Tag Archives: MPEV

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.

This is the best we can do with team naming game?

They did it, by golly!

The folks charged with selecting a name for Amarillo’s new baseball team have managed to come up with five “loser” finalists.

Wow! Man, I cannot believe they went five for five, or perhaps it’s zero for five.

The finalist names are — in alphabetical order, the Amarillo: Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky, Long Haulers and Sod Poodles.

Awesome, right? I didn’t think so.

I should have submitted a name or three for them to consider, then gotten my friends to endorse my selections.

Whatever happened to old-fashioned animal names that speak to the Texas Panhandle’s history and heritage? Bison, Coyotes, Roadrunners. They all fit, right? Of course they do.

Then we have Roughnecks, Hot Shots, Ranchers.

This one wouldn’t pass the “political correctness test,” but I also like the name Comanches.

We’re going to get one of five names, apparently, submitted for consideration for the new AA minor-league baseball team that starts playing ball in the spring of 2019.

For the record: I don’t like any of them.

Surely we can do better than what we’ve seen so far.

Polk Street being ‘born again’?

I don’t want to attach some overblown significance to this, but a TV news report I watched last night suggests that downtown Amarillo’s former “main drag” is being reborn into something quite different, and equally cool.

We returned this week to Amarillo for a brief visit before returning to our new home in the Dallas area. I learned about the opening of some new business establishments along Polk Street.

Back in The Day, Polk Street served dual functions for the city’s residents, or so I learned. One was that it was a retail center: lots of shopping galore. Two was that it served as a place for kids to “cruise” at night. You know what I’m talking about: Guys with cool cars would take them along the street and show them off to girls.  Yes? Yes!

The retail went away. The cruising activity has moved to other locations.

What’s happening along Polk these days, though, is a rebirth of places for folks to enjoy a meal, a beverage or two. Restaurants are opening up in new locations. One of them, Crush, is relocating across the street.

Buchanan Street has that fancy hotel across the street from the Civic Center. And, oh yes, the ballpark is under construction across from City Hall.

I won’t equate this rebirth to any sort of religious event, as in being “born again” to the Christian faith. However, I am struck by the astonishing acceleration of progress toward that new life downtown after so many years of stagnation. There were lots of discussion about moving forward. But … nothing happened.

Now, with relative suddenness, that discussion has turned into action. They’re tearing up old storefronts, refitting them into something new. They’re turning historic buildings (such as the Firestone, the Fisk, Levine’s and Woolworth) into venues that bear little resemblance to their original uses.

My head is spinning.

I need to get away — and then return — more frequently to see this progress continue to take shape.

I like what I am seeing.

Downtown’s future looking brighter

Beth Duke is on a singular mission, which is to improve the economic condition of Amarillo’s downtown district. It makes sense, given her day job as executive director of Amarillo Center City.

This past weekend, Center City conducted a tour of historic structures scattered through the downtown region. The aim of the tour is to give prospective business owners an opportunity to see what the future might hold for the city — and for them.

I happen to support Center City’s mission and I have noted before that the organization has deployed the perfect person — that would be Beth Duke — to carry the mission forward. Duke was born and reared in Amarillo and spent a lengthy career covering the city while working as a reporter and editor at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Another reason for supporting Center City and its effort to juice up downtown lies in the ripple benefit that is sure to accrue across the city over time.

Study after municipal study reveals a common denominator among cities: All of the communities that enjoy economic and cultural vitality also are home to vibrant downtown districts.

Amarillo is on that path. You see it constantly evolving into something few of us can foresee at this moment. The downtown ballpark is under construction; downtown has welcomed two new first-class hotels; new retail businesses are springing up along Polk Street — and existing businesses are moving into shiny new digs.

There’s some positive rumbling about prospects for some rotting structures, namely the Barfield Building and the Ruhl Building.

It’s not all goodness and light. That 31-story skyscraper once known as the Chase Tower is undergoing change, although commercial real estate brokers report a jacked-up interest among folks who want to relocate to it. But then we hear that the Amarillo Club — which occupies the top two floors of the tower — is closing.

