Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

‘Ruckus’ a better mascot than that . . . other thing

I have to hand it to the Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball organization.

They’ve come up with a mascot for the AA baseball team that seems oh, so very appropriate for what they’ve decided to call the team.

The mascot’s name is “Ruckus” and it looks like, well, a “Sod Poodle,” which the community is told is an old-time name for prairie dog. So, Ruckus looks a bit like a prairie dog.

Compare “Ruckus” with what the previous baseball organization rolled out about eight years ago. It was meant to symbolize a “Sox.” It looked, well, kinda weird. And perhaps vaguely obscene.

It was unidentifiable.

See what I mean?

So, the Sod Poodles are going to play before a sold out house at Hodgetown on April 8. It’s their home opener in the Texas League. They’re playing in a shiny new ballpark in downtown Amarillo, and not in that rat hole dump at the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

At least “Ruckus” looks like what he symbolizes.

It’s a start!

Sod Poodles off to a sold-out start!

I am acutely aware that a single sold-out event does not constitute a successful season, let alone a successful sports/entertainment/business venture.

However, it tickles me giggly to read that the Amarillo Sod Poodles opening night at home has sold out. Yep. Hodgetown, the AA minor-league baseball team’s home field in downtown Amarillo has zero seats left for the April 8 date.

I believe that the sellout could bode well for the interest shown by the community for the Sod Poodles, the team affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres.

The Sod Poodles have relocated to the Texas Panhandle from San Antonio, where they played as the Missions in South Texas. They’ve moved out to make room in the Alamo City for a AAA franchise that is relocating there from Colorado Springs.

Hodgetown seats a little more than 7,000 spectators. All that’s left is standing room-only viewing. A ticket gets you into the ballpark; then you’ve got to find a place to stand and watch the Sod Poodles.

I remain a staunch supporter of this effort. To be candid, I had my doubts not too long ago that the city would bring this project to fruition. It did. My concern was misplaced. I am delighted to hear about this latest bit of positive news from my distant perch in Collin County.

The future remains to be determined. If this event — the selling out of the ballpark for opening night — can be relegated to the “most recent past,” then let us hope it serves as a prologue for a bright future for the Sod Poodles and for the city that has invested in this worthwhile project.

Lights on at Hodgetown

Hey, I heard they turned on the lights at Hodgetown!

You know what that means? It means that when the Amarillo Sod Poodles open their AA minor league baseball season at home on April 8 they won’t be playing hardball in the dark.

Amarillo, Texas, is less than a month away from entering a new era of sports entertainment. The Sod Poodles are going to play ball at the downtown ballpark that is nearing completion along Buchanan Street, next to City Hall/the Civic Center and in the midst of a building boom that is still under way in the city’s downtown district.

I will be in Amarillo on opening night. My wife and I will be there to get our fifth wheel RV out of storage and take it on a jaunt downstate and on toward New Orleans.

But I just might sock a couple extra bucks in my pocket and get us a ticket or two for the Sod Poodles’ opening night game downtown.

I’ve been cheering this endeavor on for longer than I can remember. It’s only right to be there to watch ’em toss out the first pitch.

My strong sense is that the city is about to turn an important corner on its way toward economic revival.

Amarillo still ‘Matters’ to this group

A political action group formed two years ago to help elect a slate of candidates to the Amarillo City Council is back at it.

Amarillo Matters, which comprises some well-funded, well-known and successful business and civic leaders, is working to re-elect the council members it helped elect in 2017. They’re all running for re-election this year.

What strikes me as strange — even from my now-distant vantage point — is that Amarillo Matters is being demonized by challengers to the incumbents. For what remains a mystery to me.

I’ve seen the Amarillo Matters website, read its profile, looked at its mission statement. It says it works to develop “positive opportunities” for the city. It vows to be free of conflicts of interest. Amarillo Matters says it believes in “limited government.”

There’s more to the website explaining this group. You can see it here.

It’s a high-minded group with noble goals, ambitions and causes.

The way I view the city now that I no longer live there is that Amarillo has continued nicely on its upward trajectory during the past two years. Downtown continues its revival; the city streets are under significant repair and renovation; the state is tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27, but that, too, shall pass; Amarillo economic development gurus have gone all in — with significant amounts of public money — on Texas Tech’s plans to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

I have to ask: Is this all bad? Is this a reason to toss aside the city’s leadership?

It’s not that everything is peachy in Amarillo. Sure, there are problems. What American city doesn’t have them? The city needs to devote more money and attention to long-neglected neighborhoods, but I hear that the city is aiming to do precisely that.

I keep hearing whispers about feather-bedding, favoritism and assorted accusations of malfeasance. So help me it sounds like sour grapes from those who aren’t deriving some sort of direct financial benefit from all the good that is occurring in the city.

