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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Travelers say Rangers Ballpark among top fields

 

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington ranks ninth among the nation’s top 10 ballparks, according to travel website TripAdvisor’s latest popularity index, which incorporates traveler ratings in calculating popular destinations.

The list is dominated by newer parks but includes a couple of the classics that provided the template for the rest, such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

Rangers Ballpark, the 270-acre sports complex that opened in 1994, was designed to resemble the iconic ballparks of the early 20th century. A TripAdvisor traveler noted, “It is one of the few stadiums that have tried to make you feel like the old time major league stadium still exists.”

“Nothing says Americana like a day out at the old ball game and the TripAdvisor community has identified these popular stadiums as the finest,” said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications at TripAdvisor, in a news release.

Topping the list is PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The two-level ballpark opened in 2001 and provides an intimate setting and commanding views from anywhere in the stadium. A Trip Advisor traveler commented, “The views of the city from the ballpark are beautiful; great food and beer selections.”

Coming in at No. 2 is AT&T Park in San Francisco, which opened in 2000 and features a 50-by-50-foot replica of the park designed for children. “Even if you don’t like baseball, you must take in a game here,” said a TripAdvisor traveler.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore was No. 3, followed by Fenway Park in Boston, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Citizens’ Bank Park in Philadelphia, Petco Park in San Diego, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and Wrigley Field in Chicago as No. 10.

TripAdvisor Inc., the world’s largest travel site, assists travelers in planning trips. It boasts more than 200 million unique monthly visitors and more than 100 million reviews and opinions. It manages and operates several websites under 19 other travel media brands.

More information is available at www.tripadvisor.com.

– A. Lee Graham

 

Cargolux adds D/FW Airport to global operations

Cargolux Airlines International S.A., one of Europe’s largest cargo carriers, has introduced a new air cargo service connecting Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to its Luxembourg base.

The twice-weekly operation began March 20 and is flown with Cargolux’s new 747-8 freighters, offering customers the fastest and most economical connection possible.

The inaugural flight, as well as all following flights on Wednesdays, are routed via Baku, the capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan, and Hong Kong and return to Luxembourg after touching down in Dallas/Fort Worth.

The service expands the airline’s transpacific services with a new product and satisfies the demand for electronic components and information technology-related commodities from Asia to Texas. Cargolux’s three other transpacific flights from Asia connect in Chicago and New York.

The second weekly service to D/FW, which started on March 23, operates on Saturdays and is routed via Mexico. The return flight connects Dallas directly to Luxembourg.

Officials at D/FW are confident that the expansion of Cargolux will help the airport become a major U.S. market for the carrier.

“D/FW’s commitment to growing its cargo portfolio is paying off with service such as this new Cargolux flight to Luxembourg,” said Luis Perez, D/FW’s vice president for air service development.

“Our mission is to bring more air service to the citizens of Dallas-Fort Worth, which brings more economic opportunity, jobs and growth to our region,” Perez said.

In the last decade, D/FW Airport’s cargo service has more than tripled. More than 664,000 metric tons of cargo shipped from D/FW in 2012, with almost half of that total shipped by international cargo carriers.

Amenities for cargo airlines at D/FW include 2 million square feet of warehouse space, seven unrestricted runways and 24/7 operations.

D/FW currently serves as home to 18 dedicated cargo airlines.

– Betty Dillard

 

Vandergriff shuttles to state transportation position

Victor Vandergriff has been appointed to the Texas Transportation Commission two months after stepping down from the North Texas Tollway Authority board.

In his new position, the Arlington businessman will serve a six-year term that expires in 2019.

Vandergriff succeeds Bill Meadows on the five-member board that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation. Meadows, a former Fort Worth councilman, has served on the commission since 2008.

Vandergriff’s appointment was announced March 26 by Gov. Rick Perry, pending confirmation by the Senate.

He had served as a Tarrant County appointee on the NTTA since September 2007 and was board chairman from 2010 to 2011. He keeps busy as chairman of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and works as an attorney specializing in real estate and general business.

– A. Lee Graham

 

Austin engineering firm tapped for FW freeway expansion

An Austin engineering, design and geospatial mapping company will provide independent engineering supervision for a portion of the $1 billion improvement of Interstate 35W from downtown Fort Worth north to Loop 820.

SAM-Construction Services Inc. (SAM-CS Inc.) was chosen by the Texas Department of Transportation Strategic Projects Division and the North Tarrant Expressway Mobility Partners to provide independent engineering and oversight services.

Under the terms of the agreement announced March 26, SAM-CS Inc. will act on behalf of TxDOT and the still unannounced developer for the roadway expansion. The firm will provide monitoring, reviewing, inspection, testing, reporting, auditing and other oversight functions to assess the developer’s performance of the work and ensure that all TxDOT requirements are met.

