Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

MPEV under budget? How about that, sports fans?

Amarillo apparently is going to take its next step toward its future ahead of schedule; what’s more, it well might cost a little less than originally projected.

Does it get any better than that?

The multipurpose event venue project that’s under construction is slightly under budget, according to city officials and contractors. The MPEV had been budgeted at about $40 million for construction, but officials say the cost is slightly less than that; the total cost of the project is estimated at $45.5 million.

As for the timetable, Mother Nature has dealt construction crews a winning hand. A lack of precipitation over the winter helped greatly. The spring has been mostly dry, although I understand some rain has fallen in recent days.

I ran into former Mayor Paul Harpole the other day on Sixth Avenue and he said the MPEV is set to be finished in February 2019, well ahead of the opening of the minor-league AA baseball season that commences in April.

I am enjoying being able to watch this project take form, even from some distance these days. I no longer live in Amarillo; I no longer pay taxes there. Despite our relocation to Collin County, I remain emotionally invested in the MPEV and in downtown Amarillo’s future.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports: City Manager Jared Miller said the general contractors set the tone for the project being under budget.

“I just want to highlight the work of and express appreciation to Western Builders and Hunt Construction,” he said. “These guys put in the time and work. We’ve been working five or six months now, knowing when we first got the pricing for building this building, it was significantly higher than it is right now. They’ve worked hard to bring this number down so the construction number was below $40 million. I cannot say enough good things about the team at Western Builders and they have done yeoman work. And Kudos to our architects, Populous.”

Most of its momentum developed after I left daily journalism. Still, I was able to watch it take root while I lived within shouting distance of where the MPEV/ballpark will open.

Even though I have moved away, I remain delighted to watch this project proceed on a pace that puts it ahead of schedule and, yes under budget.

I am rooting hard for its successful completion.

Young people have fallen silent again

I want to share this blog post once again. I’ve attached it to this item.

It speaks to the dreams of young Amarillo residents who took their case to the City Council. They pitched the idea of building a multipurpose event venue, of erecting a downtown convention hotel and of turning Polk Street into an entertainment district.

They wanted the city to deliver a reason for these young people to stay here after school. They don’t want to move away.

The good news? Much of what the young’ns argued for is happening.

The bad news? They’ve reduced their public presence. What happened to ’em?

City hears from the young and, until now, the silent

They have fallen silent yet again.

MPEV ahead of schedule … thanks to the drought

AMARILLO, Texas — This just in: The multipurpose event venue that is under construction in downtown Amarillo will be done by February and will be all set to go when the city’s new AA minor-league baseball team starts playing hardball next spring.

How do I know that? I have no first-hand, insider knowledge. But I did hear it today from a former mayor under whose leadership this project was launched. I caught up with Paul Harpole today at the Route 66 festival occurring along Sixth Avenue.

Harpole said the work crews have benefited greatly from the lack of moisture during the winter of 2017-18 and in the first half of this year. They’re goin’ and blown’ at the construction site along Buchanan Street, Harpole indicated.

So, you see? There really is a benefit — if you want to call it that — to enduring a drought.

I don’t intend to make light of the drought conditions. Farmers and ranchers are struggling through it. I feel badly for them and the difficulty they are enduring.

However, the MPEV needs to get done in time for the opening of the Texas League’s 2019 baseball season, which will include a franchise based in Amarillo. It will have moved here San Antonio, which is getting a AAA franchise that is transferring from Colorado Springs, Colo.

If the lack of moisture means the construction crews will be able to plow ahead unimpeded by Mother Nature’s occasional fits of wrath, then that’s all the better for the city … and for the Texas Panhandle.

Landmark birthday venue still going strong

I was visiting with my son today and I blurted out that I spent my 21st birthday playing pool and drinking beer with my father and grandfather at a popular watering hole in downtown Portland, Ore., my hometown.

That was in December 1970. Then my son made a discovery. He wondered if it had survived all those years. He Googled “Kelly’s Olympian” on his phone and discovered that it’s still in business.

Not only that, it appears to be thriving. It’s lively. It’s trendy. It apparently serves good food and a wide assortment of adult beverages. It doesn’t look much as it did back when Dad and I were playing pool and swilling cold ones; my grandfather walked in later and joined us.

Kelly’s Olympian isn’t the only longtime business that has survived the ups and downs of any city’s economic cycle. Portland, though, has turned its once moribund downtown district into the gold standard for how to make the central district a destination for those who live within that city or those who are just visiting.

*****

This thought occurs to me.