This economic system of ours means that individuals benefit as well as the community at large. I see Amarillo Matters as the positive influence it purports to be. Thus, I do not grasp the basis for the negativity coming from those who seek further “change” in the direction the city has taken.

From my perspective, the city is doing just fine.

Watching the rebirth of a city’s downtown

I don’t get back to Amarillo, Texas, as often these days. My wife and I are getting set to plant new roots in a home in Collin County.

We aren’t going to cease returning to the city we called “home” for more than decades. I am getting anxious to witness the rebirth of its downtown district.

You know already that I am a big supporter of the changes that are under way in the Texas Panhandle community. I am heartened by the expected completion of Hodgetown, the baseball park that will be the home field for the AA minor-league Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball squad; the Sod Poodles open their home season on April 8. As an aside, my wife and I will be in Amarillo that day, getting ready to shove off in our fifth wheel for a trip downstate and then to New Orleans; hmm, I might look for a way to attend that opening-night game.

I simply am amazed that the city has embarked on this urban revival journey. When we arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 we saw little evidence of a municipal appetite for the pro-active approach we have witnessed unfold there. City Hall operated on a policy of letting private business fuel any significant change. The city took a hands-off approach; it didn’t want to invest public money on what it considered to be a private venture.

That has changed to a large degree at City Hall. Two mayors, Debra McCartt and Paul Harpole moved the City Council forward in pushing for development of the ballpark. It promoted what it called “catalyst projects” that would bloom in the wake of the ballpark’s completion. Those projects appear to be bearing fruit.

The city welcomed the opening of a first-class hotel; it is pledging to make major improvements to the Civic Center; Polk Street — once known as Amarillo’s “main drag” — is coming back to life; renovated buildings on Polk are welcoming something called “pop up” businesses; the Barfield Building is in the process of being repurposed into a Marriott “boutique hotel.”

This all makes my head spin.

And I don’t even live there!

Every return to Amarillo we make these days fills us with surprises. We’ll be back again soon. I await the next jaw-dropper.

Huge future awaits downtown Amarillo

I am beginning to believe I might have set the bar too low in seeking to project the future of downtown Amarillo, Texas and, by extension, the rest of the city.

The picture linked to this blog post is a rendition of what Hodgetown — the name of the new ballpark that is nearing completion — is going to look like. It is going to be the home for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the AA minor league baseball team that begins its season on April 8 in the new venue.

I don’t get back to Amarillo as often these days. I have driven by Hodgetown and seen it taking shape along Buchanan Street just south of City Hall.

It looks like a fabulous venue.

So, what does it mean for the city? It means it will attract crowds of residents from throughout the Texas Panhandle into the downtown district. The crowds will watch the Sod Poodles play some baseball and then perhaps they’ll wander around the city center in search of a meal, or a beverage or some music.

Downtown Amarillo — like downtowns in cities throughout the nation — used to be retail centers. Department stores did business downtown. Residents flocked into downtown Amarillo to shop. Then came the arrival of those once-ubiquitous shopping malls. Westgate Mall opened on the far west side of Amarillo, attracting those department stores away from downtown.

The city’s downtown district is re-emerging in a new form. It’s going to be more of an entertainment district than it used to be. Take my word for it, the city’s downtown district has sprinted far from the pale ghost of a central district it was when my wife and I arrived in Amarillo in 1995.

How did that happen? In my view, it occurred when the city began investing public money in its downtown district. Amarillo had an organization called Downtown Amarillo Inc. that did a lot of the grunt work that prepared the city to move forward. DAI eventually dissolved. Center City has stepped up, along with a City Hall reorganization. Amarillo established a tax reinvestment zone that channels property tax appraised value back toward improvements inside that zone.

Downtown has continued to advance.

We have moved away. However, I am continuing to watch the city’s progress toward a future that looks even brighter than I envisioned just two years ago.

It’s a thrilling sight to see. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Show me a thriving city in America and you’re likely to see a city with a thriving downtown district.

Now, let’s play ball, Sod Poodles . . . shall we?

That’s a relief.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have settled a goofy trademark dispute and are now setting their sights on opening night when they play a minor-league game of baseball at Hodgetown, the ballpark that’s under construction in downtown Amarillo.

An outfit named Stone Ranch Media had lodged a complaint against the Sod Poodles, suggesting that the team had pilfered the team’s nickname. The two entities have announced a settlement that will result in $5,000 being divvied up among the Amarillo Youth Activity Center, the Donley County Community Fund and the Downtown Amarillo Women’s Center.

So, the fight is over.

Next up is for work at Hodgetown — the ballpark named after retired pharmaceutical executive and former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge — to be completed. The venue has sprung up along Buchanan Street and, to be honest, it’s looking like a first-class place to play some hardball.

This venue — if you’ll pardon the intended pun — is a serious game changer for Amarillo. Its future is looking brighter all the time as its downtown district reaps the reward from the attention it has received.

‘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?