangers ballpark opened in 1994, Arlington immediately began to achieve one of the primary objectives it had long sought, that of raising the city’s profile on the national stage.

The city hosted Major League Baseball’s All Star Game the following year. Then the Rangers won the American League West Division Championship, a feat repeated five times.

The team won the American League pennant twice, becoming one of only two cities on the planet to host the World Series in 2010 and 2011.

Nothing like any of that had ever happened in the old Arlington Stadium, where the team had played for 22 years.

As a bonus, Arlington has been the beneficiary of national attention whenever anyone named Bush has sought high public office.

That occurred twice when George W. Bush was elected governor and two more times when he was elected president.

Now his brother’s campaign has done it again for the city.

While the controversial issue of eminent domain doesn’t have much to do with baseball, the discussion during the heat of political seasons puts “Arlington” into play across the country.

The eruption between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush during the past week has people again making all kinds of errant remarks about the constitutionally provided and necessary power of government to acquire private property for public benefit.

While legitimate concerns exist over acquiring private property in this way for private purposes, which was the case for Trump, that’s not what happened when Arlington’s ballpark was built.

Not even close. Short memories and scant knowledge of what took place in Arlington lead to uninformed comments (See “Trump, Bush tangle on eminent domain,” Feb. 9).

In developing the ballpark, the city did the most democratic and honorable thing possible when deciding whether or not it would be built.

The final answer to that question was turned over to the city’s voters.

By a 30-percentage point victory margin, they said a resounding “yes” in the largest voter turnout in the city’s history.

Both houses of the Texas Legislature unanimously approved the public purpose of the ballpark, and Democratic Gov. Ann Richards signed it all into law.

Then the city-owned building was completed and leased to the Texas Rangers for 30 years.

The city still owns the world-class facility — including the more than 200 acres that surround the ballpark.

Using the constitutional, legislative and Supreme Court-approved authority available to public entities, about 14 of those acres were acquired from wealthy owners of vacant land who sought more money than their property was worth.

After the debt on the ballpark was paid off in less than half the time it was supposed to have taken, the whole citizen-approved process was repeated when Jerry Jones came to town with his Dallas Cowboys.

The incalculable and ever-growing economic benefits of jobs, revenues from rents, sales tax revenue and more pay for much of the cost to provide public services and facilities for all Arlington residents.

Do the Rangers and Cowboys also benefit? Of course they do. Otherwise, neither the ballpark nor the stadium would have been built.

But the intangible value of national publicity for all that takes place in those two public buildings may be the best part of what Arlington achieves from what the people of the city have authorized.

So here’s hoping that there will be as many people named Bush as possible entering political campaigns of the future.

Arlington likes the attention and the chance to demonstrate how it did the right thing in the proper use of the authority to acquire private property for public purposes.

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.