Amarillo,Texas, where my wife and I lived until just about six weeks ago, is undergoing quite an urban makeover in its own downtown district. Polk Street is rumbling back to life. Work is proceeding briskly on that ballpark on Buchanan Street. Longstanding iconic structures have been repurposed into downtown lofts.

When I take the long view and think of what future generations might recall about Amarillo’s downtown district, I wonder — and certainly hope — that they can recall a place that flourishes today. If we flash forward another 47 years, to 2165, my expectation would be that Amarillo’s downtown will continue to evolve into something brighter and more vibrant than anyone ever imagined.

Those Amarillo residents who today are enjoying the fruits of their downtown’s rebirth will look back and be as astonished as I was today to learn that Kelly’s Olympian is still packing ’em in.

Sod Poodles? Is this the name?

Maybe it’s just me, but my sense from afar — from my new perch in Collin County — I am beginning to sense that Sod Poodles is slated to be the name of Amarillo’s new AA minor-league baseball team.

Sod Poodles emerged as one of five finalist names under consideration by the Elmore Group, the outfit that owns the baseball team that will begin playing ball in Amarillo in April 2019. The team owners have opened the names up to baseball fans, asking fans to pick the name they want for the new team.

Maybe it’s just my unusually unreliable trick knee that’s telling me this. But I sense that Sod Poodles is getting a bit of traction among baseball fans.

Or, maybe it’s just that the Sod Poodles name is growing on me. I confess to hating it when I first saw the name among the five finalists being considered for the team that will move to Amarillo from San Antonio.

My new “least favorite” name happens to be Jerky. By no stretch of the imagination do I want Amarillo’s new ballclub to take the field as the Amarillo Jerky.

Amarillo Sod Poodles, the so-called one-time term used to describe prairie dogs? It has a certain ring to it now that I’ve rolled it around a time or three or four. For that matter I could live with any of the other finalist names — sans Jerky — under consideration.

I have to confess that Sod Poodles is beginning to make a lick of sense — even from my distant perch.

Let’s try ‘Sod Poodles Tower’

AMARILLO, Texas — OK, I’m just kidding about that suggestion to name the tower after Sod Poodles.

I mention it because of an announcement today that Amarillo’s tallest structure is slated to carry the name of another bank.

Chase left the ground floor of the 31-story tower and today it was announced that FirstBank Southwest is moving into Chase Bank’s first-floor office space.

FirstBank Southwest, pending federal approval, will be able to put its name on the top of the “tallest building between Fort Worth and Denver.”

The building known formerly as the Chase Tower will become the FirstBank Southwest Tower.

My question: For how long?

I’m not real crazy about corporations purchasing building-naming rights. What occasionally happens is what occurred when Chase left the tower. The building name came off the top of the skyscraper. Yet we still refer to the structure informally as the “Chase Tower.” Just mention the name and everyone in Amarillo knows what you’re talking about.

At least, though, the new bank is a locally owned outfit. I suppose that makes it more tolerable than some big corporate name being plastered on the side of what is among the city’s most recognizable downtown structures.

They’re going to name the city’s new minor-league baseball team later this year. I’ve already stated my case for Sod Poodles, which is among the five finalist names under consideration by the team owners.

My own preference for what it’s worth — and it’s not much these days, given that my wife and I now live elsewhere — would be to put a name more linked to the region than to some corporate entity.

Palo Duro Tower. Llano Estacado Tower. High Plains Tower. Canadian River Tower. Caprock Tower.

Just thinking out loud …

Sod Poodles? Let’s play ball … but hurry up!

AMARILLO, Texas — We’re all entitled to change our minds, right? Politicians do it all the time, saying their views have “evolved.” Or, in the case of Donald John Trump, his views change according to whatever his closest friends or his children tell him.

But … I digress.

I have done a nearly 180-degree about-face on the finalist names for the AA baseball team that’s going to play in a structure that at the moment is nothing more than a very large hole in the ground across the street from Amarillo City Hall.

None of the names excited me at first. Upon reflection, though, I am leaning toward Sod Poodles, the so-called old-fashioned name that supposedly refers to prairie dogs.

Don’t wish bad things to happen to me, please. My wife and I have a lot of fun-loving retirement years ahead of us.

Yeah, I said the name stunk when the franchise owners announced the finalist names. The one name that still sticks in my craw — if you’ll excuse the pun — is Jerky. Amarillo Jerky? Are you kidding me?

The team went for cutie names. They want the new baseball franchise to be a family-friendly endeavor. I think Sod Poodles fills the bill.

OK. That all being said, I want to offer a slight word of caution.

I ventured downtown over the weekend and noticed the big ol’ hole. I saw what looks like some reinforcement along the north edge of the hole.

