8/11. Game time- 7:05 PM
Matchup: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers
Pitchers: Javier Vazquez (9-8) vs. Cliff Lee (10-5)
Result: NYY 7, TEX 6, W – Wood (2-4), L – Feliz (3-3), S – Rivera (24)
Ticket purchased: $15 Standing Room Only
Beer of choice: Ziegen bock (Anheuser Busch)
Food: Brought in 2 bananas – $0.50, $0.50 bottled water
Travel cost: $5 in gas. Parked at nearby Wal-Mart for free (normal parking rates are $12 for remote cash lots)
Other: Minute Maid Park tour – $10
Total spent: $31.00
All day long, I had tried to steel myself for the inevitable heat and humidity that I would face at the ballpark that night. The schedule dictated that I would do the Cowboys Stadium tour the same day as the baseball game, and the following day the Rangers Ballpark tour with the football game. The football stadium tour proved to be a godsend, as it was all indoors (more on that in a future post). I strung out the self-guided tour as long as I could, wrapping it up after six before walking over to the ballpark with a short detour to grab some water and two bananas.
Arlington is infamous for being the largest city in the US without public transit. With 380,000 residents, it’s just slightly smaller than Oakland, and when you think about it, it’s about as different from Oakland as night and day – politically, geographically, amenities, etc. Not having public transit meant that I’d be driving these two days, which didn’t turn out so bad when I found out that the car rental location ran out of small cars and was forced to give me a Cadillac CTS. Oops. The key, then, would be to figure out where to park. A large Wal-Mart SuperCenter was located across the street from Cowboys Stadium, which itself is 1/4 mile from Rangers ballpark. I figured if I got to do a late stadium tour and bought the food items at Wal-Mart, I could justify my parking there. Which is what I did.
Local sports radio was hyping up the game, going so far as to have it approach the Cowboys’ deity-like popularity (local cable broadcasts for the Yankees series on FSSW rated an impressive 8.0 rating). Plus I got a standing room only seat. Problem there is that I knew that the places I could stand in the ballpark were places I had no intention of standing in for long. The minute I entered the home plate gate, I started looking around the field level for a place where I could stand that wasn’t so hot or affected by the sun in the first 3 innings. In addition, since this was a Yankee game, it was destined to blast past the three-hour mark, which it did (3:48). While sneak down opportunities were scarce due to the near sellout and close game late, I still wanted to find a place to simply sit and relax, even for an inning or two in between my shutterbug sessions.
Fortunately, I was able to find a hidden gem of a spot in the back of the 100-series sections, which are really the back of the lower deck. The way the place is constructed, the concourse gives access to Row 28 of the lower deck. Another 10-12 rows are set up behind the first 28, with a large platform behind the last row above the lower concourse concession stands. The view of the game is somewhat restricted because of the overhang and columns, but if you find a decent spot it’s a great place to stand. Or even sit, if you know where to look.
Lightly used picnic area with suite level above, 100-series sections in front
Having something like what is shown above solves the problem of having limited SRO space, since this wouldn’t cut into the regular concourse. The tradeoff here is that patrons standing in line on the regular concourse wouldn’t be able to see and feel the game, though if their backs are turned, what does that matter anyway? The trend towards open concourses makes this kind of design decision difficult to pull off.
The place is littered with portable stands. I was tempted to get funnel cake but passed. Lines were generally short as the stands were very well staffed, as could be expected for a crowd of near 50,000. The beer selection tonight was a Anheuser Busch clone of Shiner Bock called Ziegenbock. It’s a reasonable facsimile, though I suspect it hasn’t caught on that well because I haven’t seen a bar that serves it, as opposed to its more popular competitor. All of the facilities in Texas have extremely poor beer selection. I paid my penance by going to The Ginger Man in Dallas.
This being Texas, there’s never a worry about having room to roam. Rangers Ballpark is a large rectangular box with all of the various ballpark bits baked inside. Ramps, which in other parks are often placed outside a ballpark’s facade or hidden from spectator view, are featured here in their full erector set glory. Naturally, the seats, beams, and columns are painted green, “Ranger Green” according to the tour guide. This had me shaking my head because any team that does not feature green in their team colors shouldn’t be allowed to appropriate their own shade of green for their own purposes because they’re afraid to use their own colors in the design. Ridiculous.
Anyway, the concourses inside are tremendous. There’s plenty of room to walk around, hang out, sit at a picnic table, or smoke if you are so inclined. In many places they are some 60-80 feet wide, allowing the Rangers to move around numerous portable concessions carts as if it were the Texas State Fair. And that’s how it feels. The regular concession stands are built below the seating bowl, cutting off the view of the game for those on the concourse. Unlike the two previous parks, there’s still an open air feel to the venue, so at least the crowd doesn’t sound muffled.
The club and suite levels are also open air. This creates a dilemma when the time comes to improve the stadium. Lately, there’s been some talk about having a retractable roof or some kind of shade placed over the ballpark. Estimates for this run from $70-330 million, depending on the complexity of the solution. A movable shade, such as one used in some European soccer stadia, would be cheapest and could reduce temperatures for affect fans some 10-15 degrees. It doesn’t really help temperature on the field that much, and it’s not a great improvement for premium seat holders. A rolling roof like that used at Safeco would be a better solution, but it allows ambient outside air to circulate in and out, making it still quite hot in the summer. A full enclosure of the ballpark, with glass walls and air conditioning everywhere, would be the most expensive solution and not cost effective, especially now that the incoming ownership group has paid $100 million more than they wanted for the club.
- People in the CF offices stuck around after work for the marquee matchup.
- The suites are much smaller than I expected – about the size of the Coliseum’s original suites – they could be a future ADA issue if they aren’t already.
- I got a peek at the famed owner’s bunker suite. Meh.
- Cowboys Stadium is oriented so that its east end is directly facing the ballpark, almost as if it will eventually destroy it with lasers or lift up off the ground and consume the ballpark.
- There were once grand plans to develop this part of Arlington, with lackluster results. There’s a Siemens building, the City of Arlington City Hall, and a convention center. Precious little new private development has occurred, probably because of the need for parking. Cowboys Stadium makes that exponentially worse.
- There’s a simple explanation for the missing donation bricks: they fell apart in the sun over time. The plaza in front of the home plate gate has been paved. Another brick monument remains in the team hall of fame walk, which only lasted until 1997 as it too deteriorated badly. Future years would not be enshrined in this manner. There is now an indoor Texas Rangers Hall of Fame where the Legends of the Game museum once stood. The following pic couldn’t be more telling. It was closed, and I don’t think I’d be all that interested in checking out the Toby Harrah exhibit.
It’s Texas. What do you expect? This area’s residents are certifiable for football, no matter how well the Rangers do. The Greenberg-Ryan group have to decide whether their once superior ballpark, now in the middle of the pack in MLB, is worth major upgrades. Ryan has indicated that a major change isn’t in the cards right now. Then again, maybe Arlington will throw another $300 million at a sports franchise instead of getting a rudimentary transit system in place. I’m not holding my breath on either count. Note: the day after I’m there, ownership announces a series of major price cuts for fans, even though they’re not suffering for attendance. Looks like they’re following the Arte Moreno model. BTW, a value menu such as the one the D-backs have would help.