Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

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.”

What do thriving cities have in common?

The answer to the question posed in the headline is easy to discern.

Downtown. They all have thriving downtown districts in common. Show me a city with bustling, living, vibrant central business and entertainment district and I’ll show you a city on the move — in the right direction!

I am happy to reaffirm that Amarillo, Texas, where I lived for 23 years, is making a significant move toward a bright future because it is redeveloping its downtown district, which is slated to look like the rendering that accompanies this blog post.

I cannot stress enough how delighted this makes me feel about Amarillo, a community I grew to love during my time there.

We arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 and found a city that was, well, nice enough. It has nice people, which usually is a euphemistic way of saying that the city didn’t have much else to offer. That more or less described the Amarillo my wife and I discovered when we settled there.

Over time, though, it has changed. The most dramatic change occurred when the City Council decided to get off its collective duff and infused some public money into downtown redevelopment.

The city created something called a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which uses property value appreciation — and the tax revenue it generates within the TIRZ — to pay for public infrastructure improvements.

The council began walking the downtown redevelopment walk, rather than just talking about it.

It held a citywide non-binding referendum on whether to build a downtown ballpark/multipurpose event venue. The measure passed. The council made good on its pledge to adhere to voters’ wishes. The MPEV construction is proceeding.

The city will welcome a Double A minor-league baseball franchise next spring.

Meanwhile, business owners and private investors are pouring money into new development along Polk Street, the one-time Amarillo “main drag” downtown. Restaurants are popping up like spring flowers. A hotel developer built a four-star hotel across the street from City Hall, next to the city’s performing arts center. Loft apartments have opened up along 10th Avenue.

Another hotel is proposed to move into a renovated structure, the Barfield Building, at the corner of Sixth and Polk.

Many other cities can boast of similar improvements. They also can look back on when their prosperity commenced. They, too, can trace their rebirth to when their governing councils made the conscious decision to invest emotional capital, political capital and actual capital in their downtown districts.

Amarillo is going to join a number of cities that have revived themselves. It will get there eventually, of that I am certain.

I look forward to the day when Amarillo no longer will be known primarily as a place with nice people. Yes, the people are wonderful. They also are going to have a lot of entertainment options to explore in their newly vibrant city.

Play ball, ‘Sod Poodles’? Sure, why not?

There’s some chatter up yonder in Amarillo about the name of the brand new minor-league baseball team.

It well might be that the Amarillo Sod Poodles are going to play hardball in the new ballpark under construction in the city’s downtown district.

The new team’s owners are going to announce the name on Nov. 13. They’re considering five names that made a finalist list. None of them would have been my choice had anyone thought to ask me.

Of the finalist names, though, Sod Poodles has grown on me. The term supposedly is a old-time word once used to describe prairie dogs. I’ve talked to a lot of long time Panhandle residents and none of them has ever heard of the term “Sod Poodles” until the team owners announced the finalist names.

The rest of the names are: Bronc Busters, Long Haulers, Boot Scooters and Jerky. Nice, huh? Not really.

I’m actually looking forward to seeing how the team and the city will market this new name, if it indeed is Sod Poodles.

My wife and I recently returned to Amarillo for a couple of days. We drove downtown and were stunned by the changing look of the city’s central district. The multipurpose event venue is rising from the ground across the street from City Hall. I am thrilled at the prospect of the city taking on a new identity.

The Sod Poodles are likely to be the talk of the baseball world, if only temporarily.

Of course, that presumes the chatter is correct, that the team has settled on the name of the new baseball team.

Coming back to familiar haunts … and headaches

AMARILLO, Texas — We all love to return to familiar haunts. Of that I am quite certain.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I have returned to Amarillo for a couple of days. She and I will attend a concert downtown and then we will return to Fairview, where we now call home.

But returning to Amarillo almost always is a joy for me. I love the feeling of familiarity. It’s a sense of belonging. I don’t need a telecommunications navigational device to guide me from place to place. I can travel quite literally from one corner of this city to another and know my way without the aid of some fancy technological gizmo.

We’ve lived in Collin County for several months. We have returned to Amarillo frequently during that time, taking care of family matters and so forth. We no longer have many of those needs, although we do enjoy spending time with one of our sons, who still lives here.

Our sense of belonging is coming to us steadily in Fairview. We know our way around our neighborhood and a bit beyond. Getting from one end of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, however, presents a whole universe of challenges we don’t face when we return to Amarillo. I’m certain you get my drift. The Metroplex is home to about 7 million individuals, compared to around 200,000 who live in Amarillo. You get the idea.

We’re getting acclimated just fine in the Metroplex.

Now, a return to Amarillo would be damn near perfect were it not for one major impediment: road construction.

I can handle the Interstate 40 and I-27 work. The Texas Department of Transportation is rebuilding the highways that split the city essentially into thirds. The city street department, though, has many streets under repair. Getting through the construction zones is a challenge … to say the very least.

Turn lanes are closed off. Some streets now are “grooved” while crews scrape the top finish off of them. You’ve got flaggers everywhere. The city is awash in orange: cones, signs, barrels.

I know I should be patient. Indeed, I have said as much on this blog. I am doing my level best to exercise patience and maturity as I navigate my way through this mess.

It’s a chore. Bear with me as I struggle to keep my sanity behind the wheel of my car.

I still do enjoy returning to familiar haunts.

MPEV sprouts like a weed in downtown Amarillo

Holy cow! We haven’t been gone all that long  from Amarillo. We’re coming back for a quick visit and we’re going to see the change taking place at a rapid pace in the city’s downtown district.

