Tag Archives: MPEV

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.”

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.

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.

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!

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.

Sod Poodles: The name grows on me

I have to make an admission: The name of Amarillo’s new AA baseball team has grown on me.

Yes, even more than it did before the city’s minor-league baseball team had actually chosen the name “Sod Poodles.”

I find myself saying it out loud with hardly a hint of self-consciousness. I saw a story today in the online version of the Amarillo Globe-News that the Sod Poodles had unveiled the team bus, which they’ll take as they travel from city to city to play baseball in the Texas League.

Certainly, the name had a steep hill to climb when it emerged on a list of five finalist name under consideration. My initial reaction to Sod Poodles was “Huh? What the hell is that? What are Sod Poodles, for crying out loud?”

We learned that Sod Poodles supposedly is an Old West term to describe prairie dogs. I have yet to hear anyone say they knew that.

But . . . the name is growing on me. It becomes the team’s identity around the Texas League.

I’m pretty sure baseball fans in all the cities in the league are going to be, um, talking about the Sod Poodles. I just hope they do so with no more than a smile on their faces.

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.