The showdown over a new domed ballpark for the Texas Rangers in Arlington is heading into the final inning as early voting begins for the Nov. 8 election on Monday.
Both sides in the heated contest are working feverishly to convince Arlington voters why they should vote for or against the $1 billion stadium project that requires voter approval for the city to contribute $500 million.
“As we are knocking on doors, we are hearing how much support there is here for the Rangers,” said a spokesman for Keep the Rangers. “We are feeling very confident right now.”
Andy Prior, a spokesman for Save Our Stadium, a group opposing the new stadium, said he feels his side has strong community support to reject the ballot proposition.
“We’re in a dead heat right now so it’s all a matter of boots on the ground to get out the voter,” Prior said.
Since the plan for the new stadium was announced in May, Mayor Jeff Williams and other Arlington leaders are pitching this project as a win-win for Arlington that will keep the Texas Rangers in Arlington through 2054 without adding any new taxes on Arlington residents and boosting the city’s annual revenue by $77 million.
And perhaps, best of all, fans can enjoy watching the Rangers in air-conditioned comfort on sweltering summer days as a result of the stadium’s retractable roof, supporters say.
“The Texas Rangers are part of the fabric of our community, drawing valuable visitors to Arlington and millions of dollars in spending for local stores, shops and restaurants,” Williams said in announcing the new stadium plan.
But the Save Our Stadium opposition group and its supporters question the need to replace the 22-year-old Globe Life Park and are skeptical of Williams’ and other backers’ claim of costs to Arlington residents.
“Tearing down a perfectly good building right after paying it off is wasteful at best,” the organization said in a statement. “Our stadium is beautiful and was built to last 100 years.”
Opponents also question why a vote is needed if there actually are no new taxes.
The financing arrangement that voters will be asked to approve continuing the allocation of a half-cent sales tax, a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent car tax to repay revenue bonds to pay the city’s share of the stadium cost. City officials said there would be no increase to the rate of any of any of these so-called venue taxes.
Voters also will be asked to sign off on the levy of a parking tax of up to $3 per vehicle and a maximum 10 percent tax on each admission ticket sold for Rangers games and other events at the stadium. Those taxes along private loans, cash and/or equity contributions will help pay for the Rangers’ portion of the stadium.
The Rangers requested those taxes be put to a vote and the organization alone would reap the benefit.
Those user taxes will only affect those who attend games or other events at the stadium and not the general public.
“They are new taxes,” Prior said. “It doesn’t seem legal, or ethical or proper that voters approve a tax that is for a private business.”
Voters approved the same financing arrangement in 2004 for construction of AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys also collect parking and ticket taxes that benefit their portion of their stadium debt.
The city’s portion of the AT&T Stadium debt is due to be paid off in 2028 but city officials say it is on track to be repaid sooner.
If the ballot proposition is approved, construction of the new stadium could begin as soon as early next year and the new stadium could open as early as 2020. The new facility would be built on what is currently a team parking lot.
In the meantime, the team will continue to play in Globe Life Park. City officials said they are working with the Rangers to repurpose Globe Life Park.
A few polls aimed at gauging voter support have produced dueling results with each side claiming their own polls have them ahead. A recent independent poll jointly commissioned by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and WFAA-TV showed the race tied in a dead heat.
But in terms of fund-raising, the pro-stadium political action committee Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers is far-out pacing the opposition with contributions in its finance report of $617,707, including a $550,000 donation from the Rangers. The organization reported spending $564,479.
Citizens for a Better Arlington, the political action committee for the Save Our Stadium group, reported in the period ending this month at it raised $7,688 and spent $2,264 since July.
As early voters head to the polls, construction is expected to begin on the first phase of Texas Live! This $250 million commercial development will be built between Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium, bringing more vitality to the area with new restaurants, sports bars, a hotel and convention space.
This development, a joint venture of the city of Arlington and The Cordish Companies, is expected to open in 2018.
“The excitement grows as we begin site work for this long-awaited development in the Arlington Entertainment District,” said Rob Matwick, vice president for business operations for the Texas Rangers. “We can’t wait to get started.”
Arlington city officials said the first phase of Texas Live! will include 200,000 square feet of dining and entertainment space; a 5,000-capacity outdoor event pavilion; a full-service 300-room convention hotel; and a 35,000 square foot meeting/convention facility.
Officials also said the development will add another important economic boost for the city.
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