Tag Archives: Hodgetown

CAVE people: Eating their words?

A friend of mine — who communicates with me these days on social media — brought up an unofficial group of Amarillo-area residents who have had their heads handed to them.

He mentioned “CAVE” people. “CAVE” is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. I commented briefly the other day about how the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new Texas League baseball franchise, are leading the league in average attendance while playing ball at Hodgetown, the new 7,000-seat ballpark in downtown Amarillo.

My friend noted that the CAVE folks were “against” the baseball team, against building the ballpark, against efforts to revive Amarillo’s once-moribund downtown district.

The CAVE folks aren’t an official group, such as Amarillo Matters, which has formed to promote downtown revitalization and other economic development efforts.

But they’re out there.

Sure, there has been healthy skepticism about downtown efforts. Some folks want he Herring Hotel to get a boost from City Hall. Others have lamented the absence — yet! — of any retail outlets springing up in that parking garage across the street from Hodgetown.

I do recall the CAVE cadre/cabal saying the multipurpose event venue would fall flat. I’m happy to notice, even from some distance these days, that the MPEV hasn’t done what the CAVErs predicted.

If anything, it is proving — and, yes, it’s still early — to be one of the wisest investments the city has made since, oh, the arrival in 1999 of the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That project has worked out well. I believe the Sod Poodles, Hodgetown and the city’s effort to pump new life into downtown will work out, too.

Sod Poodles packin’ ’em in

This graph showed up on my Facebook page a little while ago, so I thought I would share it on High Plains Blogger.

Check it out.

Amarillo’s AA minor-league baseball team, the Sod Poodles, is leading the Texas League in attendance early in its initial season playing ball on the High Plains.

Sixteen home dates have drawn nearly 100,000 spectators to the Sod Poodles’ shiny new venue, aka Hodgetown, built for about $45 million in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t been to a game. I’ve only seen the ballpark from the other side of the right field fence. The front entrance looks impressive, too.

I am just delighted to know that Amarillo is turning into a “baseball town.” Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

A few years ago, when residents were preparing to vote on a referendum to approve construction of what was known only as a “multipurpose event venue,” retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to the Rotary Club of Amarillo to pitch the idea to Rotarians. He said at the time that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and it deserved to have a Major League-affiliated team playing ball for the fans who had wanted a return to that quality of baseball.

Matney spoke from a position of deep institutional/community knowledge, given that he grew up in Amarillo, graduated from the University of Texas and then returned home to carve out a stellar career at Amarillo College.

It was evident to me then that Matney knew of which he spoke. It’s clearer to me now, seeing those attendance figures, that he was spot on declaring Amarillo to be a “baseball town.”

Good call, Amarillo voters, in re-electing City Council

To my former neighbors in Amarillo, I want to offer a bouquet and a word of praise for the wisdom they demonstrated Saturday in re-electing the five individuals who serve on their all-volunteer City Council.

They were returned for another two years in the saddle with healthy majorities, including the mayor, Ginger Nelson, who faced multiple challengers in her bid for a second term.

I say all this, of course, without casting a vote in the election. We don’t live there any longer, but I have been pleased with the progress the city has made in the two years since Nelson and her council colleagues took their seats.

Downtown’s redevelopment is continuing at a brisk pace. The Amarillo Sod Poodles are playing minor-league baseball in front of healthy crowds at Hodgetown. Yes, the city needs to fill some storefront space at the parking garage built across the street from the ballpark; I am not giving up on that venture.

What’s more, the city has thrown all in on the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine planned for its Health Sciences Center campus on the west end of the city.

Nelson, along with council members Howard Smith, Elaine Hays, Freda Powell and Eddie Sauer have sought to steady the municipal “ship of state” after a sometimes-rocky ride during the previous two years before they were elected the first time in 2017. From my vantage point, they appear to have done so.

Let us never forget: These folks get paid a “hefty” sum of $10 per public meeting, plus a reimbursement when they incur expenses while conducting city business.

They ain’t in it for the money.

My wife and I don’t get back to Amarillo — where we lived for more than two decades — very often these days. When we do, though, we enjoy seeing the change that occurs while we are away.

It looks damn good to my eyes.

