The Arlington city council yesterday unanimously approved putting a $500-million-and-change public subsidy for a new Texas Rangers stadium on the November ballot, which should come as no surprise given that they already unanimously approved the deal once before. (They still have to approve it once more time, on August 9, because Arlington is apparently run by the Bellman from “Hunting of the Snark.”) Somewhat more interesting is the turnout at yesterday’s hearing, which according to the Dallas Morning News saw “nearly 30 people” speak, while according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram “speakers opposed to the new stadium outnumbered supporters at least 2 to 1,” so we’re talking something like 20 opponents to 10 proponents. That’s not necessarily an indication of anything about how a vote would go, but it does indicate that there’s at least the beginnings of an organized opposition.
As for what the speakers said, here’s a sampling of the con side:
“When you have a stadium that is 22 years old and is already paid off and everybody loves it, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” [William Busby] said.
“If you are thinking about sustainability and green environmental structures, to build a stadium like the one they propose is the epitome of waste,” [Cynthia Belisle] said. “It’s a beautiful building and it’s not right to tear it down.”
[Warren] Norred, who helps operate the anti-stadium Facebook page Save Our Stadium, drew applause when he said some speakers “talked about building a new stadium as though we don’t have one,” he said. “Twenty years ago I couldn’t have said it’s a beautiful stadium, let’s keep it. But I can say that today.”
And the pro side:
“We’ve got to keep the Rangers here in Arlington, where they belong,” said Sylvia Greene, speaking in favor of a proposed retractable-roof stadium to replace Globe Life Park. “They are critical to our economy, and the Rangers have been the building block for all the good things that have come to Arlington.”
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams added in an interview with the Star-Telegram: “We know we needed to do something, because I did not want to get into a bidding war with multiple cities. Bidding would have started out at $600 million [the city’s portion] next year, there’s no doubt.” Not to doubt a fiscally responsible, results-driven businessman, but that’s what victims of the winner’s curse always say.
All that really matters, obviously, is how residents vote in November, which should be very interesting to watch. There haven’t been a whole lot of stadium referenda lately — mostly because team owners and elected officials alike usually try to bypass a public vote, since who knows what those crazy voters will do — with the last two I can recall being the Cleveland tax hike extension for the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers in 2014 (which passed), and the vote to fund a new New York Islanders arena in Nassau County in 2011 (which failed). And while Texas voters have generally been friendly to stadium subsidies, this is also the first time they’ve been asked to build a stadium to replace a 22-year-old one because it lacks air-conditioning.
It should be an interesting campaign, needless to say — and an interesting test of whether the old rule that pro-stadium forces need to outspend the anti-stadium side by 100-to-1 to win still applies. Gentlemen, start your checkbooks.