Category Archives: Sports news

This young man is the next superstar?

Jordan Spieth seems like a quiet young man. He hails from Dallas. He plays golf for a living. He’s pretty good at it, too.

He won a golf tournament over the weekend by sinking a shot out of a sand bunker. Spectacular stuff, to be sure. For a golf fan who is still waiting for the return of its most recent super-duper star, a guy named Tiger, I am pleased to see another young man emerge to capture the attention of the golfing world.

Golf is about as statistic-happy a sport as, say, baseball. Consider this little tidbit the announcers tossed into our laps: Spieth, who’s 23 years of age, is the second-youngest player ever to win his 10th professional golf event. The youngest is the aforementioned Tiger Woods; the third youngest is a guy out of Ohio named Jack Nicklaus.

Think about that for a moment. Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jack Nicklaus.

The young Texan surely understands that he currently is walking among some pretty tall cotton.

Amarillo mayor is talkin’ baseball

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson is sounding mighty pleased these days, with good reason.

The city scored a big win this past week with an announcement that a minor league baseball franchise is pulling up stakes and relocating to the city she has helped govern for the past few weeks.

The San Antonio Missions will play ball at the new ballpark/multipurpose event venue to be built in downtown Amarillo. They’ll start their 2019 season in April of that year and the plan is for them to stay possibly for decades, depending on the number of contract extensions they sign.

OK, we don’t yet know the name of the new team, but a couple of things jumped out at me as I watched Nelson’s TV interview this past weekend.

* She credits the weather as being a big selling point for the Elmore Group deciding to move the Missions to Amarillo. That’s a bit of a surprise. Nelson said the weather from “April to September” is ideal for evening baseball. Low humidity, “downtown wind,” placid temperatures after the sun goes down all worked in Amarillo’s favor to luring the team here.

But … but … but what about those infamous spring winds, Mme. Mayor? Isn’t there a standing joke here about how, if you don’t like the weather, “just wait 10 minutes”? Let’s hope for the best on that one.

* Nelson also answered a valid question about the cost of the multipurpose event venue and how it’s going to cost more than that what the non-binding referendum in November 2015 called for. That measure pegged the price at $32 million; the current price tag is $45.5 million. “That’s an apples and oranges” comparison, Nelson told KAMR’s Jackie Kingston.

The referendum presumed an “independent baseball team” would be playing at the MPEV. The Missions are a major league-affiliated minor league AA team, which she said will provide a much better entertainment product for fans to enjoy.

See the interview here.

I am in the mayor’s corner in celebrating the pending arrival of this new entertainment feature to Amarillo. I’ve noted before, but I believe it bears repeating: I see no downside in the city’s effort to its downtown district.

What became of this Amarillo ‘movement’?

When you see the word “movement” attached to a political activity, you ought to get the feeling of a groundswell, an initiative with staying power.

I thought recently of a “movement” that surfaced in Amarillo in 2015. It was called the Amarillo Millennial Movement. Do you recall it, too? Good on ya if you do.

The AMM is gone. It vanished into thin air seemingly the moment that city voters in November 2015 approved a non-binding referendum calling for construction of the multipurpose event venue in downtown Amarillo.

Its co-founder was a young woman named Meghan Riddlespurger, who followed her friend and mentor Melissa Dailey to Fort Worth; Dailey was forced out as director of Downtown Amarillo Inc. When Dailey hit the road, the AMM’s co-founder hit the road with her.

The ostensible idea behind the AMM was to energize the city’s younger residents, to encourage them to stay in Amarillo rather than bolt for greener pastures, more opportunity, greater career choices. AMM got excited about the MPEV and a few of those young folks — their numbers aren’t exactly clear to me — became involved in the pro-MPEV campaign.

It’s troubling to me that AMM isn’t around today to relish the news that came out about the pending start of the 2019 Texas League baseball season, which will include an Amarillo-based team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League.

The Local Government Corporation managed to finish the deal. The LGC persuaded the San Antonio Missions to come here in time for the 2019 season. The ballpark where they’ll play must be done on time for them to throw out the first pitch.

