When the city of Arlington and the Texas Rangers announced their joint plan to build a $1 billion stadium, the fate of Globe Life Park immediately came into question when it should have been a foregone conclusion.
Perfectly fine in every way, the place that opened in 1994 will be empty by 2020 when the Rangers open Arlington Tax-Hike-Friendly Ballpark.
In May of 2016, Arlington mayor W. Jeff Williams was non-committal about the future of The Ballpark saying only, “It’s still early.” Accurately sensing that to announce the end of the Ballpark may enrage voters, he went neutral on the Ballpark’s future.
The hope was that the lovable “old” park would be renovated. Maybe turned into more office space as well as some sort of mixed-use area that always looks so vibrant and alluring in colorful artist’s rendering drawings.
Now the city has put the fate of the park on the Rangers ... how novel. The city has formalized the financing of the new park, and those documents state that Arlington has the option of requiring the club to demolish Globe Life Park if so desired.
“The purpose of that is to provide incentive to the team to facilitate the ballpark’s repurposing,” City Manager Trey Yelverton told the Star-Telegram. “If that’s not happening by the end the agreement in 2024 and there’s not a plan for it, he said, the city doesn’t want to be stuck with the cost of demolishing and clearing away the old ballpark.”
This often happens when teams announce plans to move into a new stadium; fans and voters turn nostalgic about the old place and don’t want to let go.
What Arlington does not want is anything remotely resembling the nightmare that is four hours south in Houston. Other than housing Hurricane Katrina refugees in 2005, the Astrodome has essentially been closed since 1999. It still stands and is a warehouse skids, Porta Potties, industrial Dumpsters.
Houston leaders last year announced plans to begin the process of renovating the Astrodome, but this is an exceptional case. Normally “the old place” is torn down.
The city of Irving went through a similar process with Texas Stadium after the Dallas Cowboys moved out in 2009. There was discussion about possibly building a hotel inside with shops. Or condos. Or a casino. Or all sorts of options that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the end, the city of Irving decided the better financial play was to simply level the place in 2010. There has been talk among city council leaders now to use that vacant lot to turn into an active living area with homes and retail.
Unlike Texas Stadium, which is adjacent to highways, a vacant Globe Life Park will sit next to a new stadium, two blocks down from JerryWorld, and next to the new Texas Live! development.
The Rangers and the city will need the land Globe Life Park occupies. It can’t just sit there doing nothing.
While there is some office space at Globe Life Park, to alter the rest of the stadium for mixed-use of retail and condo space will be outrageously expensive, and in the end civic leaders will run from that tab.
It may take a year, but shortly after the new place opens fans will forget about The Ballpark and city leaders should have no problem to ask the Rangers to turn it into one thing we Texans crave more than air conditioning: Parking spots.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof