Tag Archives: MPEV

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.

Here’s an endorsement: Re-elect Ginger Nelson

I might be climbing out on that proverbial limb. Then again, maybe I am not.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has announced she is running for a second term. I wish I could vote for her. I cannot, because I no longer live in Amarillo, my city of residence for 23 years.

However, I can use my voice — as “heard” through this blog — to officially endorse her bid for re-election. So, I will.

Amarillo needs to return Mayor Nelson to the center chair on the five-member Amarillo City Council.

I am glad her “campaign announcement” on Wednesday turned out to be code for a re-election effort. The nebulous language contained in a campaign “announcement” could have meant something quite different.

Yes, the city’s momentum is taking it forward. Mayor Nelson inherited a post that has helped push the city forward. Her two predecessors, Paul Harpole and Debra McCartt, got the wagon moving. Nelson has done well in her first term as mayor to keep the wagon between the lanes and out of the ditch.

She ran in 2017 on a number of campaign promises. Chief among them, as is usually the case, is economic growth. The city’s growth has been tangible, visible and is demonstrably beneficial.

Nelson wants a safe city. Her re-election campaign announcement speech included talk about her efforts to improve public safety. Police Chief Ed Drain has reinvigorated the city’s community policing program and for that he and the mayor and the council deserve high praise.

The city is working well. It’s being rebuilt from stem to stern. Downtown is in the midst of its major makeover. So are highways running through the city (thanks to the work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation). And of course we have the street repair.

The city is on the move. The mayor is a significant player in the city’s movement. It’s going in the right direction.

Re-elect Ginger Nelson.

Run again, Mme. Mayor . . . run again!

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has scheduled what has been called a “campaign announcement” Wednesday morning.

Hmm. What will she do? I haven’t a clue. For that matter, I barely know Mayor Nelson. I’ve shaken her hand. I’ve had some conversation with her. This all occurred when she was running for mayor in 2017.

She won the mayor’s race that year, joining an entirely new Amarillo City Council that took office that year. She is one of three women to serve on the five-member council, giving the city it’s first ever female majority on its governing body. Nelson is the second woman ever elected mayor of Amarillo; Debra McCartt was the first.

I want her to run again, even though I cannot vote for her. All I can do from a distance now that I’ve moved away is suggest that she needs to be re-elected. She needs to keep her hand on the municipal till as it steers toward what I perceive to be a bright — if still unknown — future.

The city’s new downtown ballpark is under construction; its new AA baseball team has a goofy, but oddly charming, name; the team will play start playing hardball in April 2019. More change is occurring downtown. The city’s streets — seemingly damn near all of ’em — are under repair, rebuilding and renovation.

Progress can be painful.

Hey, it just occurs to me I might be getting ahead of myself. Maybe the mayor will announce Wednesday she’s had all the fun she can stand after just a single two-year term.

I doubt that will happen. I hope Ginger Nelson runs again.

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 name will catch on eventually … honest, it will

I am quite sure the Amarillo minor-league baseball community is trying to digest the name of the city’s new team.

The team ownership announced that the Class AA team will be called the Sod Poodles, which reportedly is an old-fashioned term meant to describe prairie dogs. Whatever they say, I guess I’ll have to go along with it.

As dubious as I am of the alleged origin of Sod Poodles, I do like the name.

It grew on me quickly. My first reaction to the name that appeared on the list of “finalists” under consideration was pure,, unadulterated hatred. However, my conversion from name hater to name lover was rapid.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Then I heard about the ownership’s logic in selecting this group of names. They sought quirky names. They want the community to talk about them. They want the rest of the Texas League to talk about them, too.

From what I hear, Amarillo’s baseball fans are talking all right. It isn’t all goodness and light. There’s some grumbling from what I have heard.

Hey, pay attention. These kinds of reactions have this way of passing. I know how it goes. I’ve lived through some of this already.

My hometown of Portland, Ore., was awarded a National Basketball Association franchise. The team began play in the fall of 1970. They had to come up with a name. I was finishing my hitch in the Army and I submitted the name Lumberjacks to the powers that be. Hey, Portland is at the hub of the nation’s timber industry. Therefore, Lumberjacks made perfect sense.

The team owners didn’t think so. Neither did the rest of the community. They came up with Trail Blazers as the name for the new NBA team. You could hear the shrieks up and down the Pacific Coast.

Then it dawned on a lot of us: Trail Blazers pays tribute to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, who “blazed the trail” in the early 19th century from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, trekking along the Columbia River to their destination. The team name honors the exploits of Lewis & Clark. It’s perfect!

I believe Sod Poodles will become part of Amarillo’s identity. Eventually.

It might take some time, but I am keeper of the faith in good things happening for the city I used to call home.

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.