Texas Rangers’ old stadium to be permanently converted for XFL, what could possibly go wrong here

Texas Rangers execs have announced that when their new taxpayer-subsidized stadium opens next year, their 25-year-old prior taxpayer-subsized stadium will be converted to a football stadium for an XFL franchise, reports Forbes — notwithstanding that this was already announced by the XFL last December. But Rangers vice president of business operations Rob Matwick did at least provide a couple more details of how the retrofitting would go:

“It will require us at the end of the season to convert from a baseball configuration to a football configuration.”

Permanently?

“Probably,” Matwick said, “because we’re going to have a state-of-the-art baseball facility across the street.”

Matwick also said the Rangers were engaged in “some preliminary talks” about hosting soccer and high school football, according to Forbes columnist Barry Bloom.

Okay, let’s start with a look at how this will likely work in terms of geometry. Here’s a composite of Google Maps images of the Rangers’ old stadium and a football field, sized to the same scale:

That’s clearly going to require the demolition of some seats in center field, which shouldn’t be a huge undertaking. It would leave fans with pretty terrible sightlines, though — the 50-yard-line seats would be massively far from the field — plus it would be very difficult to fit in a soccer pitch, which needs to be 30% wider than an NFL field. So it would be far more likely to see a configuration like this:

That will require a fair bit more demolition, especially to fit soccer, but at least you’d have decent seats along one side, and I suppose could even add temporary bleachers on the other side to provide more seats.

Anyway, all this would clearly be totally worth it for the Rangers and Arlington to land a permanent … XFL franchise, did you say? The league that only lasted ten games in its first iteration (prompting creator Vince McMahon to call it a “colossal failure”), and which is slated to try again next year, on the heels of another attempt at an NFL alternative that only made it through eight games? This is truly a great idea, and certainly not a pathetic attempt to pretend that having two stadiums designed for baseball sitting right next to each other isn’t a tragic commentary on American subsidy-driven capitalism.

UPDATE: A commenter (thanks, Joe!) shared the schematic below that the Rangers previously issued, which is similar to my bottom image only with the field running third base to right field instead of first base to left field. It also has one corner of the end zone located in the front-row seats, and the overlap would be even worse for a soccer pitch, so clearly this is a work in progress.

Friday roundup: Flames arena questions, Braves funny math, and more vaportecture renderings and videos of suite chairs than you can shake a stick at

I swear they keep making these Fridays closer and closer together:

  • Canadian economists have lots of questions about who’s going to pay for a new Calgary Flames arena, which is as should be because the city council won’t say yet how it will be paid for. And we apparently won’t know more for a while, because first the council needs to figure out who’ll be on the negotiating committee with the Flames, and it’s not even scheduled to meet until next month. I can’t be the only one thinking, “Excellent, lots of time for somebody to leak the details to the press before everything gets negotiated,” can I? Deadspin has a tips line, just saying!
  • The Atlanta Braves brought in $442 million in revenue last year, for a profit of $92 million, but blamed the team’s debt payments on their new stadium in Cobb County for not leaving enough left over to spend big on free agents. After public subsidies, the Braves owners are on the hook for less than $20 million a year in construction debt payments, plus $6 million a year in rent, so, um, yeah.
  • The latest Texas Rangers stadium renderings make the seats in the top decks look just as crappy as in the previous renderings, there are still clip-art fans with translucent heads, and the roof is open in all of them even though the whole point of the new stadium is to have air-conditioning, which won’t work if the roof is open. At least we finally get to see how fans will get to that deck suspended in midair in left field — via a brick-colonnaded walkway, of course — so we no longer have to worry about Rangers fans having to purchase jetpacks to get to their terrible seats.
  • And still more renderings, these of a USL stadium a would-be team owner wants to build in Fort Lauderdale on the site of Lockhart Stadium, the same site David Beckham has targeted as a training site for his Inter Miami MLS team. Are there spotlights pointing pointlessly into the sky? You bet! Is this, regardless of whether the USL stadium stands a chance of getting built, yet another reason to laugh at Beckham over how he can’t catch a break? Don’t you know it!
  • Here’s a video of what the chairs and shelving will look like at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. And here’s a picture of what the place settings will look like in the luxury suites at the new Golden State Warriors arena, but it’s just a still photo — come on, Ben Golliver, it’s 2019, don’t you know people want to see furniture in video form?
  • New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky insists that the team’s proposed Belmont Park arena is still “on track for the 2021-22 season,” but what else is he gonna say?
  • Winnipeg will provide a total of $16.6 million in tax breaks and other operating subsidies this year to the Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes, and Manitoba Moose, and bonus points to any non-Canadian who can name what sport each of those teams play. Economic Development Winnipeg CEO Dayna Spiring claimed that the public will make its money back — no, not through the taxes the teams won’t get breaks on, that’s a Wichita thing to say. Rather, Spiring said the public will earn its money back on exposure, via the value of Winnipeg’s name appearing on hockey broadcasts. Somebody please alert this Twitter account.
  • Tottenham Hotspur stadium opening update: still maybe early April! Also, it may be called Nike Stadium, or maybe not.
  • Wichita announced it planned to double down on its $75 million expense for a new minor-league baseball stadium for the relocated New Orleans Baby Cakes Triple-A franchise by also selling land around the stadium to the team owners for $1 an acre, with the mayor saying the city would make money on the $38.5 million in taxes the new development would pay over the next 20 years. This is still not how taxes work, but Wichita has since said it was putting off the land sale after Wichitans griped about the stealth subsidy, so I won’t belabor the point. For now.
  • And finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver want to make watching basketball at home more like being at the game, via “technology.” Wait, isn’t one main problem pro sports is facing that fewer and fewer people want to go to games because it’s just as pleasant and cheaper to watch games at home on their giant hi-def TVs? I mean, no complaints here if Silver really wants to replicate the smell of Madison Square Garden in my living room, but it seems a bit, I dunno, against their business model? Unless maybe this will be some kind of premium feature you only get by subscribing to their streaming service that will be described as “Netflix for basketball,” yeah, that’s probably it.

Friday roundup: What time is the Super Bowl article rush going to be over?

It’s too cold to type an intro! I miss the Earth before we broke it. But anyway:

Rangers unveil stadium model to show how cool retractable roof will look from passing airplanes

The Texas Rangers owners have moved on from bizarro renderings of their new stadium opening in 2020 to a full working model, albeit one entirely in off-white. Watch the retractable roof retract, and then unretract!

It’s kind of hard to tell what the actual inside of the park — you know, the part where actual humans will go to watch actual baseball — will look like from this video, but there are a couple of clues from screengrabs of this and other angles that have been shared:

Yes, that is apparently a 5th (or 6th?) deck behind home plate and running down the third-base line. It’s impossible to tell exactly how bad the views will be from there or how they’ll compare with the Rangers’ existing stadium’s already pretty bad top-deck views, but I’m going to guess “even more pretty bad.”

Those mystery seats suspended in midair out in left field appear to be connected to some sort of concourse behind the pillars that hold up the roof tracks, so fans will actually be able to reach their seats without a ladder. Whether it’ll be worth the climb is another story, because those seats will be way high up and also 400 feet from home plate, which is no way to watch baseball.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Rangers passed up a chance to stack the lower decks more on top of each other, which would have massively improved views for those in the upper decks (and also made for a more compact and cheaper stadium) at the expense of casting the backs of the lower decks into shadow, which apparently remains verboten in modern stadium design, even in a modern stadium where the whole point of the place is to add a roof that casts everyone into shadow, because the Texas sun is unbearable.

