Tag Archives: MPEV

It’s time to name that baseball team

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season, which commences in April 2019, will welcome a new team nickname to the region.

The Elmore Group, owners of the team that will play hardball at the multipurpose event venue under construction in downtown Amarillo, has opened up the team-naming process to the fans.

I welcome this challenge. I likely won’t submit a suggested name, but I’ll watch from the peanut gallery as the team ownership ponders what to call this new team that will move to Amarillo from San Antonio.

The team now plays under the name of “Missions.” It’s a AA ballclub affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres. San Antonio will get a AAA franchise that will relocate there from Colorado Springs.

Hmm. Think of that for a moment. Maybe the new Amarillo team will have a sort of religious name, given that “Padres” can be construed as having a religious meaning, just as “Missions” is so interpreted.

Well, whatever. The last time I lived in a community that went through a pro franchise team-naming exercise, the name that came forward was initially greeted with derision. That was in 1970. The NBA awarded my hometown of Portland a pro basketball franchise. They had to name the new team. I preferred “Lumberjacks,” given the huge impact the timber industry has on the Pacific Northwest.

Instead, they came up with “Trail Blazers,” which as I remember it was meant to honor Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led that “trail blazing” expedition from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Still, I didn’t like the name initially — but it grew on me and the rest of the community.

Thus, I caution baseball fans in Amarillo to be patient with whatever name comes forward for the new team that will play ball at the MPEV. The name might grow on you, even if you don’t like it at first.

And, come to think of it … the ballpark needs a name, too.

MPEV gets a break from Mother Nature

Amarillo’s newest sports and entertainment venue is getting a big break from a most unpredictable source.

That would be Mother Nature.

Yes, the elements that can — and have — bedevil major construction projects are working to assist the contractor working to build Amarillo’s downtown multipurpose event venue, aka “The Ballpark.”

I heard a couple of weeks ago from an Amarillo Economic Development Corporation official that the MPEV already is a “week ahead of schedule,” which made me wonder at the time, “How is he able to measure such a thing so early in a project of this size and magnitude?”

Whatever. The crews have dug out a huge hole in the ground across the street from City Hall. Site preparation is proceeding rapidly. I suspect that quite soon we’re going to start seeing crews laying down the components that will go into the MPEV’s foundation. After that, the framing will commence.

And on and on it will go.

The MPEV is projected to cost around $45 million. It will seat roughly 4,500 seats for baseball, which will begin there in April 2019 when the AA minor-league baseball team moves from San Antonio to Amarillo.

I don’t want to spook the project, given the good meteorological fortune that has foreshadowed it to date, but we do have the rest of the spring and summer coming up and then the winter of 2018-19. As dry and relatively calm as the winter of 2017-18 turned out to be, there can be no way to predict this far out what the next winter will bring. We all know the quips and jokes about the fickle Amarillo and Texas Panhandle weather, yes?

My faith in what the MPEV will bring to downtown Amarillo remains strong. It will play a huge role — perhaps the major role — in reshaping the city’s central business and entertainment district.

To date, I am gratified and hopeful that the construction crews will be able to proceed quickly and, of course, efficiently as it moved toward completion of this important project.

Gratitude and hope, though, cannot predict what Mother Nature has in store. As inclined as I am to pray for rain to help our beleaguered farmers and ranchers, I am torn because I don’t want the MPEV stalled because of torrents.

Downtown health: key to cities’ well-being

Gary Jennings returned to Amarillo years ago from the Texas Gulf Coast and then plunged into a project he knew would consume much of his time and energy.

It has been worth all of it. And then some.

He has turned a one-time dilapidated structure on the edges of downtown Amarillo into a showpiece. He owns the Firestone Building at the corner of 10th Avenue and Tyler Street. It used to be a tire shop. It has been turned into a “niche” complex of apartments, with retail space on the ground floor.

My point in bringing Jennings up with this blog post is to relay something he told the Rotary Club of Amarillo this past week. He said that a city’s health depends largely — if not exclusively — on the health of its downtown district. He ticked off a few successful American cities and asked, rhetorically, what they had in common. The common denominator was a vibrant downtown district.

To which I wanted to shout from my seat in the crowd, “Amen, brother!” I held my tongue. Of course.

I have enjoyed watching from the peanut gallery over the past five-plus years as Amarillo’s march toward the future has progressed nicely, despite a hiccup or two along the way. I had a more-or-less front-row seat at the Amarillo Globe-News until August 2012. Then I quit the newspaper and have been viewing this progress since then from the cheap seats.

