The Arlington City Council unanimously approved a development plan for a new $1-billion Texas Rangers retractable-roof ballpark, clearing the way for voter approval in a fall referendum.
The plan would extend the taxes currently used to pay down AT&T Stadium (a half-cent sales tax, 5 percent car rental tax and 2 percent hotel tax). The bonds on AT&T Stadium are scheduled to be paid off seven years early – just in time to back the bonds on a new Rangers ballpark, which made the decision by the City Council pretty easy. All in all, the city will pay $500 million toward the new ballpark; the Rangers will pay the other $500 million. The anticipated opening date is 2021, though an earlier 2020 opening is now being held out as a possibility. You can view all the details of the new ballpark here.
The deal has been negotiated in secret for the past six months, so this was the first time the public had a chance to weigh in. From the Dallas Morning News:
Zack Maxwell, publisher of the Arlington Voice news website, questioned the speed with which the proposal was introduced and brought to a council vote.
“Seven days ago, no one in the room was talking about spending $500 million,” he said.
But the crowded City Council chamber — which will be retired and demolished after Tuesday’s meeting — was overwhelmingly filled with stadium supporters. Sixteen stadium backers signed up to speak, and 40 more wanted to show support but not speak.
Many wore Rangers jerseys or hats and spoke nostalgically about 44 years’ worth of baseball memories in Arlington. They also praised the council for its financial savvy, and the Rangers for their importance to the local economy.
The City Council approved the general plan, but many of the specifics about the ballpark financing need to be worked out. Money for ballpark planning and construction will be needed in 2018 (which overlaps with payments toward the AT&T Stadium bonds), so the city will need to manage the revenue flow in some manner. Still, the broad strokes of the agreement are completed, and the next big step will be a a voter referendum in the fall.
Image courtesy Populous.
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