AFTER YEARS OF research and statistical analysis, the Texas Rangers have concluded that Texas summers are hot. Apparently the Rangers were not aware of this in 1994 when they opened The Ballpark in Arlington without a roof. To be fair, The Ballpark opened in April, and nobody could have predicted that, just three months later, it would be July. This was before teams had analytics departments.
The Ballpark, which has since been renamed Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Globe Life Park in Arlington and Please Bring Old Spice for the Guy Next to You at the Park in Arlington, will be replaced (in 2021) by a new park, which will have a retractable roof. It will cost $1 billion (with half to be paid for by the city of Arlington) and will be in the same complex as both The Ballpark and Jerry Jones's football stadium, unless the football stadium departs for Mars by that point, which seems entirely possible.
When The Ballpark opened, it was supposed to be the answer to the Rangers' stadium woes. It was built in the same era as Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Seattle's Safeco Field. The Ballpark was touted as a gem that would correct the previous generation's mistake.
Cookie-cutter multipurpose stadiums were out. Charming baseball-only bandboxes with all sorts of revenue streams were in. Rangers president Tom Schieffer told The Wall Street Journal in 1994, "We now believe, with this facility, we have the ability to compete with anybody." And they did! Since then Texas has enjoyed the best seasons in franchise history and brings in enough revenue to have one of the top 10 payrolls in baseball. But the fans—who live in Texas in the summer—are sweating, so never mind all that.
The Rangers are not the only club to bolt from a perfectly fine facility. I've nursed drinks for longer than Atlanta keeps its stadiums. When Turner Field opened for baseball in 1997—1997!—the slogan was "Turner Field: Not just baseball. A baseball theme park." Owner Ted Turner said, "I'm like a kid on Christmas morning." He should have added, "I've been married three times." Ted Turner no longer owns the team, and the Braves will soon leave Turner Field, citing irreconcilable differences. When that stadium opened, the Braves boasted that fans would be closer to the action than in any other major league ballpark, but that's only true if fans are in the ballpark.
The Braves now say that most of their fans are in suburban Cobb County, so they will receive $300 million in public money to build a stadium in Cumberland. In their new location, scheduled to open in 2017, the Braves should quadruple the number of fans that wave at their stadium as they drive by at three miles per hour in Atlanta traffic.
Meanwhile, the Falcons started pursuing a new stadium before the Georgia Dome turned 18, and in 2017 they will get one. Mercedes-Benz Stadium (built with $600 million in public money) is located downtown—apparently the football fans stayed there, even as the baseball fans left for Cobb County. The Georgia Dome will become a parking lot, filled with Mercedes-Benzes, though frankly I wouldn't leave my car there too long, lest a stadium sprout up around it.
Listening to owners talk about new stadiums is like going on a car trip with six-year-olds: They're too hot, too cold, don't like where they're sitting, need more room, have too much space or desperately need to find restrooms.
What these owners really want is a city to fund another playpen. Still, taxpayers should not worry. All these new stadiums come with long-term leases, which nobody ever tries to get out of, and the latest technology, which will never become outdated. They also bring in all the revenue that a franchise could ever need or want, so owners will be happy to sit back and relax, unless they get too hot, too cold, don't like where they're sitting, just decide they want more money ... or sell to people who are too hot, too cold, don't like where they're sitting or just decide they want more money. But who could possibly see that coming?
Listening to owners talk about new stadiums is like going on a car trip with six-year-olds: They're too hot, too cold, don't like where they're sitting or desperately need a restroom.
Does your team need a new stadium?
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CARLOS M. SAAVEDRA