Tag Archives: Bricktown

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.

Rick Perry at Homeland Security? Interesting idea

Reports are surfacing that Energy Secretary Rick Perry is being considered for a major Cabinet shift within the Trump administration.

The Texas Tribune reports that Perry might move to the Homeland Security Department to become the new secretary there, replacing John Kelly, who’s taken the thankless job of White House chief of staff.

That the former Texas governor is under consideration for the Homeland Security job makes plenty of sense to me. I believe he could be a good fit in that post.

He served for 14 years as governor of Texas, which has the longest border with Mexico of all the states along our southern border. He understands the issue of border security as well as any leading politician.

As the Texas Tribune reports, though, a shift of this importance signals a dramatic — some would say unbelievable — evolution in the relationship between Gov. Perry and Donald J. Trump. Perry once campaigned for the presidency against Trump. Perry then called his fellow Republican a “cancer on conservatism.” Trump ridiculed Perry after the former governor started wearing eyeglasses, suggesting Perry did so only to make himself look smarter.

All that changed, though, after Trump’s election. The two men buried the hatchet — and not in each other’s backs. The Energy Department job was Perry’s reward from the man who beat him for the GOP presidential nomination.

Is the former governor the perfect pick for Homeland Security? No, but in one way — to my way of thinking — he actually could be better than the man he would succeed. Perry’s record as Texas governor suggests a more reasonable immigration outlook than the one John Kelly espoused while he ran DHS. Perry’s understanding of border issues, earned by his years as governor of a large and important state, tells me he well could be a stellar choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Cue the music and let’s see whether this latest report puts Rick Perry into the DHS chair.

Amarillo need not replicate other cities’ success


When I get a chance to travel to other cities that can boast of robust downtown districts, I often think of the community I’ve called home for more than 21 years.

Amarillo is in the midst of a serious downtown revival. They’ve broken up some pavement, leveled some land, poured some slabs and begun erecting structures downtown.

More of it is on the way.

I just returned from a few days visiting my hometown, Portland, Ore. It’s gone through a decades-long downtown revival that’s still on-going. Heck, it might never end.

That city turned a moribund downtown district into a rousing, sometimes raucous place where people enjoy a robust night life and spend a little time and money shopping in retail establishments.

I’ve written about what I saw on my latest visit to Portland. However, I do not want anyone to presume that I believe what the Rose City has done can be replicated here on the Texas Tundra.

Portland’s municipal population is approaching 625,000 residents, with about 2.2 million folks living in a sprawling metropolitan area that covers several counties — and even reaches across the Columbia River into Washington state.

Amarillo’s population is just a shade less than 200,000, with a metro population nearly double that amount.

Do we have the resources here to replicate what other larger cities have done? No.

My intent in calling attention to what Portland has done, or what Oklahoma City or Fort Worth have done with their downtown districts, is remind us here in little ol’ Amarillo that we must think creatively.

All three of the cities I’ve mentioned — Portland, Fort Worth and OKC — have done so. Oklahoma City used a public investment tax to rebuild warehouse district into Bricktown; Fort Worth used some public/private investment in creating Sundance Square; Portland scrapped a planned highway project and redirected money into creating a robust downtown district.

Amarillo has developed a Strategic Action Plan that took form after years of public hearings and discussion. It, too, involves public and private money. Indeed, the vast majority of downtown Amarillo’s progress has occurred with private money. The city created a downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that uses money derived from increases in property value within that zone to help finance needed projects.

We’re thinking creatively here. That, I submit, is the first step in a long march toward revival.

Do the city, civic and business brain trusts think we can emulate dollar for dollar what bigger cities have done? I hope not.

They shouldn’t shy away from doing what they can, however,  with what they have.

New ballpark: not a new concept for city


Amarillo is considering a downtown ballpark that could be home to a minor-league baseball team.

Some individuals — maybe many of them — think the city and Potter County have an adequate venue for baseball on the edge of the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

I believe they are mistaken.

City officials once considered a study on the feasibility of building a new ballpark to replace that trash heap once known as the Dilla Villa. Then-Mayor Debra McCartt wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending public money on such a study. The city manager at the time, Alan Taylor, had the idea that if you “build it they will come.”

That was a decade ago, in 2005.

The city’s governing board has changed from a commission to a council. Mayor McCartt is no longer in office, being succeeded by Paul Harpole, who happens to have bought into the idea of a public investment in a project that will do the public much good.

At issue now is whether voters will endorse a proposed multipurpose event venue. They’ll decide the matter in a citywide referendum on Nov. 3. The issue at hand is this: Do we develop an MPEV that includes a baseball park or not?

I say “yes!”

I offered an opinion on the concept of a downtown baseball park in a column published Aug. 14, 2005. I wrote that the nation is full of examples of how projects such as the MPEV — as it’s currently configured — have delivered “enormous payback” to cities that build them.

My favorite example is in Oklahoma City, where a downtown ballpark has helped revive Bricktown. Now, I understand fully that Amarillo is less than half the size of OKC. I keep returning to the notion of that “economies of scale” can work for Amarillo, just as it has done in Okie City.

Let’s not operate in a climate of fear over a concept that might be new to this city, but is far from new in other communities that had the will to march forward.

Ballpark … or no ballpark?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the debate over whether to put a ballpark near the heart of downtown Amarillo.

It’s called the multipurpose event venue. MPEV, for short.

It’ll be up for a key decision on Nov. 3. The city will ask voters if they want the MPEV to include the ballpark. If they say “no,” the ballpark won’t be built; a “yes” vote, of course, means what it says.

I believe the ballpark is a good deal. It can be a potentially great deal if we use our imagination, employ some creativity and relearn how we can enjoy the downtown district.

I keep hearing numbers about the cost of the MPEV. It’ll be around $32 million. The city plans to issue bonds to pay for it. It plans to retire those bonds with hotel-motel tax revenue and lease payments from the tenant who agrees to run the place. Bill Gilliland and Laura Street, a pair of big-hitter fundraisers, told the City Council they have received pledges totaling around $2 million from private contributors; there might be more in the wings.

Amarillo’s political/business/civic brain trust isn’t reinventing the wheel with this downtown ballpark concept. Cities all across the country — big cities and mid-sized cities, just like Amarillo — have enjoyed varying degrees of success with downtown ballparks.

There’s nothing particularly original or groundbreaking in the city’s effort to revive its downtown district.

Now, for the record, I’m not going to suggest that Amarillo can copy cities such as Oklahoma City in developing a downtown ballpark. The OKC project was paid for with a public tax levied specifically to raise money for the construction of that city’s ballpark in its Bricktown district. And I am acutely aware that OKC is a much larger city.

If we step back, though, we need to understand that no one with a lick of sense is suggesting that Amarillo’s downtown project can function on the same level as the one in OKC. It can, though, function nicely at its own level.

The MPEV as it’s been presented does represent a step forward for the city and presents a fascinating opportunity for the city to progress to some next, and perhaps largely still undefined, level.

Indeed, this project requires a leap of faith. I am prepared to take that leap.