By nearly all accounts, Globe Life Park — née The Ballpark in Arlington — has aged both masterfully and gracefully since its opening 22 years ago.
A sturdy red brick facade. Great sightlines. Nachos by the barrel. Two World Series appearances.
The Texas Rangers have a handsome, still-viable home.
But when a good city loses one of its sports teams, as St. Louis did this past week, it only makes sense to check the fine print on your team’s stadium lease.
April 2024 — that’s when the Rangers’ lease on the ballpark is scheduled to expire.
And once again, the city of Arlington, a municipality that has shown it can and will house and support two professional sports franchises, is having to listen to Dallas money men lusting after one of its teams.
To hear the businessmen from something called Downtown Dallas Inc., talk, the Rangers need Dallas. The Rangers need air-conditioning. The Rangers need to be in a new neighborhood, buttressed by loft-dwelling hipsters.
According to DDI, there are “five or six locations” near downtown Dallas where a new climate-controlled stadium for the Rangers could be built.
Ah, the heat thing. It gets hot here during baseball season. Spectators may melt, the argument goes.
When Tom Schieffer and his people first envisioned The Ballpark in Arlington more than 25 years ago, domed stadium technology had not yet evolved. Retractable roofs were a novelty, found only in Toronto.
Besides, Schieffer and George W. Bush wanted to breathe the fresh Texas air, and no one blamed them.
But over the years, the summer heat was held to blame for everything from diminishing attendance to the starting rotation. Good pitchers, among them Cliff Lee, didn’t want to sign with the Rangers, they said — too hot.
If they could do it all over again, certainly the Rangers and Arlington city fathers would include air-conditioning in the monthly pitching and electric bills.
The question, however, is how many Rangers fans actually stay home when the July temperature rises, say, above 99 degrees? On that finite amount of evenings, is it worth $1 billion — the estimated cost of a new downtown stadium — to add those few air-cooled bodies to the seats?
Or should we just call the Dallas businessmen’s bluff?
Where’s the proof that the club’s attendance would increase? What’s your funding plan? Where are the “yes” votes from that wacky Dallas city council? Where are the parking spaces?
In December, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams announced a $200 million entertainment project — Texas Live! — to be built adjacent to Globe Life Park. The Cordish Company in Baltimore, the same group that built the successful Ballpark Village around Busch Stadium in St. Louis, is designing Texas Live!
If any suburb of Dallas, therefore, also has designs on stealing the Rangers, that’s another $200 million they will need to sweeten the pot.
The Rangers’ season attendance has decreased over the past three seasons. But hot nights, let me suggest, are only one of the factors. The 2014 Rangers finished 31 games out of first place — not exactly a billboard result.
There’s a reason the Rangers and Cowboys play in Tarrant County. It’s the same reason that when the baseball team’s lease expires, Arlington may well be first in line to cool the Rangers’ heels. There is room next to Texas Live! for a new ballpark.
Winning, too, has a way of cooling off everything. Even the hot air coming from the big city to the east.