Clem's Baseball home

Globe Life Park in Arlington *
Home of the
Texas Rangers (1994- )




Globe Life Park in Arlington
Key

DYNAMIC DIAGRAM:
Mouse rollover.

(1994)

(2012)

(full view, 2009)




* known as "The Ballpark in Arlington" (1994-2003), "Ameriquest Field in Arlington" (2004-2007), and "Rangers Ballpark in Arlington" (2008-2013)

 
Vital statistics:
Lifetime Seating capacity Seating rows
(typical)
Overhang / shade % Territory
(1,000 sq. ft.)
Fence height  CF
orien- tation
Back-stop Outfield dimensions The Clem Criteria:
Built Status 1st deck 2nd deck Upper deck Lower deck Upper deck Fair Foul LF CF RF Left
field
Left-center Center field Right-center Right field Field
asym- metry
Arch.
design
Seat
prox- imity
Loc- ation Aesth- etics Over- all
1994 FINE 48,114 32 12 23 15% 40% 111.9 19.5 14 8 8 SE 52 332 (380) 400 381 325 6 6 7 3 6 5.6

NOTE: Figures in parentheses are estimated actual distances, when markers are in non-standard locations, erroneous, etc.

ALL STAR GAME: 1995 WORLD SERIES: 2010, 2011

This ballpark is controversial for several reasons (see below), but one thing is certain: the Rangers desperately needed a new stadium. The "Ballpark in Arlington" (the original name) was the second of the neoclassical stadiums, preceding Jacobs Field by just a few days. It has so many features that it is hard to know where to begin or what to make of it all. For one thing, its enclosed outfield stood in marked contrast to other recently-built stadiums, and to the wide-open Arlington Stadium, where the Rangers had been playing. The new "ballpark" seems more like an amusement park than a baseball stadium, which is perhaps not surprising, since it's located within a mile of Six Flags Over Texas. It was built just a few blocks south of the Rangers' previous home, in the suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. The wide open spaces of Arlington stand in sharp contrast to the cramped urban surroundings of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The overall structure (including the shops, museums, etc.) fits into a nearly-square rectangle, with a small diagonal facet at each corner, which technically makes it an octagon. There are two pyramid-topped brick towers at each of the main entrances at those corners, rather like the turrets of a fortress. In order to create the illusion of being "downtown," a four-story L-shaped office building was built in center field. It features ornate wrought iron balconies that remind one of New Orleans, but there are huge tacky billboards on top of it.

thumbnail The problem with this "ballpark" is that it takes every one of the basic design virtues of the neoclassical stadiums and amplifies them to absurd proportions. For example, there are seven corners in the outfield wall, more than you will find in some pinball machines. Furthermore, every one of those seven corners has a distance marker, though only two are shown in the above diagram. From left field to right field, the others are: 354, 404, 407, 377, and 349 feet. More to the point, since the neighborhood streets did not really constrain the stadium's design, all of the quirky angles and turns in the outfield wall are purely arbitrary and contrived. It's all a bit phony. Also, there seems to be more brick around the massive exterior walls than one would find in all of Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria put together! Conversely, foul territory is tiny, because of the closeness of the seats behind home plate and the long flange/alley, which is most pronounced along the right field line. One design problem is that there is virtually no overhang below the upper deck, which is therefore situated quite far from the field, and quite high above it, thanks to the two skybox levels, a fundamental flaw shared with U.S. Cellular Field. There is no overhang below the second deck in left field, because a private club of some sort occupies that space. Minor gripe: the very slight bends in the grandstand on the third base side merely add "clutter" to the overall design, without much improvement in the sight lines. Such bends should either be more distinct or else eliminated.