The ballpark construction is under way; an Amarillo Economic Development Corporation official told the Rotary Club that it’s “a week ahead of schedule.” I won’t quibble over how he knows such a thing this early in the project that is supposed to conclude in time for baseball in April 2019.

So much has happened downtown. It gives me hope that Amarillo is moving forward at a steady — if not accelerating — pace toward a future few of us saw more than two decades ago. I arrived here in early 1995 and, so help me, I saw few tangible signs of forward movement in the city’s downtown district.

That has changed. The hustle, bustle and sizzle along Polk Street — the one-time “main drag” — provides plenty of evidence of forward movement.

Jennings’ list of forward-thinking American communities didn’t include one that I know quite well. It’s my hometown of Portland, Ore., where I believe a once-young and innovative mayor — the since-disgraced Neil Goldschmidt — set the gold standard for urban planning.

Goldschmidt disappeared after being caught up in a hideous sex scandal a few years back. In his day, however, when he was a 30-something Portland mayor, he set his sights on redeveloping a once-moribund downtown district.

Goldschmidt decided in the early 1970s to veto a freeway project through the southeast quadrant of Portland. He said the city would instead direct its resources — meaning public money — into developing a viable mass transit system. It would create a bus system that served the downtown district. His goal? To turn downtown Portland into a destination.

Goldschmidt’s strategy worked. My hometown’s central business district thrives in a way I couldn’t possibly imagine when I was growing up there.

I cite this example as proof of what Gary Jennings said this past week. He is correct in asserting that a city’s health depends heavily on the health of its downtown district.

We don’t yet know where Amarillo, Texas is heading after the last project is finished … whenever that occurs. I remain confident in the extreme that it will be in a different and far better place than when the work began.

What? Barfield is coming back to life? Maybe?

Well, shut my mouth and call me … whatever you want.

I had written not long ago about my doubts over the future of the long-abandoned Barfield Building in downtown Amarillo, Texas. It stands at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street. It’s a rotting hulk of its former glory.

http://highplainsblogger.com/?s=Barfield+Building

This morning I awoke to read a story in the Amarillo Globe-News that declares that the Barfield Building is en route to a revival. It will become a luxury hotel, developed by the Marriott Corporation.

Then came the qualifier. “Maybe,” according to the AGN. Maybe it will happen. Maybe … it won’t.

I’m going to pull for the “maybe it will.”

Plans call for the Barfield to morph into a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. It’s an upscale concept. As the Globe-News reports: “We want to bring the Barfield back to life and tell its story,” said Mark Brooks, of Brooks Hospitality Consulting. “We want to create something that speaks to Amarilloans. Hopefully, it’s pretty exciting.”

Brooks told the AGN’s Jeff Farris that the interior demolition at the Barfield is nearly done. Next up will be acquiring building permits from the city.

The Barfield has been down similar roads before. It’s been through several ownership changes. There have been reports of progress made to breathe new life into the building. They have been premature. Nothing has occurred there. As the AGN noted, the city came within a whisker of condemning the building.

This fellow Brooks, though, now is delivering some potentially good news about the Barfield. The category of hotel suggests it will be unique. Marriott says that none of its Autograph Collection structures are duplicates of others.

So, with this news, I am anxious to see if downtown Amarillo — which already has seen tremendous change in the past decade — is about to take another huge step forward. The multipurpose event venue is under construction. The Embassy Suites hotel has opened across the street from the Civic Center; Marriott opened another hotel prior to that at the historic Fisk Building. Construction crews are hard at work on new eateries and other business establishments along Polk Street. West Texas A&M University is set to open its downtown Amarillo campus.

And now? The Barfield Building? Is it possibly coming back to life? Might there be signs of activity in that dilapidated structure?

Maybe.

Happy Trails, Part 83

A dear friend has told me that “Happiness is Amarillo, like Lubbock, in your rear view mirror.”

Perhaps. But not entirely.

You see, I am going to miss several aspects of living in the Texas Panhandle. One of them involves the progress my wife and I witness almost daily as we make our way around the city.

Amarillo residents know all too well about the intense highway construction that’s under way along Interstates 40 and 27. They’re rebuilding bridges over I-40. State crews are hard at work along Loop 335 on the southern edge of the city.

I am going to miss watching those projects proceed.

Downtown Amarillo is undergoing an extreme makeover, highlighted by construction — which has just begun — on the multipurpose event venue. The city has made great strides toward the future in the past couple of years, but there remain many miles yet to travel.

