September 20, 2016

Construction on Texas Live! near ballpark to begin in November

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ARLINGTON, TX - The Texas Rangers plan to begin construction on an expanded Texas Live! entertainment and hotel complex near Globe Life Park in November, around the time city voters will decide the fate of its proposed neighbor, a new $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium for the ball club, officials said Tuesday.

At a press conference at Globe Life Park, executives with the Rangers and The Cordish Companies, the project’s developer, said revised plans would double the size of dining and entertainment space and include a 300-room convention hotel and 35,000-square-foot meeting and convention facility in the first phase of development. The expansion would increase the project cost by $50 million, to a total of $250 million.

The restaurants and bar areas at Texas Live! are expected to open in the spring of 2018, in time for the start of that year’s baseball season. The hotel and convention facilities would open in the fall of 2018.

“We are looking forward to the beginning of building Texas Live!, that will start immediately after we win the World Series,” said Rangers owner Ray Davis.

Although Blake Cordish, development vice president of Texas Live! developer The Cordish Cos., is confident with the Rangers that the city will win the support of voters for the financing of a new ballpark on Nov. 8, he said the construction of Texas Live! would proceed even if voters say no.

“We’d be incredibly disappointed,” Blake said after the press conference. “But the direction of the project and the vision that was laid out would remain the same.”

The new ballpark’s fate depends on voters allowing the city to pay up to half the construction cost by extending a half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel-motel tax and 5 percent car-rental tax, funds now being used to pay the city’s remaining debt from its share of AT&T Stadium’s construction cost.

The two-story, mixed-used sports entertainment complex will be built on seven acres next to both Globe Life Park and the site of the proposed stadium, which could open as the Rangers new home for the 2021 season, three years before the team’s lease with the city expires.

Baltimore-based Cordish, which has built similar entertainment complexes near stadiums around the country, says Texas Live! will most closely resemble Ballpark Village, located across from Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

“This is going to be a new day in baseball,” Mayor Jeff Williams more than 50 members of the media and officials of the parties. “This is going to be an opportunity for entertainment and baseball to come together like never before.”

Williams praised Cordish for its other, similar developments, which have “created great fan experiences before, during and after games … seven days a week.”

Giving more details of the development, Cordish and the Rangers said Texas Live! will have three major venues:

Rangers Republic would be the “ultimate fan clubhouse” to watch home and away games, featuring a two-level, 30,000-square-foot family dining and entertainment venue.

Live! Arena would be the 35,000-square-foot “living room” of Texas Live!, giving fans “one of the best sports-viewing experiences imaginable.” A 10,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden and a concert stage are among the features.

Arlington Backyard would be an outdoor event pavilion with a capacity of 5,000 that would host cultural activities, art shows, regional and national concerts and other events.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, who also joined the press conference, credited the current Rangers ownership with turning around the franchise, which had previously been in bankruptcy, and for fielding vastly improved teams and giving generously to local charities and community causes.

“The great thing about this ownership group is that they think big,” said Manfred, adding that after his first conversation with Davis about project concepts, “I hung the phone up and I thought, ‘Wow, there is a big thought.’”

Additionally, officials commented on their recently announced plans to preserve the facade of Globe Life Park and explore options for redevelopment, assuming a new stadium is built. Planning is still in its early stages and there were few details to add, but a news release from the Rangers and Cordish said they hope to transform the park “into one of the premier entertainment, retail, office and festival sites in the United States.”

Officials said that if the new ballpark is approved and Globe Life is repurposed, the three-venue development would be worth $4 billion.

The proposed ballpark site is south, across Randol Mill Road, from Globe Life Park and immediately east of the Texas Live! site. West from Texas Live! is AT&T Stadium.

A fact sheet said Texas Live! will provide 1,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs, and the hotel/convention project will create 1,000 construction jobs and 225 permanent positions.

The statement said expanded Texas Live! will bring more than 3,000 jobs and 3 million new visitors to Arlington in 2018. It’s projected to generate more than $100 million “in annual economic output.”

Texas Live! is a 50-50 partnership of the Rangers and the developer, Cordish said. The parties have received approvals for lucrative state and local tax incentives for the hotel — including refunds of hotel, sales and property taxes — so they can begin work on everything at once.

The Arlington City Council in December approved spending $50 million for its share of Texas Live! The increased cost of the project announced Tuesday will not increase the city’s cost, a city spokesman said.

The city contribution is considered an incentive grant. The city recalled money from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation to provide for the grant, and plans to replenish the funds over about 15 years, officials said.

As for the hotel construction cost, the Rangers organization and its development partners — through an entity known as Arlington Ballpark District Entertainment Block LLC — sought to receive numerous sales tax and hotel occupancy tax breaks at both the local and state level to offset the cost of the project.

The breaks include refunds of hotel occupancy tax, property tax, sales tax and mixed beverage tax for 30 years from the city, and hotel occupancy and sales tax for 10 years from the state, according to information on file at the state comptroller’s office.

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