Of course, none of this will matter if you’re fortunate enough not to sit in the cheap seats. But given that the capacity of Globe Life Field is expected to be 40,000 vs. the old Globe Life Park’s 49,000, fewer people are going to be able to fit into the non-cheap seats, meaning some fans used to being in the same zip code as the game are likely going to end up being unpleasantly surprised. But hey, I guess you can enjoy air-conditioning from wherever your seats are, and isn’t that what going to see baseball is all about?

Diamondbacks switch to fake turf so they can crank their a/c, Rangers may follow suit

Also on Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks owners, who have been shopping around to get a new stadium to replace 20-year-old Chase Field since negotiating an out clause to their lease back in May, have announced that they’ll be switching their current stadium to artificial turf next year, as they apparently just discovered after two decades that grass needs sunlight and water:

The decision to swap live grass to turf, of course, came after failed attempts at finding grass that grew well in the desert. The team would keep the Chase Field roof open during the day, allowing the sun in, but even closing it in the late afternoon before night first pitches made for a hot game-viewing experience with the air conditioning cranked up.

Arizona tried a new strain of grass this past season, and while it looked better than in years’ past — when the outfield would develop brown, dry spots where outfielders stood — it still played hard.

“It looked good and when you talk players, when you talk to our facility staff, it still didn’t play well and still wasn’t very healthy out there,” [Diamondbacks CEO Derrick] Hall said…

The move to synthetic turf will save the team money on its water bill and electric bill.

The team expects a 90 percent savings, or two million gallons, in water consumption.

The irony here, of course, is that the Diamondbacks demanded a pricey retractable roof when it got its stadium built back in the ’90s in large part so it could open it to the elements to allow natural grass to grow. (The Houston Astrodome famously had to turn to newly invented artificial turf — dubbed Astroturf as a result — after its initial plan to grow grass under a roof with glass windows turned out to be a disaster.) Of course, they didn’t know then how much fans would demand that the roof be closed as much as possible to let the air-conditioning kick in, or for that matter how crazy hot it would get in Phoenix now that we’ve broken the earth’s climate. But still, irony.

Notably, the Texas Rangers owners still haven’t announced whether their new retractable-roofed stadium will feature grass or artificial turf, and team officials there may keep a close eye on how the D-Backs’ new turf plays next spring before making a decision. Given that the whole point of the Rangers’ new stadium is to have air-conditioning, though, and that Texas occupies the same Anthropocene climate as Arizona, you have to think they’ll be leaning hard toward plastic grass. Which makes you wonder why anybody bothers with moving roofs anymore anyway — they’re crazy expensive and hardly ever opened to the elements in warm-weather cities — but I guess it’s hard for even sports team owners to pass up stuff that looks so cool from passing airplanes.

 

 

Friday roundup: Vegas MLB rumors, North American soccer superleague rumors, and everything just costs untold billions of dollars now, get used to it

I published two long articles yesterday — one on sports stadium and arena deals that haven’t sucked too badly, one on a particular non-sports subsidy deal that looks to be sucking pretty hard — so I wasn’t able to post anything here, despite a couple of news items that might have warranted their own FoS posts. But as the saying goes, Thursday omissions bring a shower of Friday news briefs (please don’t tell me that’s not a saying, because it is now), so let’s dig in:

Friday roundup: Chargers L.A. move still a disaster, Raiders still lack 2019 home, Rays still short of stadium cash

I’ve been busy getting my post-Village Voice life rolling this week — here’s my first article for Gothamist, on how to fight Amazon’s monopoly power, and I’ve also started a Twitter account for following ex-Voice news writers as we keep up our work for other outlets — but Friday mornings are sacred, for they are stadium and arena news roundup time:

Friday roundup: Rangers to keep empty ballpark, football Hall of Fame seeks bailout, Goodell dreams of a new Bills stadium

Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:

Friday roundup: Warriors debt fight, giant American butts, and the blackout curtains that will eat Minneapolis

It’s laugh to keep from crying week! (Just kidding: It’s always laugh to keep from crying week.)