Will the historic building tour accelerate downtown’s rebirth? That remains to be seen, although the Globe-News reports some highly positive impact: “Tours like this are great, otherwise I don’t think people would realize what has been done to these old buildings,” said Laura Lane, who took part in the tour. “I am so glad to see historical buildings in downtown Amarillo get refurbished and reused and reinvented. To be able to walk to work, with restaurants everywhere now, this just enlivens the downtown area.”

As the city’s downtown evolution progresses, I feel confident enough to declare that once Amarillo’s work is done — whenever that occurs — the entire city is going to reap the reward.

HOT to pick up MPEV tab

I got my first good look today at the big hole they’ve dug out in front of Amarillo City Hall.

It is, as they say, what it is: a big hole full of heavy equipment moving lots of dirt around. I noticed some wood scaffolding on the north side of the hole.

It’s going to take shape, probably quite soon, as the new multipurpose event venue, which in April 2019 will become the home field for the AA minor league baseball team that will relocate to Amarillo from San Antonio.

Yes, there’s still some grumbling — although it’s quite muted these days — about the MPEV. I’m OK with the muted aspect. The soreheads seem to want to believe erroneously that the MPEV is going to cost them a lot of property tax money.

It won’t..

The money is coming from visitors to the city as well as from lease fees the ballclub owners — the Elmore Group — are going to pay the city to use the MPEV.

My wife and I went out this evening to watch “Sister Act” at Amarillo Little Theater. On our way home, we scooted along Interstate 40 where I couldn’t help but notice the hotels along the route. What did they have in common? All their parking lots were full of motor vehicles.

What does that mean to me? It means the vehicles carried people to those hotels, where those people paid to spend the night. Part of that lodging cost gets siphoned off for the Hotel Occupancy Tax the city collects.

And, yes, a portion of that HOT goes to paying for the MPEV.

It makes me wonder about the timing of the initiative to build the MPEV and the hotel construction boom that erupted along I-40. I’m quite sure it’s more than mere coincidence, which makes me figure that someone — or several folks and interests — knew what they were doing all along.

Let the MPEV proceed … and let the visitors to our city pay for it.

Downtown Amarillo’s progress marches on

There was some discussion this week at Amarillo City Council’s regular meeting about the city’s downtown march.

A woman asked the city to suspend work on the multipurpose event venue until residents could vote on whether it should continue.

I have no idea whether she represents a larger bloc of residents, but I was impressed to hear City Manager Jared Miller’s response. It was that the city did put the issue to a non-binding referendum in November 2015. Voters were asked whether they endorsed the MPEV’s construction. A majority of them answered in the affirmative. Miller also noted that the city was not obligated to put the issue to a vote, but it did as a show of good faith.

Work then began this past year. It will be done by February 2019. By April of that year, a AA baseball team will start playing hardball in the MPEV.

I would like to offer this nugget of, well, opinion about the MPEV.

It’s a vital component of the city’s stated desire to improve its downtown district. I get that the November 2015 referendum called for construction of a $32 million ballpark, but that the cost has escalated some to $45.5 million. There well might be some latent resentment among residents — many of them soreheads — who dislike that its cost has escalated.

The city doesn’t need to put the brakes on a project that’s already been discussed, debated, dissected and, finally, determined to be part of the city’s dynamic future.

The public has had plenty of opportunities to comment on it. Whether the public has responded to those opportunities sufficiently is a matter of ongoing discussion.

I remain steadfast in my belief that the MPEV is going to trigger a tremendous revival of interest in our downtown district. When that occurs, I also remain dedicated to the notion that all of Amarillo will flourish perhaps in a manner that we cannot yet foresee.

I want to join my good friend David Horsley, a former Center City board member, who told the council: “We had great goals and thought we were pushing the ball down the field a little bit … But after I rotated off after about six years, we didn’t have much to show for our work. And it was kind of depressing. Downtown is the heart of the city and the heart was barely beating. Skip forward 28 years and now look at what’s happening downtown. I know you all can’t take credit for what’s happening, but I think there is a lot of wonderful stuff happening downtown and maybe you do get a tiny bit of credit for it. And I thank you for being leaders and helping good stuff happen downtown that people are going to want to be involved in.”

Amen, pal.