Tag Archives: Dilla Villa

Tear down the former Dilla Villa!

We drove by the Tri-State Fairgrounds this morning along Third Avenue when I noticed a well-known Amarillo eyesore.

I refer to Potter County Memorial “Stadium.” I put the word “Stadium” in quotes because it is nothing of the sort. It is a rat hole, a dump, a run down, has-been venue that to my way of thinking no longer has any value to Amarillo.

My advice to the Potter County Commissioners Court? Tear the thing down! Scoop up the rubble and take it to the landfill. Clear the land, landscape it and turn it into something a damn sight more attractive than what sits on it at this moment.

Potter County owns the rat trap once known as the Dilla Villa. The Amarillo Dillas were playing some form of minor-league baseball at that venue when my wife and I arrived on the High Plains in early 1995. It was a dump back then, too. Its condition has worsened over the years. The men’s restroom stinks; the plumbing is poor; the outfield grass looks like a combination of at least three types of grass seed.

The condition of the venue was so bad that the sandlot organization that played ball there until this past year decided it wasn’t good enough for them. So they abandoned Amarillo.

Yes, I am aware that it has some history here. Longtime residents have a certain historical affection for the building. I don’t know what constitutes “longtime.” I have lived here for nearly 23 years; I figure that’s long enough to qualify me as someone with some history in Amarillo.

I’ve been cheering the construction of the upcoming venue that’s going to be built downtown. They’ll break ground soon, or so I understand, on a 4,500-seat ballpark near City Hall. It will be the home field for a new AA minor-league team that is relocating from San Antonio for the start of the 2019 season.

It will be a “multipurpose event venue” that can play host to a whole array of outdoor activities. It won’t be just a baseball park.

This means to me that the Potter County Rat Hole no longer is viable. It means the county needs to rid itself of a venue with zero potential. Have you seen the exterior of the outfield wall facing Third and Grand? It ain’t pretty, man.

I am aware that at least three members of the Commissioners Court read this blog. That’s a majority. If they’re going to be convinced by anything I say here in this forum, then I encourage them to take action.

Get rid of that rotten structure!

Amarillo poised to become a baseball city again

It is a virtual lead-pipe cinch that I won’t be living in Amarillo when they toss the first pitch at the city’s new downtown ballpark.

The city’s new AA minor-league baseball team will commence its initial season in April 2019 in a shiny new 4,500-seat venue.

The journey toward that end has been fraught with some difficulty, some apprehension and, yes, a bit of controversy. It’s going to come to fruition, which makes me happy for the city my wife and will depart in due course.

I will acknowledge that I was not a regular attendee at the independent league games played by teams that had various names. I did attend a few games at the dump once known as the Dilla Villa, in honor of the Amarillo Dillas who were playing baseball there when my wife and I arrived here in early 1995.

They morphed into another team, which morphed again. Then the outfit that ran that team decided to split its home season between Amarillo and Grand Prairie. That lasted one year. Now they’re gone.

The ballpark, also known as the multipurpose event venue, was conceived by local officials and business leaders while all that nonsense was occurring at the rat hole that passes for a ballpark at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. They had a number of public hearings. They put the issue to a non-binding citywide referendum in November 2015 — and it passed.

The price tag for the referendum was pegged at $32 million. It grew to $45 million. They knocked down the old Coca-Cola distribution center, and relocated that business elsewhere.

Has it been smooth sailing? Not at all. I had my own doubts about whether the Local Government Corp. could pull this deal off. The City Council support for the LGC’s work seemed a bit tenuous. Then this past spring, voters decided to elect a new council.

Let us not forget that the general managing contractor, Wallace Bajjali, vaporized along the way in a dispute between the firm’s principal owners. It didn’t deter the progress toward landing the affiliated AA franchise.

The Elmore Group, which owns the San Antonio Missions, is now going to relocate that team to Amarillo; San Antonio will get a AAA team that will relocate to the Alamo City from Colorado Springs.

Meantime, life is good for diehard baseball fans in Amarillo. They’re going to get to watch a professionally run baseball team play ball in a sparkling new venue.

I wish them all well. This journey has given me a mild case of heartburn along the way. It’s all good now as they prepare to break ground on the ballpark.

I intend to watch it grow and will be cheering from afar when they toss out that first pitch.

AA baseball may come to Amarillo … and that’s a bad thing?

baseball

I’ll admit to sitting in the peanut gallery these days while events swirl around Amarillo City Hall.

Thus, I am not privy to many of the details to all that is happening in our city in transition.

The news out of San Antonio, though, has piqued my curiosity about the future of Amarillo’s pending downtown project. I refer, of course, to the multipurpose event venue, aka the MPEV and/or The Ballpark.

I understand the San Antonio Missions are departing that city, which is going to welcome a little better grade of minor-league baseball. The Missions play AA ball; San Antonio is recruiting a AAA team to relocate to South Texas.

