Tag Archives: MPEV

Sod Poodles’ season already a smashing success!

I don’t know where I’ll be when the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ initial baseball season comes to an end. They’ll either be Texas League champs or the runnerup to the Tulsa Drillers.

My wife and I are trekking across Canada, where we might be out of touch for a time … or, then again, we might be fully connected to the rest of Planet Earth.

So … I’ll just get this off my chest right now. The Sod Poodles have scored a huge success in their maiden AA minor league baseball season.

Win or lose! It doesn’t matter to me.

Sure, I’d like to see the Soddies defeat the Drillers and win the Texas League title. If they come up short, well, suffice to say the team has done quite well.

They have packed Hodgetown, the venue formerly known simply as the “multipurpose event venue,” or MPEV. The park is a gleaming addition to Amarillo’s downtown district. The rest of the downtown area is bustling with activity not seen since, oh, the days when Polk Street was the place to go on a Friday and/or Saturday night.

However, the Sod Poodles are the talk of the town. They’re the talk of the Texas League, or so I have understood. The team’s nickname is a hit with the fans in the Panhandle and with other fans throughout the Texas League.

On top of all that, the Sod Poodles played some good old-fashioned hardball.

The Soddies have set the table for a lengthy and potentially prosperous run in Amarillo.

Good job!

What happens when Sod Poodles’ season ends?

Baseball isn’t a yearlong sport. The Amarillo Sod Poodles are still playing hardball in front of healthy crowds at Hodgetown.

Eventually, though, the umps will call the final out for this season at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. There will be a playoff and I’m pretty sure the Sod Poodles will be playing in the Texas League postseason. Hey, they’ve got a great chance of winning the league pennant in their initial season on the field. Go, Soddies!

Oh, but wait. The season will end. Hodgetown will go dark for a good bit of time.

Yet I remember one of the selling points of the ballpark back when it was called the “multi-purpose event venue,” or MPEV, was that it would be a year-round place for entertainment.

I attended a few meetings where the MPEV was being pitched by fans of the project in advance of the November 2015 citywide referendum. To a person, all the proponents said the MPEV would play host to community events. There would be a flea markets, concerts, family-oriented events held on the state-of-the-art field.

I admit I haven’t kept myself up to speed on all the activities planned for Hodgetown’s post-season time. My hope is that the city, perhaps led by the Convention and Visitors Council and Center City (which is led by a force of nature, Amarillo native and a former colleague of mine Beth Duke) will be able to find plenty of activities to keep the lights turned on at Hodgetown during the time between baseball seasons.

Yes, I am aware that it gets, um, chilly in Amarillo during the depths of winter. However, autumn’s pleasure lingers right up until winter arrives — occasionally with a vengeance. Then comes the spring, albeit with its admittedly unpredictable weather.

So, let’s hope Hodgetown stays active, stays lit up and becomes the “multipurpose venue” its supporters pledged it would become.

City Council’s big-picture vision laid the groundwork

The Amarillo Sod Poodles continue to be the talk of the city where they play AA minor-league hardball.

They play before large crowds at a venue called Hodgetown. They’re getting salutes for the sound of the name and the quality of the ballpark.

To think that all of this was thought by many observers — including yours truly — to be in jeopardy in 2015.

Looking back on that time, while I was still living in Amarillo, I recall a contentious municipal election. Voters installed a new majority on the five-member City Council. At least two of those new folks spoke openly about whether building a “multipurpose event venue” was even feasible. They fought with Mayor Paul Harpole. City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit, reportedly under duress.

Still, the council approved a non-binding referendum for the ballot that fall. The issue went to a vote. City residents approved it, albeit by a narrow margin.

To its credit, the City Council honored the statement of that referendum — which it was under no obligation to do — and proceeded with the initial development of what we still referred to as the MPEV.

The rest is history. The city lured the San Antonio Missions to Amarillo; the Alamo City wasn’t left without a baseball team, as it welcomed a AAA franchise that relocated to South Texas from Colorado Springs.

Amarillo, though, turned out to be the big winner, given that it didn’t have any sort of organized baseball franchise competing here. You’ll recall that the former tenants of Potter County Memorial Stadium decided to play half of its “home games” in Grand Prairie, only to abandon Amarillo altogether.

A new City Council has taken over from the one that got elected in 2015. All five new council members took office in 2017 and were re-elected this year. They have carried the momentum from that earlier time forward, for which many of us — even though I no longer live in Amarillo — remain quite grateful.

I do hope one day to spend enough time in Amarillo to sit in the stands at Hodgetown and cheer for the Sod Poodles. First things first, though. The Sod Poodles compete in the Texas League with the Frisco Roughriders, which is just down the road from where I live these days.

I intend to cheer for the Sod Poodles even as they play against the “home team” in Frisco.

Matney was right: Amarillo is a ‘baseball town’

Paul Matney has about as much long-term, “institutional” knowledge of Amarillo, Texas, as anyone who’s lived there in the past century.

