Mac Engel

‘Texas Live!’ doesn’t mean the Rangers are staying put

Building a retractable roof for Globe Life Park would be cost prohibitive.
Building a retractable roof for Globe Life Park would be cost prohibitive. Star-Telegram

Despite the city of Arlington’s latest agreement with the Texas Rangers to build an entertainment area called “Texas Live!” close to the ballpark, the club is more than willing, and wants, to listen to suitors for a new stadium.

The Rangers consider this new deal with Arlington separate from the future of Globe Life Park. The club’s lease with Arlington expires in 2023, which has many people in Tarrant County sweating.

A mixed-use retail area around the ballpark had been a goal of previous owner Tom Hicks — and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — for more than a decade but nothing moved on it until now. Expect to see ground broken next year and to see some openings in 2017.

Within the next 24 months, expect the Rangers to open their door for sales pitches from civic and business leaders from Arlington and Dallas for a government-subsidized stadium that has a retractable roof. The Rangers like Arlington, but they want bidders, and Fort Worth should get in on these discussions.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and her buddies, and potentially the Bass family, actually have a chance at a move that would raise this town’s profile more than Butch, Sundance or JFK ever did.

It’s the “Texas” Rangers, and there is no reason Fort Worth cannot be home to a major league franchise. It is the one thing this town has lacked during the growth and expansion over the last 15 years. A downtown MLB park would raise Cowtown’s stature to its greatest heights.

If any owners of a pro sports franchise in this state would be receptive to moving a team to Fort Worth, it would be this pair. Rangers owner Ray Davis lives in west Fort Worth and co-owner Bob Simpson’s fingerprints are all over this city.

Barring a dramatic reversal among city leaders, however, do not expect the city to pursue this possibility. A top city official told me that Fort Worth will support Arlington in the attempt to secure the Rangers.

The Rangers are receptive to move to a new home: All they want is a roof over their heads … and a ton of free money.

The only thing missing from the ballpark is a roof. Rangers officials project they lose about 300,000 potential fans each year because of the punishing Texas heat. How many times have you passed on going to a game because of the 103-degree heat at first pitch? It makes day games after May 15 a sweatfest.

The Rangers explored putting a roof over the place, but that would cost so much it would make more sense to build a new stadium.

As it stands, the Rangers are in no hurry to do much of anything. They fully expect Dallas to call and provide the desired leverage to create a bidding process that will give them the best possible deal.

Downtown Dallas had always been the preferred destination when Hicks owned the team, and the Rangers would be more than receptive to a new stadium there because of potential pedestrian traffic and the proximity to the rapidly expanding footprint of North Dallas.

Dallas leaders have a history of not agreeing on funding stadiums, and high real estate prices could be major obstacles in keeping “West Atlanta” from being able to come up with a feasible proposal.

It’s not as if the Rangers are unhappy with the ballpark or Arlington. The construction of the President George Bush Turnpike has been a game changer for the franchise; people from Frisco and McKinney have a quicker path to the park. And this entire region remains committed to the car.

The Rangers continue to invest in improving the fan experience. They don’t have to leave and they don’t need a roof.

For a place that opened in 1994, the ballpark is in good condition, and has all of the necessary amenities of a big-league American sports venue but one. Like everything built these days, these places are simply not expected to last long.

When Arlington came up with more than $300 million to lure the Dallas Cowboys away from Irving, a city council member told me they expected AT&T Stadium to last “30 years.” It would seem that $1.3 billion — the total cost of Jerry World — just doesn’t go far these days.

Everything is built to break, and to be replaced at a higher cost.

Selfishly, I’d like to see Fort Worth make a play for the team, but that’s not going to happen.

Bet Arlington will retain the Rangers and build a new stadium complete with a retractable roof in the general area of the ballpark. Arlington’s identity is entertainment, and consistently civic leaders have made these deals happen whereas Dallas usually blows it.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof

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