Now, as I’ve read in the local media, Amarillo is the only place the Missions are considering as a new home. Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole has said something about the “stars lining up” to lure the Missions here.

The prize being dangled in front of that franchise? The prospect of the team playing in a shiny new ballpark downtown, next to City Hall, across the street from a new convention hotel, and just blocks from Polk Street, which is being reconfigured into an urban entertainment district.

The price tag on the MPEV/ballpark has escalated past the $32 million price tag hung on it when it went to the voters this past May in a non-binding citywide referendum. Voters said “yes” to the MPEV and plans are proceeding to develop a firm design and cost for the project.

Yet I keep reading on social media and hearing some gripes around town about the deal.

I’m trying to understand why the lure of a minor-league baseball franchise affiliated with a Major League Baseball organization is somehow a bad thing for Amarillo.

The Thunderheads — the independent team formerly based exclusively in Amarillo — is going to play half of its home games this season here and in Grand Prairie. The games they’ll play in Amarillo will take place at the rat hole/dump formerly known as the Dilla Villa next to the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

The way I see it, if the city can maneuver itself into building a first-class baseball venue downtown and then link it to an arrangement with a AA franchise that will play some good old-fashioned hardball, then it looks to me as though the city has scored a significant victory.

So, again I ask: Why is that a bad thing?

 

How to sell the event venue …

Amarillo downtown

My friend and I had a brief, but animated, discussion early this afternoon about the upcoming vote on Amarillo’s proposed multipurpose event venue.

We are on the same page. We both support what the city has proposed. We both think it will work wonders for the city’s economic well-being.

Three of the five members of our City Council disagree with us. They seem to want it to fail. They decided this week to put the issue to a citywide vote.

But as we visited today at her place of employment, I found myself getting worked up.

My fear is this: The voters are going to say “no” to the MPEV because they don’t understand what it can do; they are “afraid,” I told my friend, of trying something new, of thinking beyond their comfort zone, of looking at the immense possibilities that lie ahead.

My hope is this: Those who support the MPEV and believe in the city’s project — as I do — will organize a grassroots effort designed to lay out in detail how to market a sports and entertainment venue that can become the draw its supporters claim it will become.

The MPEV can be far more than a “ballpark.” Yes, we have this independent minor-league baseball team — now called the Thunderheads — playing in a rat hole of a stadium at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. MPEV critics keep reminding us that the Thunderheads cannot fill that place up, even with the generous ticket giveaways they offer.

Gosh, I wonder why. Oh yeah. The place stinks. It’s been patched up with the construction equivalent of Band-Aids. It really and truly needs to be torn down. With a gleaming new baseball venue in the heart of downtown Amarillo, I hope the razing of the dump formerly known as the “Dilla Villa” can — and will — reduce it to so much trash.

As for the MPEV, there needs to be some seriously creative marketing brought into play.

Can we not find some creativity in this community that is capable of putting together a 21st-century promotional campaign designed to attract events to a venue that its supporters hope will help reshape the downtown district?

I remain squarely committed to this venue. I’m not a marketing guy. I merely believe in thinking big. It’s time we thought bigger than we have in this city.

What’s more, let’s not be coy about what a defeat of the MPEV will mean to the rest of the downtown revival project. The downtown convention hotel won’t be built and without the hotel, there goes the need for the proposed parking garage.

Sure, Xcel Energy has begun work on its new office tower. The rest of it, the work that’s supposed to attract more people in search of something to do after hours? It’ll be gone.

And do we really and truly want to start over after we’ve gone so far already?

Let's go … Thunderheads?

Amarillo’s recent minor-league baseball experience has taken another interesting turn.

The team formerly known as the Sox is now going to be called the Thunderheads.

It’s been a strange ride over the years watching this team morph from one identity into another, and then another.

When I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995, the team that played at the dump once formerly known as the Dilla Villa was called the Amarillo Dillas.

I never learned exactly what a Dilla is. I guess it’s kind of a nickname for “armadillo,” which I’m told populate the countryside in this part of the world.

Whatever, the team then changed its name to the Sox and then adopted a team logo that almost got the team into a copyright problem, as the logo resembled a design used by the Minnesota Twins major league baseball team based in the Twin Cities. That little tempest subsided.

Now it’s the Thunderheads.

Will this name stick to the team for more than a few years, or will the team ownership grow weary of this name and change it … again?

In a way the name might be appropriate. A thunderhead describes a cloud formation that produces often-violent storms that boil up during the spring and summer.

How is it an appropriate name? The city is set to begin construction sometime next year, or perhaps the year after, on a downtown ballpark that will become the new home for the Amarillo Thunderheads. The ballpark isn’t being universally welcomed by all the city’s residents. I’m hearing some grumbling about it and whether it’s really and truly going to be built without any taxpayer money — as the city and developers have promised.

Then the team can abandon that rat hole venue at the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

However, there might be a storm brewing over the Thunderheads’ new venue.