Parking garage needs some paying tenants

They’re experiencing the hiccups at Amarillo City Hall, I venture to guess.

Why? Well, the city built this parking garage across the street from Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark where the Amarillo Sod Poodles play hardball. Part of the selling points the city pitched with the garage would be the plethora of businesses that would pay rent and, thus, repay the expense of building the structure in the first place.

All the storefronts are empty.

The Sod Poodles are playing before big crowds at Hodgetown. They’re winning a few, losing a few. Fans are having a good time, as far as I can tell from my vantage point in Collin County.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News: “We’ve always known that space would come on line as soon as the ballpark opened up,” Mayor Ginger Nelson said . . . “We had almost 42,000 people attend ball games in the MPEV over the course of the last week and I think it’s important for that data to establish what  great location that is.”

Am I going to push any panic buttons? Am I going to declare that the parking garage, the ballpark and the downtown revitalization effort is for the birds, that it’s a loser, that all is lost?

Hah! No way, man!

However, perhaps the marketing gurus the city has employed — and I am quite certain there is no shortage of such “experts” — can ramp up the public-relations effort to lure more businesses into that parking garage.

I will say this much about the garage, Hodgetown, the gleaming Embassy Suites hotel on Buchanan Street: Taken together, they have remade the appearance, the ambience and the “feel” of downtown Amarillo.

However, there needs to be some signs of life along the ground floor of that parking garage.

Sooner rather than later would be so very nice.

Then the hiccups will subside.

Sod Poodles, ballpark add to city’s life and future

I have repurposed this picture from my social media network and I now intend to use it to illustrate a point I think needs making.

Amarillo’s Sod Poodles, the minor-league baseball team that has opened to big crowds at Hodgetown, appear ready to lead the city where my wife and I used to live toward a new and bright future.

We have no regrets about moving away, but I damn sure wish at times I could be there to cheer the “Soddies” on.

I am hearing about a smattering of gripes from those who think the fireworks at the games are too loud. Residents are bitching about the money spent to build the ballpark and to inject new life into the downtown district.

The gripes are to be expected, I suppose. No project, regardless of its value, is deemed as picture-perfect to everyone affected directly or indirectly by it.

Sure, I live some distance away. Thus, I won’t likely hear these gripes in person; I’ll merely read about them on social media. I intend to remind those along my own social media network that the gripes are misplaced and likely misinformed.

The ballpark cost a good bit of dough: $45 million. The city spent more to condemn the Coca-Cola distribution center and relocate it to a business park near Rick Husband-Amarillo International Airport. There have been tax incentives and abatements given to businesses that have sprung up along Polk Street.

I am baffled, though, at the complaints that the city’s effort to spruce up its downtown district is misdirected.

It is not!

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Every flourishing city in America has at least one thing in common — a vibrant downtown business-and-entertainment district.

I am unable to predict whether Amarillo, Texas, will join the ranks of prosperous American cities. It remains my strong sense, though, that the city is on the way toward that future.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles’ presence in that shiny new sports venue can lead the way.

Almost time to ‘Play ball!’

AMARILLO, Texas — They used to refer to the place pictured here as the “multipurpose event venue,” aka . . . the MPEV.

It’s now gotta name. And in a little more than a day from now some guy in an umpire uniform is going to stand behind home plate and shout “Play ball!” to two minor-league baseball teams.

One of them will be the Amarillo Sod Poodles, who will open their home season in their shiny new ballpark in downtown Amarillo, just across the street from City Hall and a couple of blocks from a newly bustling Polk Street corridor.

I snapped this picture Sunday afternoon while running an errand. My wife and I came back to Amarillo for the weekend. We have to shove off Monday morning for points downstate.

I truly wish I could be parked in the stands to watch the Sod Poodles play hardball.

This is a big event for this city of 200,000 residents. It marks a huge turn around a lengthy and occasionally contentious corner toward a future that isn’t yet defined fully. I sense that it is going to be a bright one.

The Sod Poodles are affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres. They will play AA baseball, which is two steps below the Big League. The players will boast significant talent and will provide a season full of entertainment for baseball-starved fans of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

Oh, but there’s minor hurdle to clear Monday night when the ump gets the game started at Hodgetown. It involves an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game that is occurring in Minneapolis at the same time. One team is the University of Virginia; the other is Texas Tech University.

