TIME TO SAY SO LONG TO THE TEMPLE

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2019

Image result for Rangers ballpark
BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers are in Oakland this weekend
finishing their last road trip of the season.  They were eliminated
from playoff contention last weekend, when the Athletics swept them in
a three game series, such that next week’s six home games will be the
final Major League games played at Globe Life Park, originally named
the Ballpark in Arlington.

The ballpark opened for the 1994 season.  Early in its life, the
Ticket’s (radio station KTCK 96.7 FM and AM 1310) Mike Rhyner dubbed
it “The Temple.” Good name, as it is to this day one of the most
beautiful parks in Major League Baseball.  It has also been the venue
for the best Ranger baseball in franchise history.

The Astrodome in Houston was the first symmetrical park. It
opened in 1965, and soon new similar ballparks sprang up in
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Oakland, St. Louis and eventually in Toronto,
among others.  The parks were often dual purpose being the home for
the local MLB and NFL teams.  Most had artificial turf, which changed
the way baseball was played for decades.

For baseball, the dimensions were basically equal to similar parts
of the field – equal down the lines, equal to the power alleys. No
advantage to a left-handed batter like Yankee Stadium’s short right
field fence. No advantage to right-handed batters like Boston’s
short, but high left field fence. Fair, but dull.

That was the trend in ballparks until 1992. That’s the year that
Baltimore opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was the first
“retro-ballpark” and it sparked a building boom in new ballparks.  It
captured the romanticism of old parks, while at the same time had
advantages such as suites for upper end customers and wide concourses
that provided sales opportunities both in foods and souvenirs. Retro
parks were more architecturally pleasing, and they generated money!
As Gary Gillette wrote in his Big League Ballparks, a Complete
Illustrated History. “Where the modern concrete bowls and domes had
sealed off fans from the urban environment surrounding them; Oriole
Park at Camden Yards embraced them.”

The Ballpark in Arlington and Jacobs Field in Cleveland were the
next two parks to open after Camden Yards. These two parks solidified
the trend toward retro parks. Retro parks usually reverted back to
grass fields – always a fan favorite.  Almost every Major League
park has been supplanted with a new park since the retro parks became
the trend. Only nine of the 32 current Major League parks were in
service when Camden Yards opened.

George W. Bush put together a group to buy the Texas Rangers in
1989. Bush actually had a small financial stake, reportedly just
$606,000 most of which was borrowed to purchase a 1.8% stake in the
team. As the son of the United States President at the time, George
Herbert Walker Bush, he had a “name” that enabled him to attract
investors and put together an ownership group to purchase the team
with him as the managing general partner.

He immediately set out to get a new stadium, threatening to move
the team. He saw it as a key to the Rangers’ future.  Arlington
quickly agreed to contribute $135 million. There was opposition, but
in 1991 the voters in Arlington approved an increase in the sales tax
to meet the city’s financial obligation and construction was off and
running.

The stadium opened in 1994. Tom Schieffer, the lesser known
brother of CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, took the lead in getting the park
built. There were touches small and large to old ballparks.
Initially, there was a hand operated scoreboard in left field for
other games.  The right field stands were double decked, a sure fire
copy of “home run porch” in the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. There
was even a sign on the right field scoreboard that read, “Hit it here,
win a free suit”, a copy from a sign in Ebbets Field when the Dodgers
played in Brooklyn.

It was obvious immediately that the new park was a money maker.
The capacity was about the same as the Arlington Stadium it replaced,
roughly 49,000.  However, more than half the seats in Arlington
Stadium were outfield bleachers.  The new Ballpark in Arlington had
far more seats between the foul poles, seats that cost materially more
than the outfield bleachers. Wide concourses allowed room for kiosks
to increase the variety of food and beverage offerings.  There were
more opportunities to buy Ranger caps and gear. Unquestionably, fans
were spending more money at the new park.

Attendance soared. In the 23 seasons the Rangers played in
Arlington Stadium, attendance was less than 1,000,000 three times.
Attendance had never reached 1.8 million in any season before Bush’s
group bought the team. Only twice has the attendance fallen below
2,000,000 since the Ballpark was built, and one of those was strike
shortened 1995 season when the Rangers played just 144 games and
missed the 2,000,000 mark by less than 15,000 fans. Twice, Texas has
reached the 3,000,000 attendance mark (2012 and 2013).

Tags

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>