While just barely 25 years old, Globe Life Park is finding a second life in retirement.
The former home of the Texas Rangers will begin its newest role as the home of the XFL’s Dallas Renegades on Sunday with the kickoff of the new league. Globe Life Park will also be home to USL League One team North Texas SC, which will play its first game in the stadium on April 4.
The Rangers left the stadium at the end of the 2019 MLB season and will open Globe Life Field next door in March. However, there was never a concern that the venue would be left dormant.
“Arlington has a work backward from yes mentality,” Sean Decker, Rangers executive vice president of sports and entertainment, said. “The city was always adamant; they love the park and would find a way to keep it operational.
“We’re obviously in the business to make money, but our goal is to carry the cover cost of an expensive building to operate and keep fans coming back,” he said.
Initially opened in 1994 at a cost of $191 million, Globe Life Park – then known as The Ballpark in Arlington – began an approximately $10 million renovation in October to house the football and soccer teams. That includes a new 4,000-seat grandstand to give it a better configuration for football and soccer.
“Being the first tenant in there, the Rangers can treat us well,” Renegades President Grady Raskin said. “They need to fill the space and were able to make it work. That ballpark was built for a single-sport, but in today’s world, every sport is played in venues of every shape and size.”
The new Rangers park was deemed necessary by multiple parties as the open-air stadium was affecting attendance, Arlington Economic Development Director Bruce Payne said. He said estimates from several years ago put retrofitting the old park with a retractable roof at nearly half a billion dollars.
The city paid off the municipal bonds issued to help pay for the park in 10 years, and the Rangers’ ownership group moved forward with their new park.
“The model for it was what Jerry Jones did with AT&T Stadium, which instead of eight to ten football games a year, hosts 300 events of different size and scale,” Payne said. “The appearance is very different, but the model is the same: a half-size version, climate-controlled building built to accommodate baseball games, concerts, and other events.”
Like with AT&T Stadium, Payne said the city split the original estimated $1 billion cost for the new ballpark with the Rangers, with the team covering any additions.
The city has been bullish with the three stadium deals because events draw people to Arlington, bringing in a net sales tax contribution, Payne said. In Texas, municipalities keep the taxes without the worry of redistribution to the state.
“They essentially allow us to punch above our weight in sales tax generation,” Payne said.
Arlington leases out the stadiums to the Rangers and Cowboys, which then act as landlords. The Rangers were only obligated for four more years on the original 30-year lease, but have since signed for another 15-20 years.
With Globe Life Park reaching the end of its Rangers lifecycle less than 30 years in shows the risk cities take when financing a deal, Roger Noll, emeritus professor of economics at Stanford, said.
The days of stadiums lasting 40 years or longer as intended are long gone, Noll said, adding that the long term viability of the XFL and the USL adds risk. Multiple uses for the facility can help mitigate some of that danger.
“Arlington got a good deal,” Noll said of the Rangers’ extended lease. “Usually teams get out from the leases. Tearing it down costs a lot of money. The big question would always be what is now the best use of the land.”
Globe Life Park’s second life won’t be limited to sports. Payne said the original reuse plan included several office towers, retail, and condos while keeping the existing outside office building, facade, and concourse. While the field will remain, for now, Decker said nothing is ruled out in the future.
“There’s not a single concept or idea we haven’t taken a look at,” he said. “We have the commitment from ownership to do everything we can to keep it functional and create world-class events to keep fans coming back to the building.”
The Rangers recently announced that the amusement park company Six Flags Entertainment had signed a 15-year lease to move its headquarters to the Centerfield Office Building at Globe Life Park, which is adjacent to the company’s Six Flags Over Texas. The same day the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation announced permanent offices in Globe Life Park.
“Nobody wants to demolish the building; it’s a great building,” Payne said. “It’s not just sitting there; there are a lot of people seizing the moment.”