Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

‘Hodgetown’ it is!

Jerry Hodge has gotten 2019 off to a rockin’ start, wouldn’t you say?

I mean, he awakes on New Year’s Day to learn that he has been named Man of the Year for 2018 by the Amarillo Globe-News. The newspaper cited the former Amarillo mayor’s work in helping bring a minor-league baseball team to the city, among many other activities he has engaged in to make the city a better place.

Oh, and then we find out that the new ballpark under construction in the city’s downtown district will be named after the Man of the Year.

Welcome to Hodgetown. How about that?

Hodgetown will be the home field for the Amarillo Sod Poodles Double A baseball team that opens its season in early. The Sod Poodles will open the season in Corpus Christi on April 4, but then will have their home opener at Hodgetown on April 8.

According to KFDA NewsChannel 10: “We approached Jerry with this name because he shares the common interest of positively impacting our community and has proven so over the last 50 years,” said President and General Manager of the Amarillo Sod Poodles Tony Ensor. “This community, spearheaded by Jerry, had a dream of bringing not just baseball, but professional, affiliated baseball back to Amarillo and now that it has been brought to life, there is no better way to honor and recognize his hard work to make the dream come true than by including Jerry’s name on our new home.”

The Sod Poodles name was chosen from a list of five finalist submissions. I initially hated the name. Then I grew to like it — if not actually love the name. Sod Poodles became my favorite among the five names being considered.

I didn’t think too much about what to call the ballpark where the Sod Poodles will play hardball.

Now that I have given it some thought, I kind of like the Hodgetown name.

It is fitting to be named after a man who worked hard to bring the team here from San Antonio. I like, too, that it doesn’t carry some kind of corporate name. Yes, Hodge earned a fortune as head of Maxor, a pharmaceutical firm based in Amarillo. I hope the Sod Poodles management will resist the urge to put a corporate name on the ballpark.

So, Hodgetown it will be!

I have to say that Jerry Hodge will be rightfully proud.

City set for a smashing new year

Beth Duke is a longtime friend of mine; I’ve known her since January 1995 when I first moved to Amarillo, Texas, to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, where she was serving as features editor and later as city editor.

Thus, I feel safe in saying that Duke is doing what she now is getting paid to do: She is talking ever so positively about the prospects for the city’s downtown business and entertainment district. As director of Center City, that’s her job.

There. Having said that, I totally agree with her assessment that 2019 is shaping up as a potentially Earth-shattering year for the city’s downtown district, as work continues full throttle on projects aimed at injecting new life into the district.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but my interest in the progression of the city’s downtown rebirth hasn’t abated in the least. I am delighted at what I see happening there and to be candid, Duke and her organization have played a significant role in that effort.

According to the Globe-News: “Last year, 2018, was a great year for Center City with the construction of the MPEV (multipurpose event venue),” Duke said. “People can finally see what venue is a catalyst project.”

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new AA minor league baseball team, opens its Texas League season in early April. My hunch is that the ballpark under construction on Buchanan Street will be full on opening day. The “catalyst” hopefully will ignite lots of related activity downtown and, thus, boost the city’s image, fatten its wallet with sales tax revenue and provide the city with additional resources to develop other parts of the city.

Businesses are slated to begin filling the ground-floor storefronts at the parking garage that was erected across the street from the MPEV. Work has begun on the Barfield Building, turning that rotting structure into a Marriott hotel. It will join the Courtyards by Marriott at the Historic Fisk Building as a place that has breathed new life into a historic structure. The Embassy Suites hotel across from the Civic Center is attracting conventions.

Polk Street is coming back to life. Potter County’s refurbished courthouse is a thing of beauty and the county now is beginning to discuss openly options related to replacing the Courts Building.

Yes, I hear about some of the grumbling from those who want the city to invest in other neighborhoods and quit concentrating on downtown. I am empathetic to their concerns. My hope today is that City Hall is listening.

However, none of that should disparage the progress that’s been made downtown. My mantra remains the same as it always has been: Show me a city on the move and I am virtually certain that the city possesses a vital downtown district.

Amarillo clearly is on the move. Its downtown business district is setting the pace.

Now, how about the Herring Hotel?

You’ve heard it said, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they, um, make the trains run on time?”

Amarillo, Texas, might have a “put a man on the moon” metaphor of its own. It could go something like this:

“If they can find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the crappy hulk of a structure known as the Barfield Building, why can’t they do the same thing for the Herring Hotel?”

The Barfield Building — which is a rotting 10-story structure at the moment — is going to be repurposed as a Marriott boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, the Herring Hotel, once the city’s go-to place for every social event of consequence, also is rotting. It’s dark. It is foreboding.

A friend of mine, Bob Goodrich, has owned the building since the 1980s. He bought the abandoned structure with the hope of finding someone to invest big-time money to rehabilitate and revive it. He says he has scored some near misses. He’s been disappointed. He pays the taxes annually on it. The building isn’t quite the eyesore that the Barfield has become.

I’ve been through the first two floors in the Herring. Granted, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It is in surprisingly decent condition, however.