We’re focusing on the baseball element. The team that will play at the ballpark will be its primary tenant. There will be other events at the MPEV/ballpark. That’s what I always understood was the focus behind AMM’s mission, to generate youthful exuberance to attend the various other entertainment-related events at the venue.

Riddlespurger has spoken publicly about the negativity she experienced while leading this AMM effort. That was one major reason why she decided to leave Amarillo. Interesting, yes? She helps found an organization that urges young residents to stay home, then she bails on the city to pursue a career opportunity.

Hey, I don’t blame her for seeking to advance her own future.

The Amarillo Millennial Movement, though, is a “movement” in name only. AMM is no longer around to witness the culmination of its greatest political triumph.

My hope springs eternal. Perhaps another group can rise up and join the marketing effort that will be required to ensure that the MPEV/ballpark attracts the activity it must to make it worth the effort to build it

When it’s built, MPEV will benefit entire city

I’m still trying to process the news today of the arrival of a AA baseball franchise in Amarillo.

The meter is now running. The San Antonio Missions are moving their franchise here in time for the start of the 2019 Texas League season. That means the multipurpose event venue — aka the ballpark — will need to be completed in time for the first pitch.

The MPEV is the reason the Missions are coming here. They want to play in a shiny new venue. They want to play hardball in the downtown district.

It’s going to cost about $45.5 million. Yes, it’s more than the $32 million price tag attached to the November 2015 citywide referendum that voters approved. It doesn’t bother me that the cost escalated. Why? Because the plan is for the MPEV to be funded through hotel occupancy tax revenue.

The grumbling has begun. Some folks might not want the ballpark to be built. They believe the city has too many other needs that attention. Roads and streets; parks, police and fire protection … those kinds of things.

I’ll concede that I am not an urban planning expert. I have gotten around the country a good bit over the years and I’ve noticed that vibrant cities have one thing in common: a bustling, busy and active downtown business/entertainment district.

My wife and I just returned from a nearly 3,800-mile road trip. We witnessed plenty of pizzazz in places like Nashville and Memphis, Tenn. We saw more of it in Roanoke, Va., a city that’s quite a bit smaller than Amarillo, but which boasts a highly attractive downtown district. I do not know all the particulars of those communities, so my perception is based on first impressions.

I do know a bit about Amarillo’s personality and my sense is that the city’s population — which is on the cusp of 200,000 people — is going to respond positively to the development that will follow once the ballpark is built.

Moreover, the word will get out. The city’s marketing gurus need to find creative ways to send the message well beyond Amarillo’s corporate borders that this city is a happening place.

What, then, might happen? Those hotels that have sprung up all along Interstate 40 are going to fill up. Revenue will pour in. The city will be able to invest that revenue in the kinds of projects that will improve the city’s image and lure even more activity into this community.

The announcement today completes just the first phase of the city’s redevelopment and revival. The City Council, the senior city administration and the Local Government Corporation have received the commitment they wanted from a professional sports franchise to relocate here.

The ballpark is the critical element that lured that franchise to this city. There’s little time for dawdling and delay. Work needs to begin soon.

And when it’s finished, I am willing and ready to suggest that the entire city will reap the reward.

Hoping the council will share the credit with predecessors

I noticed some pictures today of the announcement that a Double A baseball franchise is coming to Amarillo.

I saw plenty of dignitaries and the chairman of the team that’s coming to the Panhandle. They’re excited as the dickens at the prospect of building that shiny new ballpark downtown. They should be!

But when they finish the job, when they chalk the field for the opening game of the 2019 Texas League baseball season at the new place in downtown Amarillo, I am hoping that the City Council will be sure to extend an invitation to the festivities to the individuals who did much of the work to make it happen.

I refer to the previous City Council.

Amarillo voters turned over the entire five-member council this past May. The new folks took over and then watched the Local Government Corporation hammer out the details of the San Antonio Missions’ baseball franchise relocation.

This, of course, didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even transpire in the span of a month or two. It took years to cobble together this agreement.

I recall when President Obama strode to the microphone in May 2011 to announce the killing of Osama bin Laden. He made it clear that the effort was done after years of diligent work by intelligence and military agencies over the course of two administrations.

