Mac Engel

Rangers, Arlington hope to build ‘a city within a city’ in historic plans for Globe Life Park

The City of Arlington is pushing forward with a project to repurpose the Ballpark, which has the potential to set a precedent in sports venues, or become another Astrodome.

God help us if the Ballpark turns into the current version of the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

On Thursday at Globe Life Park, team officials and Arlington mayor Jeff Williams held a press conference to discuss some of the specifics regarding the addition of an XFL franchise, which is scheduled to begin play on the first week of February in ‘20.

The men could not specifically answer anything directly related to the XFL, namely the name of the team, its mascots, etc. They could, however, clearly state the collective ambition to repurpose Globe Life Park after the Rangers leave for Globe Life Field following the ‘19 season.

This vision could work, and provide a model for future franchises and venues. Or ... this vision will fail spectacularly. Go big or go home.

What the Rangers and Arlington are trying to do with Globe Life Park is possible, but ...

“To my knowledge this has never been done,” Williams told the Star-Telegram. “But we also don’t have some of the issues those other buildings may have had; this building is less than 25 years old. The structure is very good. And this structure was designed to be repurposed.”

THE NEW BALLPARK

Williams said he envisions two towers being constructed on opposite sides of the stadium. In theory, both towers would “grow” out of the sides of the stadium on Randol Mill Road.

“The real piece of this is when we have a master plan to come out and shows we have the ability in the concourses to come out with high rise office space,” Williams said. ”We don’t know how high because it would depend how many businesses we can get signed up. So we would have an office tower on one side, and a high rise condo coming out of the other corner. It would be dual towers.

“In the meantime, all of these people who are currently using the office space here (at Globe Life Park) want to stay here. This is a place and time to be creative. And we still have the outdoor component, and the opportunity when the XFL is not playing games, that if people are living and working here, you could bring in temporary park furniture (on the field). You could bring in tree wells. We could make this the Central Park of this complex; that is the vision.”

Rangers COO Neil Leibman said he hopes the club and Arlington can build “a city within a city” around Globe Life Park, Globe Life Field, AT&T Stadium and Texas Live!

Williams said when Amazon was going through the process of vetting potential spots for its new headquarters, the company leaders told him the lure of even considering Arlington was the Ballpark. The chance to be in an MLB park and do whatever was the attraction.

Why Amazon dropped Arlington was because it wanted to be in a more vibrant, conventional downtown area. Amazon selected Queens, N.Y. and Crystal City, Va., which is across the river from Washington D.C.

The Rangers and Arlington have found one tenant so far for Globe Life Park; the XFL signed a three-year deal. Its first season will feature five home games, meaning there will be plenty of open dates for the Rangers and Arlington to fill.

There will be some retrofitting of the stadium to accommodate a football field, and perhaps some locker space as well. The Rangers are covering the expense of this project.

“When the XFL is not playing, we can use this for youth sports, whether it’s Arlington ISD, private schools; we can have soccer games here and other events,” Williams said. “The other feature we have going for us is the architecture is unbelievable. The granite. The longhorns. The Texas stories. It’s a beautiful facade.”

FEARING ANOTHER ASTRODOME

Normally when a team leaves a venue, the stadium comes down and the land is developed into parking, or commercial space.

When the Dallas Cowboys left Texas Stadium after the ‘08 season, the venue was imploded in ‘10; the area in Irving has essentially become a giant parking lot for construction vehicles.

The Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars left Reunion Arena in the summer of 2001, and the old place remained “open” until ‘08. Not much happened there once the NBA and NHL teams moved to the American Airlines Center, and Reunion was demolished in ‘09.

That is the standard timeline for larger stadiums and arenas that previously housed major league sports franchises, with few exceptions. Demolition costs a few million dollars, and that’s it.

The standard fear for Arlington, and any city and a sports arena and stadium that is not the primary tenant of a major team, should always be Houston and its beloved Astrodome. No city has had a harder time saying goodbye to a venue more than H-Town to its now dumpy dome.

Opened in 1965 and hailed as an architectural marvel, the Astrodome became the home to the Houston Oilers of the NFL and MLB’s Houston Astros. The building eventually became dated, which led to Oilers’ owner Bud Adams moving the franchise to Tennessee.

The Oilers moved out after ‘96, and the Astros relocated to downtown Houston in 2000. The facility was not officially closed to visitors until ‘08, and has essentially become a warehouse.

City and community leaders fought, for years, over the future of the structure that has since become an eyesore on the Houston skyline. As bad as it may look, the Astrodome is a significant piece of Houston’s evolution as a city.

In 2017, the Astrodome became a protected state landmark; in Feb. of ‘18, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved a $105 million renovation project for the ‘dome as it will now become event space.

The Ballpark, while significant to Arlington, does not have the type of history to its community as the Astrodome does to Houston. If these plans in Arlington don’t work out, the thought of tearing down Globe Life Park will not have nearly the amount of sentimentality like the Astrodome.

Arlington’s vision to repurpose a structure that opened in 1994, and is in good condition, is both noble and ambitious.

Maybe it will work, just hope it doesn’t become another Astrodome.

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