Some contacts I used to have who were involved in downtown revitalization have told me they foresee a viable future for the Herring. Many of those folks have moved on. I am not familiar with many among the current crop of brainiacs who are talking among themselves about what to do about the Herring.

Nor am I familiar with all that has taken place to date.

I simply am amazed that a hospitality management company has actually taken control of the Barfield and has actually begun work to bring that miserable hulk of a structure back to life.

I consider the Barfield to be among the worst examples of urban rot in downtown Amarillo. If they can find a new purpose for the Barfield, isn’t there a future to be found for the Herring?

It’s actually begun: work on the Barfield Building

This story remains a serious head-scratcher for me.

I’ll be glad to be proved wrong if and when the story concludes.

They have begun work on a 10-story eyesore in downtown Amarillo, Texas. The Barfield Building, which has gone through many fits and starts as it has decayed over the course of many years, is now in the first stages of a major makeover.

It will become a boutique hotel run by the Marriott company, which also operates a hotel down the street in the historic Fisk Building.

To be candid, I never though this project was possible. The Barfield, a once-proud structure on Sixth Avenue and Polk Street, has been shuttered while would-be developers have shuddered at the prospect of bringing it back to life.

The building’s former owner, Todd Harmon, sought over the years to get something done. He failed. Coury Hospitality is now the management partner and is handling the makeover as it proceeds.

My pal Dan Quandt, vice president of the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council, told KFDA NewsChannel 10 that “We’ve been crying” for years for something good to happen to the Barfield. “It sadly went from being a proud lady to a kind of an eyesore and now they’re going to be redoing that.”

Actually, Dan, there’s no “kind of an eyesore” description needed. The building is a serious eyesore.

It’s going to carry the name of Barfield Marriott when it’s all done.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but my desire to see downtown Amarillo progress and evolve into something different and, hopefully, exciting hasn’t wavered. The Barfield project is a huge step forward for the city, which has granted serious tax credits and other financial incentives to help push this project forward.

Let us hope this task gets completed. I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised when they cut the ribbon and welcome the first guests into the new digs.

Then perhaps the city can turn its attention to another rotting structural hulk just a few blocks north. I refer to the Herring Hotel.

Might there be a brighter future in store there as well?

Run again, Mme. Mayor . . . run again!

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has scheduled what has been called a “campaign announcement” Wednesday morning.

Hmm. What will she do? I haven’t a clue. For that matter, I barely know Mayor Nelson. I’ve shaken her hand. I’ve had some conversation with her. This all occurred when she was running for mayor in 2017.

She won the mayor’s race that year, joining an entirely new Amarillo City Council that took office that year. She is one of three women to serve on the five-member council, giving the city it’s first ever female majority on its governing body. Nelson is the second woman ever elected mayor of Amarillo; Debra McCartt was the first.

I want her to run again, even though I cannot vote for her. All I can do from a distance now that I’ve moved away is suggest that she needs to be re-elected. She needs to keep her hand on the municipal till as it steers toward what I perceive to be a bright — if still unknown — future.

The city’s new downtown ballpark is under construction; its new AA baseball team has a goofy, but oddly charming, name; the team will play start playing hardball in April 2019. More change is occurring downtown. The city’s streets — seemingly damn near all of ’em — are under repair, rebuilding and renovation.

Progress can be painful.

Hey, it just occurs to me I might be getting ahead of myself. Maybe the mayor will announce Wednesday she’s had all the fun she can stand after just a single two-year term.

I doubt that will happen. I hope Ginger Nelson runs again.

A new Courts Building on the horizon? Maybe?

Potter County (Texas) Judge Nancy Tanner is a woman of her word.

She told me a couple of years ago that she intended eventually to move toward the possible construction of a new Criminal Courts Building to replace the monstrosity across the street from the old courthouse in downtown Amarillo.

It appears that the initiative is taking a baby step toward that direction.

The Commissioners Court has approved a $45,000 measure to come up with a conceptual design for a new court building.

Tanner wants to take the county’s move forward one step at a time. It recently completed the relocation of the sheriff’s office, vacating a long-standing structure downtown.

Next up? It might be the Courts Building.

I don’t want to be too harsh, but that structure is a piece of crap. I haven’t seen it in quite some time, but the last time I walked inside, I was struck by the damage to the front of the building. It is terribly crafted. The workmanship on it is abominable.

Whenever I see that building I think of how Tanner’s predecessor as county judge, Arthur Ware, has described it.

Ware calls it “The Grain Elevator.” He hates the Courts Building, which was erected about a decade before Ware took office as county judge.

I concur with the old Marine.

The county needs to vacate the Grain Elevator.

Here come the Sod Poodles gags

Here they come. The jokes are going to become part of conversation in Amarillo, Texas, which is preparing to welcome the return of minor-league baseball next spring.

The hole you see in the picture above is meant to poke fun of the new baseball team’s name, the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles supposedly is one archaic term for prairie dogs. I haven’t talked to anyone with any history in the Texas Panhandle or the High Plains who has heard of the term “Sod Poodles.”