You see, Amarillo sits just a bit north of Lubbock, where Texas Tech plays its home games. On Monday night, the Red Raiders are playing for their first-ever men’s college basketball championship.

I fear that some Sod Poodles ticket holders might want to sit out the home opener to watch the Red Raiders try to make men’s basketball history.

Talk about an embarrassment in riches.

Well, to those Tech faithful who have a decision to make . . . good luck. It’s your call.

I’ll be cheering for Tech’s Red Raiders to bring home the trophy. I also will be cheering for the Sod Poodles to wow ’em at home and bring back the first of many victories in this maiden season.

Hodgetown: a fitting name

I have been known to speak disparagingly about naming structures after living humans, fearing that the person being honored might do something down the road that would embarrass himself or herself — and the community that honored them.

However, I also have been known to make exceptions, holding to the belief that the individuals honored would never do such a thing.

The picture attached to this blog post illustrates one of the exceptions I have made.

Hodgetown is where the Amarillo Sod Poodles are going to begin playing AA minor-league baseball in a few days. It also is going to be a venue for other community events in downtown Amarillo.

Its name honors a former city mayor and a business tycoon who has devoted much of his adult life to improving the community he has called home. Jerry Hodge is the honoree. I should note that he is so willing to share the spotlight with his wife, Margaret, who also is a force of nature in her own right.

I’ve known Jerry and Margaret Hodge for many years; I know Jerry Hodge better than I know Margaret. I’ve known Jerry Hodge as a hard-driving pharmaceutical company mogul who built Maxor into a worldwide concern. He had left the mayor’s office by the time I had taken up my post in early 1995 as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, but he never really has stepped completely out of public view.

He has been an outspoken advocate for the city and for the Panhandle. He and Margaret used their influence and their financial resources to lure the Amarillo Sod Poodles from their former home in San Antonio to the High Plains. They also have been big hitters in bringing the Texas Tech Pharmacy School to Amarillo — which, given the Hodges’ ties to Maxor was a no-brainer. Most recently they donated $10 million to Tech toward its planned construction of the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

So, you see, my aversion to naming structures after living human beings isn’t ironclad and all-inclusive. The Hodges have given much back to the community that has enriched them. It is only fitting that the ballpark formerly known only as the “multipurpose event venue” would carry their name over the main entrance.

I am proud to know them.

Good luck on opening night, Sod Poodles

I messed up.

I had thought I might be in Amarillo on April 8, when the city’s baseball team, the Sod Poodles, open their home season at Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark in the city’s downtown district.

Oops. Not so. We’re going to be on the road that day en route to points south and east hauling our recreational vehicle.

So the Sod Poodles are going to have to win their home opener without me in the stands.

Damn!

But the season will start, I presume weather permitting. The AA baseball team has sold all 7,000 seated tickets for its initial home game. The pre-game publicity seems to have worked. The city is fired up; indeed, the entire Panhandle must be ready to cheer after they toss out the first pitch.

I wish I could be there. It won’t happen. Maybe later this year we can find our way back to Amarillo while the Sod Poodles are in the middle of an extended home stand.

Please know that this former Amarillo resident remains committed to the success of the team and to the future of the city’s central business — and entertainment! — district.

Play ball!

Amarillo Sod Poodles: We’re No. 1?

This bit of news simply knocks me out.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, which is about to begin playing AA hardball, has been named the top team nickname in all of minor-league baseball.

The Sod Poodles beat out the El Paso Chihuahuas by a couple of percentage points in a vote taken by Fox Sports: MLB.

Is this the real deal? Is this poll legit, or does it assume credence merely because it gives the home team some positive karma?

I don’t know. I do think believe it’s kind of cool that a name that was greeted initially in the city by across-the-board scorn has won this particular honor.

I saw the names of the other teams being considered. I liked the Lansing Lug Nuts and the Hartford Yard Goats, too.

But I am one who has gone through a change of heart regarding the Sod Poodles name. I hated it at first, then grew to embrace it.

Now it appears that others like it, too.

Unless Amarillo’s baseball fans have stuffed the ballot box. Whatever . . . the Sod Poodles are No. 1!

‘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!