I will miss watching downtown continue its march forward.

Amarillo in reality bears little resemblance to the community my wife and I saw when we arrived in early 1995. It has grown up a good bit over the past 23 years. I am not referring just to the population growth.

The city’s airport has been modernized. The stretch along virtually the entire length of I-40 through Amarillo has witnessed a boom in hotel construction; a month barely went by when we didn’t see more hotel construction sites opening up — and more are going up even as I write this brief blog post.

The city has done well during our time here and we have enjoyed watching it evolve.

I will miss watching that evolution continue.

Here’s the thing, though: We’ll be able to return to see the results.

AMM leaves worthy legacy: MPEV

I have been tough on a “movement” that formed in Amarillo to promote a downtown revival plan that includes a multipurpose event venue.

The Amarillo Millennial Movement, which in reality was a one-woman band, went all out for approval of the MPEV in a non-binding city referendum. The vote took place in November 2015; voters endorsed construction of the MPEV.

What happened next has been the source of my criticism. The young woman who headed up AMM, Meghan Riddlespurger, then moved to Fort Worth. She had argued that the MPEV — aka “the Ballpark” — would entice young residents to stay “home,” to enjoy the fruits that the MPEV would bear. Well, it wasn’t enough to persuade her to stay. With her departure, AMM disappeared.

That’s the bad news. I have some good news to report.

Construction on the MPEV has begun. The Local Government Corporation has signed a lease agreement with Elmore Group, owners of the AA minor-league baseball team that’s going to play ball in Amarillo. They’ll toss the first pitch in April 2019.

My point about the good news is that AMM can take pride in the legacy it has left in its wake.

The MPEV is going to change the face, shape and personality of the city’s downtown district once it’s completed. Indeed, downtown’s appearance already has morphed into something my wife and I barely recognize these days. It looks a damn sight better than it did when my wife and I arrived here in early 1995.

We had lunch today in a new restaurant that has opened in the old Woolworth Building at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Polk Street. The Levine Building makeover is well under way. Across the street from where we ate today is another eatery that’s taking shape.

Downtown is full of hustle, bustle and buzz as crews continue their work on myriad construction projects.

Oh, yeah. The MPEV site prep is well under way across the street from City Hall.

Even though the irony that AMM would vanish after its founder pitched for retaining younger residents’ interest in their hometown is too rich to pass up, I don’t want to leave it at that.

AMM’s founder, young Meghan Riddlespurger, can look at her former home with pride at what is happening at this moment.

I am one resident who is quite proud of the progress that Amarillo has made — and is continuing to make.

Hoping these students stay involved

I am privileged to have a number of sharp, insightful friends and acquaintances on my social media networks.

One of them, a retired Amarillo physician, took note of a blog item I posted about Amarillo students who are joining a nationwide “March For Our Lives” in response to gun violence in our schools.

He wrote this: Let’s hope that this generation of young adults can sustain a movement better than the millennials have, who turned out to be just another “me” generation with no real impact. Yes, AMM, I mean you.

“AMM” stands for the Amarillo Millennial Movement.

OK, what’s the relevance here? AMM came forward in the summer and fall of 2015 to pitch in favor of the city’s multipurpose event venue. AMM wanted it built because it would help entice millennials to remain in Amarillo. The city had an election in November 2015 and the MPEV was approved. Construction on the project has begun and in April 2019, the city will welcome a new AA minor-league baseball franchise that will play in a brand new ballpark.

What happened to AMM? It vaporized. It’s nowhere to be found. Well, that’s not quite true. Its founder, a young woman who carried the water on behalf of AMM, moved to Fort Worth shortly after the November election. Ironic, don’t you think? She implored millennial residents to remain at home if the city approved the MPEV; voters said “yes” to the MPEV, but AMM’s primary spokeswoman left town.

The March For Our Lives movement has many more members getting involved. On March 24, Amarillo-area students are going to march from Ellwood Park to the Potter County Courthouse to call attention the scourge of school-related gun violence. The movement came about as a result of the Parkland, Fla., massacre that killed 17 people, most of whom were students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

I have a strongly held suspicion that March For Our Lives — given the life-and-death stakes that are involved — will be far more than a mere flash in the pan.

What will happen to the Barfield Building? Anything?

I have taken great pleasure in cheering on the progress I’ve witnessed in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

Abandoned buildings have been revived. New structures are being erected. Businesses are coming back into the district. They’ve broken ground on a new minor-league baseball park. Downtown is home to two first-class hotels.