A friend sent me this picture. It is of the multipurpose event venue — the “ballpark,” if you will — that’s under construction across the street from City Hall.

I am beginning to believe that, by golly, they’re going to be ready for the first pitch to be tossed in April 2019.

The ballpark will be home to an as-yet unnamed AA minor-league baseball team that’s affiliated officially with the San Diego Padres of the National League. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles to be the new team’s name. So help me I don’t know why, but I have changed my initial opinion of that name that showed up on a list of finalists under consideration.

The ballpark continues to be very big deal for the city. It will cost an estimated $44 million. It will seat about 5,000 baseball fans. My hope — perhaps it’s even my hunch — is that the ballpark will be full of fans when someone throws the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day of the Texas League season in Amarillo.

I look forward to casting a gaze up close when we venture to Amarillo in a few days. We’ll be back just a few weeks later to attend a concert at the Civic Center.

I won’t be surprised to see that the ballpark/MPEV has sprouted even more dramatically as the city marches its downtown district to a bright future.

I hate wishing for a drought to continue in the Panhandle of Texas, but another dry winter — such as what the Panhandle experienced this past winter — will enable the contractor to finish the job on time.

MPEV occupant lines up a big-league affiliate

The San Diego Padres are coming back to Amarillo, Texas.

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season has cleared yet another hurdle. The Padres used to be affiliated with an earlier Amarillo baseball franchise. They’re back in the fold with the new team that doesn’t yet have a name.

It is getting a ballpark, though. Bit by bit, the multipurpose event venue is going up along Buchanan Street. They hope to have the venue complete by April 2019, when the AA season commences in Amarillo.

Given the progress I’ve seen — albeit from some distance these days — I am no longer going to doubt the project will be done in time for the team to toss out the first pitch next spring.

The San Antonio Missions are moving to the Panhandle from South Texas; San Antonio will be home to a new AAA franchise that is relocating from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The next big question now appears to be: What are they going to call this new Amarillo baseball team?

I’ve done a 180 on this one. I once hated the Sod Poodles name that showed up on the list of finalist names being considered by the Elmore Group, owners of the new Amarillo team.

I am not entirely crazy about the name today, but the thought of the name has grown on me. I now officially hope that Sod Poodles, or some derivation of the name, becomes the name of the new team that will take the field.

But … the city that is remaking its downtown district — with new hotels, entertainment venues and a serious dressing up of street corners — has a new major league baseball affiliation about which it can boast.

Not bad.

Amarillo’s MPEV superstructure taking shape

I am going to send good vibes from the Metroplex back to Amarillo.

An Instagram picture posted by a friend of mine shows that the multipurpose event venue under construction in downtown Amarillo is taking shape, literally.

The digging and excavation must be essentially complete. They’re beginning now to erect the superstructure of this community-changing venue.

To which I say: woo hoo!!

When it’s done the city is going to have a 4,500-seat ballpark downtown. They’re going to play AA hardball beginning in April 2019. The San Antonio Missions are relocating to Amarillo. The name of the new team has yet to be announced. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles, but that’s another story for another time.

Today, I want to express yet again my pride in Amarillo for the bold measures it has taken to reshape the personality and the character of its downtown district.

The MPEV is going to be the major player, the star of this extreme makeover.

I recently drove into downtown Amarillo to purchase some tickets at the Civic Center box office. I zipped past the parking garage and noticed that the retail venues are still vacant. I keep reading that tenants will start pouring into the storefronts when the MPEV gets much closer to completion. Let’s hope it happens.

Meantime, MPEV construction continues.

Gotta hurry, gang. April is just around the corner.

Nice surprise in Texas travel magazine

I have subscribed off and on to Texas Highways magazine for about the past, oh, 30 years … give or take.

My latest issue arrived in the mail while my wife and I were traveling west to Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., and Grand Coulee Dam, Wash.

I looked at the cover title, “Small Town Splendor: The Best Little Courthouses in Texas,” opened the magazine and found something that surprised the daylights out of me. One of the mag’s “best little courthouses” happens to be the Potter County Courthouse in downtown Amarillo.

Why is that a surprise? I expected the list to include really small town courthouses. Among the other 11 featured in the magazine, by the way, is the Donley County Courthouse in Clarendon — which is beautiful structure, too. Texas Highways notes: “The Panhandle’s oldest functioning courthouse, it boasts a distinctive asymmetrical design — no two sides of the building are the same.”

Amarillo ain’t a “small town,” with a population right at 200,000 residents.

The Potter County Courthouse and the grounds on which it sits have become part of downtown Amarillo’s revival about which I have written extensively on this blog. The structure, built in 1932, is “what the Texas Historical Commission calls one of Texas’ best examples of art deco design.

The county applied for a state historical preservation grant to help restore the building. The county emptied the building, moved offices to other locations throughout the downtown district — including the Santa Fe Building and into the Courts Building, which former County Judge Arthur Ware refers to unflatteringly as the “grain elevator.”

The three-year project was done in 2012. The county moved the offices back into the building. County Judge Nancy Tanner established a security system for visitors.

The courthouse grounds have become the home field for downtown’s High Noon on the Square every summer, which features local musicians and other artisans entertaining lunchtime crowds.

The structure really is a gorgeous place for Potter County’s public servants to work.

Thus, I was heartened to see Texas Highways offer a tribute to downtown Amarillo’s courthouse.