In the end, the vote wasn’t close, as Arlington voters overwhelmingly approved the use of hotel and car taxes to help finance a new retractable-roof Texas Rangers ballpark.
After years of researching method to alleviate the hear at Globe Life Park, the Rangers pitched the city on the plan for a new ballpark. Anyone who has attended a Rangers home game knows it can be a miserable experience, especially during a day game. The Rangers are the only team to have regularly scheduled Sunday night games; that’s because Major League Baseball officials realize the team won’t draw too many fans on a July, August or September 1:05 p.m. game. (Not too much fun for the players, either.) The team had researched alternatives over the years to provide relief to fans, including moving sunscreens, but with the team’s lease at Globe Life Park coming up in 2023, the planning in recent months has centered on a new ballpark — and Arlington officials committed to the project when it became clear the suburb could lose the Rangers to Dallas. (With bonds on AT&T Stadium scheduled to be paid off in 2021, this gave Arlington an advantage in shifting existing revenues to be bonds and opening the new ballpark before the Globe Life Park lease ends.)
The plan calls for taxes currently used to back bonds for construction of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, to be extended for 30 additional years to finance $500 million in debt on the proposed replacement for Globe Life Park. That includes a half-cent sales tax, a 2 percent hotel tax and a 5 percent car rental tax. In addition, the plan adds a 10 percent ticket tax and a $3 parking surcharge. It also commits the Rangers to Arlington through 2053. The ballpark is projected to cost $1 billion; the city and the Rangers are slated to split those costs. Voters approved the measure in yesterday’s voting, with approximately 60 percent voting yes on the proposal. From the Dallas News:
“It’s a phenomenal thing how so many generations now have grown up going to the Texas Rangers here in Arlington,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams told the crowd at a pro-stadium watching party at the Hilton Arlington. “And now we have an opportunity for us to say that we want the Rangers to be here for our kids and grandkids. … It is a historic time in which all of our leaders have come together here to work hard to ensure that we kept the Rangers now.”
Early voting totals gave the stadium measure a wide lead after nearly 90,000 people cast ballots in the runup to Election Day.
“We conceded once we saw those early voting totals,” said Andy Prior, spokesman for Save Our Stadium, a group that campaigned against the proposal. “When you look at the margin of those early-vote totals and you see how many people voted, there was no way we could make that up.”
One thing that spurred some Arlington voters to oppose the proposal: Globe Life Park opened in 1994 with a reasonable $191 million price tag, and will be less than 30 years old when a new ballpark opens (the specific timeline has not been announced; a 2021 opening has been the goal, but 2020 is apparently possible). Williams and other Rangers officials say the ballpark will be reused in some way, but there’s no contractual obligation from either the city or the Rangers to do so. But that is a valid concern: we like to think our ballparks should last for generations, and here the Rangers and Arlington will be shutting down a ballpark less than 30 years old.
Image courtesy Populous.
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