Then we have the Barfield Building.

I drive by it a couple times a week and so help me, it seems as though every time I see that rotting hulk of a structure it looks more dilapidated than it does the previous time I looked at it.

I have lost track of the ownership changes that have occurred there. It’s been vacant for as long as my wife and I have lived in Amarillo; that’s more than 23 years.

An investor once started gutting the ground floor. Then the work stopped. The owner boarded up the floor. Nothing has happened since.

A Dallas-based investor took over the building with a promise to do something with it, or to it.

Then a consortium of local investors took it over.

That’s the last I heard of anything.

This past summer there was some reporting about tax incentives to turn the Barfield into a hotel/apartment structure. The incentives were to total $17 million.

The Amarillo Globe-News reported it as a possibility.

That was then. Nothing has happened.

I cannot help but think that a wrecking ball might be in the building’s future. The old Barfield Building keeps taking on the appearance of a structure that isn’t worth saving.

MPEV job faces tight deadline

They’re supposed to start rolling the heavy equipment soon onto the site of Amarillo’s next big project.

The contractor will bring in the front-end loaders, the backhoes, the dump trucks … all of it.

Then they’ll get to work on the multipurpose event venue, which celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking this week on the now-vacant lot across the street from City Hall.

Once they get started on the job, they’re going to face some immediate pressure. They’ve got to get the job done in about a year.

You see, they’re going to welcome a minor-league baseball team to Amarillo. The plan is to toss out the first pitch for the start of a AA season that begins in April 2019.

The MPEV will cost about $45 million. It will be paid with hotel occupancy tax and lease money provided by the Elmore Group, owners of the team that is relocating here from San Antonio.

I remain confident they’ll get the job done. My confidence, though, must carry a caveat.

It’s the weather, man.

We’re in a prolonged dry spell in the Texas Panhandle. Not only have not had any snow this winter, we haven’t had any measurable precipitation of any kind.

Can we depend on the weather cooperating with us? Hah! Not a chance, dude! As the saying goes: If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes …

The weather is likely to become a major determinant on whether the MPEV gets built on time.

I don’t intend to wish bad things with this blog post. I merely intend to forewarn us all that the weather quite possibly can toss a major roadblock in front of the construction crews that will have little room for error — manmade or nature made — as they proceed to get this first-class venue built.

Let’s remember, too, that even though this winter has been bone-dry — so far! — we cannot guarantee what the next winter will bring to the High Plains of Texas.

And, oh yes, we have the unpredictable and occasionally explosive spring season awaiting us just ahead.

Time won’t wait for the work to get done.

Here’s hoping for the very best.

MPEV ground broken; city bolts toward brighter future

A crowd of about 200 or 300 folks came today to a vacant lot across from Amarillo City Hall. There was some back-slapping, congratulatory wishes and plenty of smiles to be seen.

And for a very good reason.

They broke ground today on a $45 million entertainment venue — aka The Ballpark — that is likely to help lead downtown Amarillo toward a future that few of us thought was possible.

I do believe the future is a bright one.

The multipurpose event venue has been called a “catalyst” that would spark downtown Amarillo’s revival and rebirth. They lit that catalyst this afternoon. May the spark now light an economic fire.

City officials welcomed executives from the Elmore Group, owners of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball at the MPEV when it’s done, no later than April 2019. Elmore execs declared their intention to make Amarillo the nation’s top minor-league baseball city.

Given the hope and optimism I witnessed today under a bright winter sun, I have a hunch many of those in attendance today believe that high-minded goal is well within reach. I hope it comes true.

I am acutely aware that a big crowd at a ceremonial groundbreaking doesn’t guarantee success. Construction has to proceed quickly. It should be done at or under budget.

The MPEV will need to open with lots of people sitting in its seats to watch the baseball team that is moving here from San Antonio. Many high-profile supporters of the MPEV — and I can cite retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney as one of them — have contended that Amarillo is a “good baseball town.” We will determine the legitimacy of that claim in due course.

The catalyst also is slated to bring more business into the downtown district. It will help fill a shiny new hotel and a parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. It also might become a good promotional tool for the city to lure more convention business, which will bring presumably deep-pocketed visitors to Amarillo.

That’s all in the immediate future for a city that has embarked on a serious makeover of its central business district.

Today, they broke ground on the next big step on the city’s journey toward a brighter future.

Now … let’s get busy.