On the plus side, the double-deck bleacher section in right field, complete with an old-fashioned full roof and steel support beams, is a nice (and obvious) tribute to Tiger Stadium. That roof is elevated an extra 20 feet or so to give the patrons at the Sports Grill a view of the game. Thus, the scoreboard/Jumbotron on top of that roof is situated high enough that it doesn't distract too much from the field itself. Another definite plus is the grass bank beyond the center field fence and the small courtyard in front of the office building. It's also nice that the stadium name (which is admittedly corny) was not simply sold to the highest bidder, as was the case in Houston, Seattle, and Detroit. (That might have been a good name for the proposed stadium in Northern Virginia.) In a gesture to historic continuity, the Rangers brought the foul poles and bleacher benches over from their original home field. The 1,500-capacity bleachers here pale in comparison to the old Arlington Stadium, but at least it's something for budget-minded fans.

Being located on the high plains of Texas, this field is subject to occasional high winds, which the office building enclosing the outfield does little to prevent. During the first month of play here, in April 1994, pitcher Rick Kelly was blown off the mound by a sudden gust, and the game was delayed for 45 minutes until the wind calmed down a bit. Just like the 1961 All Star Game in Candlestick Park!

A few minor modifications were made in 2000. An inner fence was installed in left field, reducing the distance on that side by two feet. Also, the rows of seats in the small triangular section in the right field corner were replaced by stools and cafe tables. This reduced the overall capacity by 51 seats. Also that year, a "Commissioner's Box" section was added near first base. In 2009, a similar section was added on the third base side, and two extra rows of luxury box seats were installed in the area between the dugouts. This reduced the backstop distance from 60 feet to 52 feet. The current capacity is about a thousand less than it was at the opening in 1994 (49,178).

CINEMA: The climactic scenes from the motion picture The Rookie (2002), starring Dennis Quaid, were filmed in this ballpark. Particularly noteworthy are the huge arched hallways along the perimeter of the stadium structure.

The Rangers had little to brag about from their first two decades (or from their previous decade as the Senators, for that matter), but they quickly became serious contenders after moving into their new home. Indeed, they were leading the AL West when The Strike of 1994 ruined everything, and they won the divisional titles in both 1996 and 1998, when Tom Hicks bought the team and soon went on a spending spree. In December 2000 Alex Rodriguez joined the Rangers after signing the biggest contract in baseball history, worth $252 million. The team's roster featured such hitting and fielding stars as Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Andres Galarraga, but the Rangers could not assemble a decent pitching staff and thus finished in last place once again, and have stayed there -- until 2004, that is.

In May 2004 the Rangers and Ameriquest Mortgage Company announced a 30-year, $75 million agreement under which the Ballpark in Arlington was renamed "Ameriquest Field in Arlington." This happened to coincide with the Rangers' resurgence, vying with Anaheim for top spot in the AL West. The deal later went sour as the sponsor company went belly up, however, so in 2008 the stadium was renamed "Rangers Ballpark in Arlington." In early 2014, finally, a more-or-less permanent naming rights deal was struck, hence the current name Globe Life Park in Arlington. (See editorial comment below.)

As a side-effect of the crisis on Wall Street (which Ameriquest exemplified), Tom Hicks, the owner of the Rangers went into bankruptcy protection in 2009, and received an emergency loan from Major League Baseball. In August 2010, the franchise was sold to a partnership led by attorney Chuck Greenberg, with former pitching star Nolan Ryan as one of the investors. Coincidentally, the Rangers made it to the postseason for the first time since 1999, and won the American League pennant for the first time ever, but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, four games to one. In 2011 they advanced to the World Series once again, and twice in Game 6 they came within one strike of winning it all, but the St. Louis Cardinals came back and won that game and Game 7. In November the Rangers announce renovations to the plaza beyond center field, including a large "batter's eye" restaurant. As part of this change, the visiting team bullpen will be reoriented, replacing most of the bleacher rows in deep left center field.

SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Pastier (2007), Rosen (2001), USA Today / Fodor's (1996)


Click on the camera icons (camera) below to see the photos, one by one.

camera #1 View of right field from the lower deck behind the dugout on the first base side. (courtesy of Mike Hoecker)

camera #2 Exterior view of the entrance behind home plate.(courtesy of Mike Hoecker)

camera #3 Right field as seen from from the third base side. (courtesy of Joe Johnston)

camera #4 Good, old-fashioned obstructed view from the right field lower deck seats. At least it's shady! (courtesy of Joe Johnston)

camera #5 Stitched-together panorama of the whole stadium, from behind home plate. (courtesy of Joe Johnston)

camera #6 View from the right field upper deck, at a Yankees-Rangers night game on Sept. 11, 2010. (courtesy of Kyle Nagy)

Ballpark in Arlington panorama

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington:
Chronology of diagram updates


 



NOTE: The diagram thumbnails have been continually replaced since 2008, so the images seen in the older blog posts do not reflect how the full-size diagrams looked at that time. Roll your mouse over the adjacent thumbnail to see a pre-2008 version.

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
 
12 Feb 2006 26 Sep 2008 11 Apr 2009 20 Jun 2009 01 Nov 2010 24 Oct 2011 30 Sep 2013

Editorial comment

I try to steer clear of political controversy on these baseball pages, but I simply cannot ignore the unsavory financial arrangements behind this brick extravaganza. It all started back in April 1989, when George W. Bush, our current president, led a consortium of investors who bought the Texas Rangers franchise for $89 million. (This, of course, was three months after his father was inaugurated president.) Even though he only held a two percent share, which he raised by borrowing $500,000, Bush Junior became the "managing general partner" whose main duty was to promote public financing for a new stadium. His effort came to fruition in January 1991, when Arlington voters approved a $135 million bond issue for a new ballpark. (Most of the rest of the $191 million total stadium cost came from sales of luxury suite licenses to businesses.) Three months later Texas Governor Ann Richards (a Democrat and arch-enemy of the Bush family) signed a bill creating a special stadium authority, which quickly used eminent domain provisions to seize the desired tract of land on the other side of Johnson Creek, the rationale being that a "Riverwalk" lined with cute shops was supposed to be developed next to the stadium. (It never happened.) The owners of that land filed suit, charging unjust compensation, and eventually won a $40 million settlement. In December 1994 Bush stepped down as managing general partner just prior to being inaugurated governor of Texas, but retained his equity stake in the team. In June 1998 the Rangers were purchased by Tom Hicks for $250 million, the second-highest sum ever paid for a Major League Baseball team. This transaction triggered the contingent 10 percent escalator bonus on top of his two percent equity share, so that Bush received a total of $14.9 million in proceeds for his $606,000 total investment. Not a bad rate of return! Though everything was done above board and within the law, the whole affair does reek of "stadium socialism" or "crony capitalism," as you prefer. It seems all but certain that one of the main effects of the public stadium subsidy was to encourage the team's owners to overspend in the acquisition of new talent, thus perpetuating an inflationary cycle that ends up boosting ticket prices out of the range of average fans. All this should serve as a cautionary tale for other cities. Washington-area residents are (indirectly, via business taxes) helping to pay for the Washington Nationals' $600-million new baseball stadium, under the terms imposed by MLB officials in exchange for relocating the Montreal Expos franchise to Washington in 2005.

For further information, see the chronology compiled by Tom Farrey at ESPN.com, or the Washington Post. For some opinionated perspectives, see the articles by Michael O'Keeffe and T.J. Quinn in the New York Daily News, Jacci Howard Bear in Austin About, Joseph Kay on the World Socialist Web site, and of course, Field of Schemes. Also, see a piece by Matthew Wall written during the heat of the 2000 campaign. "What's Happening with the Pension Fund? -- Part 10" by Charles Schwartz at berkeley.edu.

The questionable financial origins of this ballpark became more sordid in March 2007 when the Rangers terminated the naming-rights contract with Ameriquest. Soon thereafter, this subprime mortgage lender sold its remain assets and shut down operations, playing a leading role in the global financial crisis that broke out in late 2007. As the 2008 baseball season ended, Wall Street teetered on the brink of disaster.


Vox populi: Fans' impressions

Have you been to this stadium? If so, feel free to share your impressions of it with other fans! (Registration is required.) Also, I welcome submissions of original stadium photos that fans have taken, and will make sure they get properly credited. Just send me an e-mail message via the Contact page.


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