He has said the first call he made when he new bin Laden was dead and the commandos who killed him were out of danger was to former President George W. Bush.

I don’t intend to put too fine a point on this, but Amarillo’s next big step forward is the work of a lot of individuals and local agencies. Yes, I was critical of the previous council over a number of issues. However, it was that council’s hard work that brought about the big announcement today.

My candidate for throwing out the first pitch in April 2019? Former Mayor Paul Harpole.

Now we get to wait for the first pitch

I likely won’t be around when they throw out the first pitch, but I’ll be cheering the event nevertheless.

Amarillo’s Local Government Corporation has secured a deal that brings organized baseball back to the city. It comes in the form of the San Antonio Missions, which will depart the Alamo City and relocate in the Panhandle in time for the start of the 2019 season.

This is a good deal. It’s a huuuge deal. It revives the hope of those of us who want to see the city build that multipurpose event venue downtown and want to see the city’s central district restored in a new fashion.

The Elmore Sports Group, owner of the Missions, wants to move to Amarillo because of the promise of the downtown ballpark that will be erected across the street from City Hall. It will cost $45.5 million — give or take — and it will be funded primarily with hotel occupancy tax revenue.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News: “We are very excited,” said D.G. Elmore, group chairman. “We have moved teams at various times in our 36-year history of owning ballclubs, and as I reflect, I don’t think there is a time we have seen the level of business support like this.”

“In many ways, it’s unprecedented,” Elmore said. “This type of support is fantastic.”

Is this project criticism-free? Hardly. We are going to hear from those who do not believe the city should invest so heavily in its downtown district. They want the city to spend money on other areas, on other neighborhoods, on other projects.

What I see happening is a revival that is going to ripple across the city. The MPEV/ballpark will generate considerable interest for the city’s downtown district. That interest translated directly into revenue for the city. That revenue can be spent — wisely, of course — on myriad projects and improvements all across Amarillo.

Now that the LGC has received the commitment it wanted from the Missions, work can begin in earnest on specific design plans for the MPEV. Crews have cleared out the lot. The Coca-Cola distribution center that once occupied that downtown property has relocated to a business park on the east side of the city.

The sounds of baseball being played downtown will be new to those who have lived here for any length of time. My wife and I have called Amarillo home for more than two decades. Our life is set to change in due course as we continue to prepare for our relocation.

The city’s life is about to change, too. Also for the better.

Affiliated minor-league baseball is returning to Amarillo, which used to be home to the Gold Sox, a team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. And that makes the Missions’ relocation somewhat poetic and symmetrical, as that team also is part of the Padres organization.

There’s much to do. But with the announcement today that the Missions have signed on the dotted line, the LGC can claim much work has been done already.

Let’s get busy.

More downtown construction at hand?

Amarillo’s brand new City Council is going to make an announcement Wednesday.

I am waiting with bated breath.

The council members might have some big news to share regarding the future of the city’s effort to remake, reshape, revive and re-create its downtown business/entertainment district.

That long-awaited multipurpose event venue might be coming closer to reality.

The city’s Local Government Corporation has been negotiating with San Antonio business officials about how to relocate that city’s Double A baseball franchise to Amarillo. The LGC has made it clear that it wouldn’t proceed with MPEV construction until it strikes a deal with some franchise to occupy the venue.

I am acutely aware that a number of soreheads are going to gripe about it. They complain about the escalating cost of the ballpark. Amarillo voters approved a non-binding referendum in November 2015; the MPEV cost was listed at $32 million on the ballot measure. The price tag has escalated to around $45 million.

My own hope is that the price of the ballpark doesn’t go much greater than its current level.

The council, though, has taken great strides already in the redevelopment of the downtown district. That five-star hotel is nearing completion; we’ve seen that parking garage go up.

Amarillo doesn’t have any kind of organized baseball activity occurring this spring and summer, which I am sure upsets the city’s baseball fan base. The MPEV, though, would play host to a number of other activities, which would jazz up the nightlife in the city’s long-slumbering central district.

My hopes have gone up, slumped, gone up again and then receded. As of this moment, I am once again cautiously optimistic we are going to get some good news.

Boxing has come to this?