SAM-CS Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Surveying and Mapping Inc., will rely on a collaboration of multiple office locations for the project work.

The project to widen the chronically clogged freeway has a total construction cost of $1 billion.

SAM-CS uses high-tech GPS systems and other technology, such as laser imaging and detection and ranging systems, to build three-dimensional digital models of a project to survey and plan proposed projects.

SAM-CS has 500 employees and has worked on a number of large projects, including a 150-mile, 30-inch pipeline in the Eagle Ford shale oil field of South Central Texas, and has mapped and surveyed 30,000-acre wind farms for electrical power generation.

The I-35W construction is scheduled to begin immediately and extend into 2018.

– Betty Dillard

 

Hilton Arlington enters final phase of $10M renovation

The Hilton Arlington Hotel has reached the final phase of an extensive $10 million-dollar renovation.

When complete in early 2014, the facility near Cowboys Stadium will feature upgrades to all 308 guestrooms and suites, public corridors, lobby, meeting and event space, exterior facade, fitness and business centers, and executive lounge.

“This renovation will enhance the traveling experience for our guests and will provide them with stylish new accommodations, functional work spaces, and a refreshing new environment for their travel to Arlington, Texas,” general manager James Shandor said in a news release.

Most work is expected to be complete by late 2013, the company said on March 25. Already complete are renovations to six guestroom floors and all of the facility’s 11,000 square feet of meeting and function space.

The new design incorporates elements of the brand’s new earthy design palette of blues, browns and beiges.

The Hilton Arlington Hotel is located at 2401 E. Lamar Blvd. More information is available at 817-640-3322 or at www.arlingtontx.hilton.com.

– A. Lee Graham

 

Approach Resources facility temporarily halts production

Approach Resources Inc. of Fort Worth has halted some of its natural gas liquids production after a storm knocked out part of a contractor’s fractionation facility.

The fractionation facility, which separates natural gas liquids such as butane and propane, should be repaired soon and production of about 6.1 million barrels of oil equivalents restored.

If the facility returns to production soon, the company’s 2013 production average of 9.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day should still hold, the company said in a statement on March 25.

Average daily volumes of about 6.1 million barrels of oil equivalent have been curtailed since mid-March. Curtailed volumes are expected to be brought back online in the coming days.

Before curtailment, the company’s first-quarter 2013 estimated production averaged about 9.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

“We currently are operating three horizontal rigs and expect to turn seven horizontal Wolfcamp shale wells to sales over the next two weeks,” the statement said.

“Assuming operations resume timely, the company’s 2013 production guidance is expected to remain unchanged.”

Approach Resources Inc. is an independent oil and gas company with core operations, production and reserves in West Texas’ Permian Basin. It operates about 148,000 net acres in that region. More information is available at www.approachresources.com.

– A. Lee Graham

 

Veasey vows a bipartisan approach; reaches out to Joe Barton

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said that he thinks significant immigration reform is possible and he vowed to pursue bipartisan support as a matter of principle as the newly elected congressman adjusts to life on a bigger political scale.

Speaking at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Leaders in Government luncheon on March 25, Veasey emphasized the need to court those across the political aisle in tackling budget challenges, immigration and other issues facing the 33rd Congressional District.

The congressman said he appealed to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, last week on the House floor.

“I said, ‘Joe, would you be willing to consider coming together locally to talk about defense, transportation?’ He said he would and would be willing to talk more and would talk with other Republicans.”

Spanning parts of Fort Worth and Dallas, the congressman serves a diverse and geographically sprawling district. He learned just how diverse after defeating Republican Chuck Bradley in the Nov. 6 general election to become the first African-American in history to represent Tarrant County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At a packed luncheon at the Petroleum Club of Fort Worth, Veasey expressed optimism about working with those across the political aisle in meeting several challenges.

Among those is the federal budget.

“I really believe we are going to get an immigration bill to pass in this Congress. Bringing people out of the shadows will have many benefits,” Veasey said of undocumented immigrants now living in Texas.

Among those benefits, Veasey said, are taxes they would have to start paying as well as higher education and better job opportunities “which is better for anyone’s economy,” Veasey said.

Safeguarding North Texas employers also ranks highly on Veasey’s list of priorities. He called the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter manufactured at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. important not only for the Fort Worth economy and national security, but for security worldwide.

“It’s a battle, making sure we can continue to protect the F-35 and the funding for it in the future, particularly as we phase out the F-16 (fighter). It’s vitally important for Fort Worth,” Veasey said.

As a member of the U.S. House, Veasey serves on several committees. Among those is the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Its importance hit home after a meteor exploded over Russia, causing injuries and property damage. The technology committee this month heard a National Aeronautics and Space Administration report about the likelihood of the planet being struck by an asteroid.

“When we started talking about asteroids hitting the Earth, all of a sudden that committee became very important,” Veasey said.

– A. Lee Graham


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