Thursday, July 14, 2011
Texas Rangers will move to downtown Dallas … one day
Fans get more bang for their buck and a better game experience when games are played in an urban setting.
By Flickr user Brian Koeller
There are very few things of which I am sure. But one thing that I feel very strongly about is that the Texas Rangers will move to downtown Dallas somewhere down the road.
Talk around the Rangers heading east to D-Town has gained steam over the last couple of weeks since a billboard popped up on I-30 suggesting the Rangers move to Dallas. Frontburner refers to a Star-Telegram offering from the great Bud Kennedy where he rightly states that “Dallas lost its chance to have the Rangers decades ago.” But it’s the painful loss of the Dallas Cowboys, who will never come back to Dallas, which will make the city fight hard for the Rangers when the time comes. And the time will come.
The idea of moving baseball to Dallas is not the fancy of a few fans who are tired of making the trip to Tarrant County. There are multiple groups currently at work trying to figure out how to make this happen. And I can say with great confidence Mayor Mike Rawlings already knows this will be a priority for him if he spends eight years in the mayor’s seat.
There are four reasons why the Rangers will build a new stadium and why that stadium will be in Dallas.
It’s hot out there. Call it climate change, global warming, or the way that it’s always been. But the fact of the matter is there’s no such thing as a comfortable trip to the ballpark in July and August. June and September aren’t that much fun either.
The Texas Rangers will play in a retractable roof stadium -- they have to. Look at Phoenix, where Tuesday’s All-Star game was played. It was 100 degrees right before the game and the forecast calls for 107-108 degree temps this weekend. Chase Field is a covered park, which makes for a more festive game experience than baking in the sun.
Houston’s Minute Maid Park has a roof that shields fans from the miserable H-Town humidity. I think “The Juice” is a lesser stadium than “The Ballpark” but the value of that roof makes up the difference many times over. I believe that baseball is meant to be played outside, but not when your skin feels like it’s melting off.
Yet as hot as it is out there; the heat is less about the Rangers moving to Dallas and more about the team’s need to eventually address the stadium situation.
The Texas Rangers play in one of the smallest cities in the major leagues. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the Mets play in Flushing (pop. 176K) instead of Queens (pop 2.2 million). Still, the only cities smaller than Arlington hosting major league baseball are St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St. Petersburg, and Anaheim.
I know what you’re saying... "but Dallas/Fort Worth is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.” True dat. But baseball relies on people who can travel to games day after day and week after week. Folks who live close to the ballpark make great walk up customers and repeat visitors.
These numbers are three years old, but I did a little comparison shopping on how many people live within a five mile radius of the a select group of major league ballparks.
Venue, City, 5 mile radius population
Yankee Stadium, New York City (2,502,621)
Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois (1,052,689)
U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, ILL (825, 341)
PNC Park, Pittsburg,PA (388,299)
Great American Ballpark Cincinnati (305,392)
Ballpark in Arlington, Texas (282,931)
When I lived in Grand Prairie, my family and I could turn on the TV to watch a game and if we decided we wanted to watch it in person at The Ballpark, we could be there before the next inning started. You don’t have that kind of convenience if you live in Collin County, and the Rangers know this. Bringing the Rangers to Dallas means moving them closer to Plano, Frisco, Rockwall, and Allen, while keeping Arlington and Irving in play.
A baseball stadium that you can’t ride a train or bus to makes no sense at all? It just doesn’t jive with modern-day transit trends. People use DART to travel to the American Airlines Center for games or the circus. Folks even take the TRE in from Fort Worth to AAC events. Not so much if you’re going to the ballpark.
A USA Today article written last year asks “Did Public Transit Send Cliff Lee to Philly?" They quote an article written by Bud where Lee’s wife talks of her fondness for taking public transit to the ballpark. Obviously Cliff Lee went to Philly because he wanted to be a 4th starter instead of an ace, but the fact that transit is mentioned should concern the Rangers and I’m sure it does.
In the end this is all about real estate, and real estate is all about location. Virtually every new stadium in Major League Baseball was built in a downtown setting. Baseball was meant to be played downtown where teams can create an environment of anticipation before games, and an atmosphere for fans to celebrate or lament afterward.
I’ve been to four major league parks besides The Ballpark in Arlington: Petco in San Diego, Minute Maid in Houston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and The Trop in St. Pete. Walking up to Petco, Minute Maid, and Wrigley felt like party before the first pitch was even thrown.
Tropicana Field was more of a drive-in-and-drive-out experience like a Rangers game. It’s not far from downtown, but it’s not an easy walk either. Tropicana opened in 1990 (four years before The Ballpark) before downtown stadiums became the rage. I’ll make a serious effort to get back to Petco if I ever have the chance, but wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back to Tropicana.
It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it will happen. I think the Rangers will move to downtown Dallas, but realistically they could decide to go the other way an build a new park in Fort Worth. Either way, fans get more bang for their buck and a better game experience when games are played in an urban setting.
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