Once upon a time — a lifetime or two ago — I was a big boxing fan.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. would win the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, change his name to Muhammad Ali and then dominate the sweet science for, oh, the next 15 or so years.

Yeah, he was stripped of his title for more than three years over his religious objection to the Vietnam War. Even then, he was The Man.

Boxing eventually took a turn away from the simplicity of the sport. It formed a lot of governing boxing authorities. Each of them recognized their version of “world champion.” They expanded the number of weight classes. There were so many “world champions,” no one could keep track of them. Some of these weight classes are topped by something called “interim champion,” whatever the hell that means!

Now the sport has come to a new level of carnival spectacle. It has scheduled a match between a retired “world champion” and a mixed martial arts goon. The boxing/MMA world is agog over the prospect of former champion boxer Floyd Mayweather fighting MMA champ Connor McGregor sometime this year.

Who’s going to win? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I do know that boxing has now resorted to creating circus acts to gin up attention for a sport in serious decline.

If only we could return to the era when the heavyweight boxing champion of the world was the baddest man on Earth.

Oh, do I miss Muhammad Ali.

Tiger hits another bump on the road back

When TV commentators and other media representatives refer to you as a “legend” in your particular profession, everything that goes wrong in your life is magnified exponentially.

So it is with “golf legend” Tiger Woods.

The fellow who has won 14 major golf titles got himself arrested and charged with “driving under the influence” in Florida.

Woods has been sidelined for some time now. He’s seeking to recover from injury and at least two surgeries on his back. He’s also had some more personal difficulties, stemming from a 2009 incident involving his then-wife and reports that surfaced later about his serial marital infidelity.

Now this.

Woods had said something just the other day about how he hadn’t “felt this good in years,” meaning, I suppose, that his back pain is subsiding and that he might be able — maybe soon — to return to golf.

We don’t yet know whether he was “under the influence” of alcohol or something else.

I am a fairly avid golf fan. I am pulling for Tiger to come back. It’s just not the same without him competing for tournament victories on Sunday.

But, c’mon man! This isn’t the way back to where you need to be — or where your many golf fans want you to be.

How about that MPEV? Any news … at all?

Amarillo’s new City Council will take office very soon with a heaping plate of unfinished business.

Downtown revival is proceeding nicely. But the city has this big ol’ vacant lot across Seventh Avenue from City Hall that it’s got to fill with something. They knocked down the old Coca Cola distribution plant and relocated it to a business park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That something happens to be a ballpark/multipurpose event venue. You remember it, right?

Amarillo voters in November 2015 approved a “non-binding referendum” that authorized the city to spend $32 million on the MPEV. The cost of the structure has escalated a bit since then, to around $45 million.

But the city has assured residents it will be built. Some things must happen before we start busting up pavement. First and foremost is that the city needs a commitment from a minor-league baseball franchise to come to Amarillo. The council formed a Local Government Corporation to lead the negotiation with owners of the San Antonio Missions, which is looking — one still hopes — for a new place to play some hardball. San Antonio wants a AAA franchise; the Missions are a AA outfit.

Meanwhile, Amarillo is without baseball of any kind since that joke of a team vacated the city to relocate in Grand Prairie. Why did the team bolt? They didn’t have an adequate place to play ball.

The MPEV is supposed to solve that issue. It will be a shiny new venue that will serve many purposes in addition to being the home field for an affiliated minor-league baseball team; the Missions are part of the National League San Diego Padres organization.

City Hall has been quiet about the MPEV negotiations, which might be a good thing. Lame-duck Councilman Randy Burkett popped off a few months ago about a deal he said was on the verge of being struck, but LGC chairman (and former mayor) Jerry Hodge quashed any hope of an imminent deal; he said the LGC was still working on it and said he was “ashamed” of Burkett’s big mouth.

We’ve got five newbies coming aboard at City Hall. Let us hope they can nudge the negotiation along, with the help of City Manager Jared Miller. My faith in the LGC’s ability to finalize a deal remains fairly strong.

The MPEV issue, though, has tested many residents’ confidence that the city can deliver on its promise to bring minor-league baseball back to Amarillo — and to put it downtown.

Welcome to the thick of the fray, City Council.