ALL STAR GAME: 1995 WORLD SERIES: 2010, 2011
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: I paid a visit (briefly going inside) on June 24, 2014.
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.
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 very little overhang below the second deck in left field, because a private club of some sort occupies that space. Contrary to my early impression, there is a fair amount of overhang above the lower deck, and in fact, there are four rows of seats behind the support beams. 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 grandstand 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. Unfortunately, the 1,500-capacity bleacher benches were eliminated during the renovations that took place in 2012.
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. During the winter of 2011-2012, major renovations to the plaza beyond center field were made, adding a large "batter's eye" restaurant. As part of this change, the visiting team bullpen was reoriented, replacing most of the seats in deep left center field. No more good, old-fashioned bleacher benches...
In 2016, proposal to build a new stadium for the Rangers was floated, which would mean that Globe Life Park could be replaced as early as 2021, after only 26 years of service. In hopes of forestalling that unwarranted action, I have created a diagram for a slightly "downsized" version of Globe Life Park, eliminating the upper decks in left field and making the roof nearly twice as big as before, so as to provide more shade. Also, the original open grassy park beyond center field would be restored, along with a mini-diamond for kids to play in.
SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Pastier (2007), Rosen (2001), USA Today / Fodor's (1996)
FAN TIPS: Clifford "Bucky" Nance