I walked into the Embassy Suites hotel to see a friend who’s visiting from Lubbock. He reminded me that in his mind the construction pace needs to pick up. “I am not sure they’ll be ready for ball,” he said. I answered, “But they’re opening their season in April 2019.” Then my pal said, “Hey, that’s less than a year away!”

Duh???

I’m not an engineer. I have no experience with heavy-duty construction projects. My friend, though, has raised a legitimate concern. The multipurpose event venue where this team will play hardball is, um, seemingly a long way from becoming reality.

My farming and ranching friends will hate me for saying this, but if the MPEV is going to be finished on time, then I think Mother Nature perhaps needs to provide us with a second bone-dry winter in a row in 2018-19.

I’m trying to imagine how the crews are going to work when there’s a foot of snow on the ground in, say, December or January.

Let’s get busy, gang.

Sod Poodles? Let’s think about this

I am about to deliver a assessment or two I hope I won’t regret.

I’ve been giving more thought to the silly list of “finalist” names delivered by the owners of Amarillo’s future AA minor-league baseball team. I also have been trying to digest the reasoning behind the five names chosen to be considered for team’s nickname.

My thought at this moment is this: I am starting to understand better what the team ownership is trying to convey to the community that will sit in the ballpark that is currently under construction in downtown Amarillo.

They want a silly name that elicits a community conversation. They want the name to be the subject of good-natured giggles. They are striving for something different, perhaps a bit unique that becomes a talking point in minor-league — maybe even major league — baseball circles.

That all said — and I am hoping to avoid being struck by lightning by adding this point — I am actually sort of thinking Sod Poodles isn’t such a bad idea … after all!

I want to be candid on one point. I have never heard the term used to describe prairie dogs. I had no idea on Earth that it is some sort of “historical” term used in the old days to refer to the critters that are the bane of ranchers and farmers. Don’t hold against me that I am not a Texas Panhandle native. I mean, I have known about prairie dogs since I was a little boy growing up in Oregon; sod poodles never crossed my radar — ever!

None of this discussion is about me or whether any of us have heard of this term. It’s about prompting a community discussion.

The owners of the team that begins playing hardball in Amarillo in the spring of 2019 have done that very thing.

Look, I mentioned once already that I hated the name of my hometown professional basketball team when it was announced in 1970. Portland’s new NBA team would be called the “Trail Blazers,” prompting a good bit of community angst. We grew to accept and actually like the name. Hey, it was meant to pay tribute to Lewis and Clark, who “blazed a trail” from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Whichever name Amarillo’s minor-league baseball team owners select will attract its share of collective teeth-gnashing. Eventually, Amarillo’s baseball fans likely will accept it.

Maybe they will even learn to like it. I wonder, for example, if baseball fans in Toledo hate the “Mud Hens.”

It’s all about baseball ‘marketing’

I am beginning to soften my view of those goofy finalist names for Amarillo’s new minor-league baseball team.

But only just a little.

I still dislike the five names they came up with. However, I am beginning to grasp the marketing techniques that the AA minor-league team ownership is using to sell the team to the public when it begins play in the downtown Amarillo baseball park in the spring of 2019.

The team’s general manager spoke this week of creating a “wholesome family entertainment” product that will play baseball at the multipurpose event venue.

They aren’t going to go with the usual Major League Baseball team nicknames, such as Cardinals, Giants, Tigers, Marlins … etc.

So what did the Amarillo management do? They pored through more than 3,000 submissions and came up with Jerky, Bronc Busters, Sod Poodles, Long Haulers and Boot Scooters.

If I had to choose a favorite among those finalists, I would settle on Bronc Busters. The worst happen to be Jerky and Sod Poodles.

An ABC 7 morning news anchor, Lisa Schmidt, noted this morning that she has lived in the Panhandle her entire life and has never heard the term Sod Poodles to describe prairie dogs. I’m hearing a lot of that around Amarillo over the past few days.

However, I am beginning to get why the team management has embarked on this goofy course. They want to establish a unique brand for the minor-league team that will play hardball in downtown Amarillo.

Let’s hope the brand sticks.

More names come forward

The word got out about those goofy finalist names for the Amarillo minor-league baseball team that begins play in the spring of 2019.

And with that word came a whole host of names that I find a lot better than the names put forward.

Plainsmen. Wildcatters. 66ers. Skyliners.

Those are just a few.

I’m wondering if the backlash against the weird names put forth are is going to make the Amarillo baseball brain trust rethink what they’ve come up with.

One can hope.

They’ve invited the public to vote for the favorite among five finalists. They’ll announce the winner later in the year. I’m wondering how “None of the Above” is going to fare.