  • The 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum is “clearly past its prime” and “smaller and gloomier than many competing venues,” and the city should use “original thinking and strong leadership from the private and public sectors” such as tax-increment financing to help pay for a new arena, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Not included in the editorial: any indication of how much a new arena would cost or whether the benefit to the city would be worth it, because why think about such things when there’s new-car smell to be had?
  • Oakland and the Golden State Warriors owners are still fighting over who’ll pay for $40 million in remaining Oracle Arena debt once the Warriors move to San Francisco in 2019. It sure sounds like the team’s Oakland lease requires them to pay off remaining debt if they leave before 2027, but the city really would have had a much stronger case if it had refused to grant the team a lease extension without an agreement on debt payments, and made Steph Curry go play in the street for a couple of years.
  • The Texas Rangers‘ new stadium will feature seats that are 1 to 2 inches wider than in their old one, which is good for fans with wide butts (I stand accused, although not of being a Rangers fan), but less good for fans with butts of any size who will have to make do with seats farther down the outfield lines to make way for the butts of more well-off fans. Everything’s a tradeoff.
  • The Detroit Grand Prix owners, seeking to justify turning a public park into a private raceway for three months of preparation each summer, claim the annual event is worth $58 million to the local economy, and I told the Detroit Metro Times why that’s probably bullshit.
  • Here are some pictures of Los Angeles F.C.‘s new stadium in the final stages of construction that look disturbingly like pictures of stadiums in the first stages of demolition. At least season-ticket sales are going well, and those are way harder to fake than individual game ticket sales!
  • Derek Jeter may have gotten rid of anything not nailed down from the 2017 Miami Marlins, but he still can’t move Red Grooms’ horrific home run sculpture, because the public helped pay for it so now it’s public art. (Too bad Marlins fans couldn’t have tried the same argument about Giancarlo Stanton.)
  • The NCAA has awarded the 2019 men’s Final Four to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and now is demanding a giant blackout curtain to cover up the building’s windows for the event. Cost, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Mike Vekich: “It will be expensive — obviously.” Crazy idea: Tell the NCAA, “You already awarded us the Final Four, if you want a giant venetian blind, pay for it yourself or go play in the street with Steph Curry.”
  • The cost of a pedestrian bridge to get fans to a new stadium in Atlanta — no, not that bridge to that stadium, a different bridge to the Falcons stadium — has nearly doubled from $12.8 million to $25.1 million, thanks in part to rush charges to get ready for next year’s Super Bowl. You know where next year’s Super Bowl would look great if the NFL won’t pay rush charges for a bridge? You guessed it!

The Texas Rangers may have traded a real grass field for air-conditioning

The art of writing an intro to a piece of journalism — called a “lede” because journalists are weird — is an interesting one, and I’m always impressed when someone can come up with something like this:

Science has bred a chicken to look like a dinosaur and is actively working on humanless home pizza delivery – and a flying taxi

…even, or maybe especially, when the article itself is about something as prosaic as the Texas Rangers‘ new taxpayer-funded stadium maybe using artificial turf.

Yes, that’s right: A major-league baseball team is actually tearing down its reasonably well-regarded 20-something-year-old stadium so it can build a new one with air-conditioning, but this may require installing fake grass, even though all but two MLB teams have done away with the stuff in recent years because everybody hates it, from fans to players who have to deal with its broiling heat and abuse on their bodies. The problem, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has something to do with the field being too deep, or too far from the retractable roof, or something:

The Rangers said that right now they don’t know when they will know/announce the surface for the new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2020…

“Fifty feet below grade is not a concern itself. It’s about how the stadium is designed to let light in,” said Texas A&M associate professor Ben Wherley, whose expertise is in turfgrass in the school’s department of soil and crop sciences. “My assumption is they will try to get grass in there if at all possible.”

This is really something they should have thought of while designing the stadium, you know? Though given the Escheresque renderings the Rangers have released so far, maybe they were planning on having sunlight hit the field from below, who can say?