Mayor Jeff Williams has helped to turn a few blocks in Arlington into a giant sports and entertainment mecca, but there are two developments within it that has our local pro sports friendly politician ... mystified?
Go with that.
Arlington Sports Crisis No. 1
One of the more baffling and surprising developments surrounding Globe Life Field, which is scheduled to open in 2020, is the team’s reluctance to announce whether real grass will be installed at the new facility.
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When the team and the city announced plans to build a new park that featured a retractable roof, it was assumed real grass would be the playing surface.
Sources indicate the Rangers are leaning heavily towards a synthetic surface, which the players detest, and will put the Rangers as one off the few in MLB to use the fake stuff rather than the real thing.
“I know they are studying it hard,” Williams said. “There are new advancements in this.”
There are, and despite the fact that the new synthetic surfaces are improved over the knee-tearing days of AstroTurf, MLB players still want real dirt and real grass. Stadiums that feature retractable roofs have shown real grass can be grown and thrive in such an environment.
The Rangers said one of the problems in doing this is planners had to dig much deeper than originally planned. If that sounds like a load, you’re right.
Grass experts at Texas A&M (no, not that kind of grass) said sod can grow at the depths the designers placed the field.
“I am not weighing in on that because you are talking to a traditionalist,” Williams said.
That’s an answer. Any baseball traditionalist prefers real grass.
“And then there is another thing,” Williams said, “I love (former Star-Telegram sports columnist and retired DFW sports radio icon) Randy Galloway but I don’t want him killing me on this, so I’m staying out of it.”
Williams is kidding. I think. Maybe not.
Arlington Sports Crisis No. 2
Not too long before Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys opened Jerry Jones’ $1.1 billion nightclub in 2009, he said he wanted to get “in the business of hosting Super Bowls.”
Ten years into JerryWorld and Arlington’s business of hosting Super Bowls looks like a closed-shop flop. Neither Jerry, nor Arlington and area civic leaders, saw this one coming.
Williams, ever an optimist, had no choice but to admit disappointment at the development that Arlington and AT&T Stadium has hosted but one Super Bowl, in 2011. Despite its scale and amenities, AT&T Stadium never joined the rotation of NFL locales to host a Super Bowl, like a New Orleans, Phoenix and Miami.
“Yes. It’s a disappointment to me personally. It’s a considerable disappointment for any sports fan in the Metroplex, and owners of businesses here, too,” Williams said. “I know the Joneses are leading the way and I hope we are in line in the next three years.”
Williams does not mean 2019, ‘20 and ‘21. The NFL has awarded Super Bowls through the year 2024. Williams is hoping to Arlington will make the next list, after ‘24.
Despite the stadium, Arlington and AT&T Stadium are viewed no differently by the NFL when it comes to hosting a Super Bowl than Houston. NRG Stadium in Houston has hosted two Super Bowls since it opened in 2002.
Since area leaders combined to comprise a “North Texas Super Bowl bid” that essentially acted like a sales pitch to NFL owners to select a site, the league has changed the process.
Basically, the league is out of the practice of soliciting Olympic-like bids from potential Super Bowl host cities. NFL sources said the league’s owners never leaned on those bids and sales pitch efforts the way they were designed; they were more for show.
The league now picks a site and negotiates with that location on specifics.
Since Arlington won the bid to host the Super Bowl in 2011, the league has seen a steady increase of new stadiums opened in New York, Indianapolis, Santa Clara, Calif., Atlanta, and Minneapolis; Los Angeles and Las Vegas will have new stadiums soon, too.
The NFL typically wants to reward those cities that built a new stadium with at least one Super Bowl.
Williams said that, combined with the historically awful weather North Texas experienced during Super Bowl week in ‘11, are the main reasons why AT&T Stadium remains stuck in the back of the line.
“I think it’s all of it,” he said. “I own an engineering firm and I had my team working day and night to complete Interstate 30. And we had TxDot on board with everything and it worked as best as it could, but we just had an Armageddon of weather. I can never remember worse weather.
“And then we had the issue of the seats, and all of that just over shadowed everything.”
Infamously, AT&T Stadium had extra seats installed for its Super Bowl; a few hours before kickoff an inspector deemed the seats unsafe. The decision left thousands of ticket-paying customers without a seat, and sent the NFL scrambling to find a solution.
It ended, of course, in a series of lawsuits and was just another contributing factor in helping make Arlington’s first run at a Super Bowl memorable for all of the wrong reasons.
Williams, and the Cowboys, want another shot. We all do.
Much like with the Rangers’ call to potentially go with artificial grass, the decision if Arlington is awarded another Super Bowl is in the hands of a higher power: A pro sports league.