The city of Arlington has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 pm today to announce plans for a new $900 million stadium for the Texas Rangers, with the cost to be split evenly between the team owners and city taxpayers. The public money would come from extending an existing sales-tax surcharge that’s currently being used to pay off the Dallas Cowboys‘ stadium, and the stadium would reportedly open before the Rangers’ lease on their old stadium expires in 2024.
There had been some talk last fall about the Rangers wanting a new stadium, but still, this is pretty stunning for a couple of reasons. First off, the existing Arlington stadium is only 22 years old, and features almost all the bells and whistles that team owners typically want — yes, it’s “the 11th oldest facility in Major League Baseball” (tied with Cleveland), as WFAA notes, but that’s more a function of the flood of new stadiums that opened in the ’90s and ’00s than a sign of impending decrepitude. The truly amazing thing, though, is that the stated reason for the Rangers wanting a new stadium is that the old one isn’t air-conditioned:
The lack of a roof and accompanying air conditioning is considered one factor that can keep fans away from Globe Life Park, especially during the dog days of summer, when the temperature can stay in the mid-90s even during night games.
Okay, so it’s hot in Texas, yes. For the record, though, the Rangers currently rank 11th in the majors in attendance, ahead of every other team with a retractable roof other than Toronto. And last year they finished 16th, not terrible for a team coming off a season in which they lost 95 games (attendance invariably correlates better with record the previous year than the current year), and still better than three of the other five teams with retractable roofs. For $900 million, the Rangers could buy personal air conditioning hats for every man, woman, and child in the metro Dallas area, but instead they’re going to build a new stadium, because that’s what you do when you can.
Of course, the Rangers owners — a couple of rich guys you’ve probably never heard of named Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, plus a passel of minority partners — will undoubtedly get some other benefits from a new stadium, if they can pack it with steakhouses and get a honeymoon boost from curiosity seekers and lord knows what else. (We also don’t know yet, and probably won’t for a while, who’ll pay operating costs on the new place, property taxes, etc.) As for Arlington, meanwhile, what on earth is the city getting for its $450 million?
“We need to show love for the Rangers right now, y’all, ” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams told the Rotary Club of Fort Worth last week, speaking generally about the city’s desire to keep its team. “The Rangers don’t want to leave, but there are other cities, and we know one that starts with a D that wants to take it. … Right now is a key time for us.”
So there you have it: Arlington taxpayers, assuming this is approved, would be shelling out $450 million to not to have to drive 20 miles to Dallas to see Rangers games. Plus to get air conditioning. I told you that fragmented metropolitan areas where team owners can play different localities off against each other (see: Atlanta) are the worst, but I didn’t even imagine.
In any event, coming on top of the Braves leaving their old stadium after just 20 years, the Rangers’ plan is almost certainly going to lead to a renewed flood of stadium demands by teams struggling by with stadiums that opened during the first Clinton Administration. The Arizona Diamondbacks have already started rattling their new-stadium saber, and the Cleveland Indians are last in the league in attendance with a stadium that opened the same year as Arlington’s, and hey, wouldn’t this be a great time for the Colorado Rockies to finally build that argon-filled pressurized dome they’ve always wanted? The sky’s the limit, and the same is true, apparently, for the numbers on local governments’ checkbooks. Keep this site bookmarked, because we’re going to be here a while.