So, when the retired Amarillo College president said in 2015 that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and would consume minor-league baseball like no one’s business, we all should have been paying careful attention.

Matney became a spokesman for a campaign to win a non-binding referendum on what was called merely a “multipurpose event venue” at the time. His statements seems to be proving to be more than truthful. Matney seems to know baseball. More than that, he knows the community that now plays host to a AA minor-league baseball franchise. It is affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. They call this team the Sod Poodles.

It is playing baseball in a brand new ballpark before nearly full crowds every night the “Soddies” are at home.

What a remarkable turn of events for the city.

I am delighted beyond measure to see the city embrace this form of sports entertainment. It also is fascinating to see who suits up these days for the Sod Poodles and who, eventually, makes it to the Big Leagues … and who among those might carve out over time careers befitting of inducting into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

It won’t happen? I young man named Tony Gwynn played hardball in Amarillo for a time in the early 1980s when the city was home to an earlier affiliated team.

Gwynn is now in the Hall of Fame.

As for Matney, I admire his knowledge of the community and his courage he exhibited by declaring that “Amarillo is a baseball town.”

He appears to have been so correct.

Irony continues to provide a bit of sting

There might be a reader or two of this blog who will presume this brief post is an assault on a young woman who once lived in Amarillo, Texas.

It isn’t. Please accept the notion that I intend only to reiterate an astonishing irony.

Meghan Riddlespurger once was the front woman for what she called the “Amarillo Millennial Movement.” She fought for the voter approval of a proposed downtown Amarillo sports/entertainment venue. Her primary motivation, she said at the time, was to entice “millennials” to remain in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle after they finished their education. She wanted them to stay at home and to enjoy the fruits of the entertainment offerings that the venue would provide.

She posted this message overnight on Facebook: When you build it, they’ll come. Please support your walkable downtown development efforts and give your heart to municipal efforts because this is where a difference can be made. Just a few years ago, people said none of this could happen. And then it did. Believe in the most and fight for the best. Your city loves you! Goodnight!

It’s a lovely message. I presume Meghan returned to Amarillo to take in a baseball game at Hodgetown, which is the direct result of her efforts to help rejuvenate her hometown’s downtown district.

But she left the city not long after the November 2015 non-binding referendum victory she had sought. She now lives in Fort Worth, where I presume she is doing well. What about the “walking the walk”?

I harbor no personal animus toward this young woman. I like Meghan Riddlespurger, even though we don’t know each other well. I left the city, too, but I’m an old man who merely comments on local matters through this blog. I wasn’t invested at the level Riddlespurger was invested.

I just find the irony to be so very remarkable.

I do have to say this, though, about the young woman’s effort: It is paying off with the Sod Poodles playing before nice crowds at the ballpark and the city reaping the reward of the effort Meghan and many others put into its downtown redevelopment.

Is there another AMM in Amarillo’s future?

As I watch Amarillo, Texas, morph into something different from what it has been since the Santa Fe Railroad opened up shop on the Texas Panhandle, I am wondering about who or what will shape the city’s future.

It won’t be me. I have moved away along with my wife and our pooch. We live in the Metroplex these days, but I retain a keen interest in the city we called home for more than two decades.

My curiosity turns to the creation of a one-woman “movement” that sought to win approval of what we used to call the “multipurpose event venue,” or MPEV. You remember it, yes? It was called the Amarillo Millennial Movement.

The AMM made a bit of a splash when it jumped onto the front page of the local newspaper and got some air time on local TV stations.

AMM was the creation of one individual, Meghan Riddlespurger. I was able to shake her hand once, and we got to know each other from some distance.

She had a bit of help from others around town to get a referendum placed on the local ballot. The referendum asked residents if they supported construction of the MPEV. They said “yes.” The City Council then honored the residents’ wishes and proceeded with development of the project.

The MPEV is now called Hodgetown. It is a magnificent ballpark in downtown Amarillo. It is home to the Texas League’s Amarillo Sod Poodles, a minor-league baseball team that is playing before healthy crowds. Hodgetown recently was named the nation’s top AA ballpark; the Sod Poodles were named the best baseball team nickname in America. The city is proceeding toward its future.

Meghan Riddlespurger? She bailed long ago. After the 2015 election, she moved to Fort Worth. The AMM exists no longer.

Might there be an actual “movement” on the city’s horizon that emerges to promote the kind of thing that Riddlespurger espoused, which was to promote Gen-Xers and millennials to stay in Amarillo?

Riddlespurger had a noble goal. I am dismayed that she decided against following her own campaign theme. It was perhaps the height of irony that she would form this “movement,” talk up the virtue of staying put and helping Amarillo reap the reward … only to, um, head for a big city far away.

Whatever the case, Amarillo is moving ahead. That’s a good thing for the city and for those who are staying put.

Given that my hope springs eternal, I’ll keep hoping for an actual “millennial movement” to sprout way up yonder on the Caprock.

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.