Whatever, the jokes are piling up around the Panhandle.

My hunch is that the team owners are laughing hysterically themselves at what they have brought to the region.

The Sod Poodles will be a AA minor-league outfit affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. The team used to play as the San Antonio Missions, but moved to Amarillo when San Antonio welcomed a AAA team.

My wife and I have moved away from Amarillo, but I am having fun watching this team’s presence in the city evolve and develop.

The multipurpose event venue/ballpark will be done by April 2019 when the Sod Poodles open Texas League play. They’ve laid down the sod. The structure is taking shape downtown.

And the jokes are flying.

Let’s play ball!

A deal to keep the Sod Poodles long term?

A friend of mine who responds regularly to my blog posts has pitched an interesting note of skepticism about the new baseball team that will start playing ball in downtown Amarillo next spring.

He wonders about the ownership of the Amarillo Sod Poodles and whether the owner — the Elmore Group — is devoted sufficiently to keeping the Class AA team in Amarillo over the long term.

My friend says if the team fails to fill a sufficient number of seats at the shiny new ballpark under construction across the street from City Hall, the Elmore Group is likely to look elsewhere to play hardball.

Interesting notion, don’t you think?

The Sod Poodles’ owner already has shown a willingness to move. After all, the Elmore Group relocated the San Antonio Missions from the Alamo City to the Panhandle. San Antonio is going to get a Class AAA team in exchange. But my friend does raise a valid question.

I’m wondering if there’s an option for the city to pursue that might get the Sod Poodles’ owners to committing to a lengthy stay in Amarillo. I am unaware of any such stipulation at the moment. Nor am I well-versed enough in how these kinds of arrangements are finalized.

I’ll just ask it here, using this forum to keep the discussion going.

I remain an unbridled optimist nevertheless about the prospect for the Sod Poodles’ success. They have a team already established; it’s just headquartered in another city at the moment. The new team has a name that, granted, will have to grow on us.

What we don’t have is a long-term commitment from the team owners to stay put.

Maybe the city can secure such a commitment, yes? Maybe? Perhaps?

Sod Poodles it is!

Well, so much for spies and snitches who led me astray.

The Amarillo baseball franchise that starts playing ball next spring today revealed the name of the Double A team that will take the field next April.

Amarillo Sod Poodles? Yep, that’s it, man! Sod Poodles.

Get used to it.

A friend who said he knew what was coming today told me he thought the team would announce another name, even though Sod Poodles had gotten the most public attention. That was the subject of an earlier blog post.

I can imagine now that the chatter, tittering and muttering has commenced already. Many of Amarillo’s residents are now talking about the new name, which is what the owners of the team wanted when they announced the list of five finalist names a few months ago.

I’ll admit one thing for sure: I hated Sod Poodles when I first saw the name on the list of five finalists listed by the Elmore Group, owners of the franchise. I rated the name at the bottom of the finalist list, right next to Jerky.

Then I thought about it. And I thought some more about it. Over time, the name began to grow on me.

The Elmore Group, the team owners, said it sought a quirky name, one that would generate some discussion in Amarillo and around the Texas League, to which the team will belong.

I’m betting the team owners will accomplish their mission once the Sod Poodles name is circulated around the league — and around the country.

Is this my idea of a suitable name for a baseball team? No. However, it does have a curiously attractive ring to it.

I cannot explain it. It just does.

Big baseball day set for Amarillo

They’re waiting with bated breath in Amarillo, Texas, for an announcement that’s set for Tuesday.

The owners of the Double A minor-league baseball franchise, the Elmore Group, is going to reveal the name of the new team that opens play in April. I also understand they’ll reveal the new team logo.

The Elmore Group, which relocated the San Antonio Missions to Amarillo, revealed a list of five finalists culled from a long list of proposed team nicknames.

My favorite team name, the Sod Poodles, initially was my least favorite among the finalist names. It’s now my favorite name. I hope the team will be called the Sod Poodles when they begin playing hardball at the downtown stadium that’s under construction.

But . . .

A snitch who claims to have knowledge of the situation tells me that the Sod Poodles won’t take the field next spring. The team will be called something else, according to my snitch/friend. I won’t reveal his name; instead, I’ll just say he is someone who’s been associated with the Panhandle athletic community for a long time.

The five finalist names are: Jerky, Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Long Haulers and, of course, Sod Poodles.

The multipurpose event venue that’s being built will seat about 5,000 fans. It will be used primarily as a baseball park for the newly relocated franchise. Other events will occur there, too; hence, that’s why it’s being called a “multipurpose event venue.”

Baseball fans long have suffered sitting through games at that rathole ballpark next to the Tri-State Fairgrounds. It’s a dump that needs to be knocked down; they need to clear out the rubble and make the space available for other fair-related uses.

As for the new team’s nickname … I am awaiting with my own bated breath to know what they’re going to call the team.

I’ll hope for Sod Poodles until I hear it will be something else.

Whatever they decide, just don’t call the team “Jerky.”