Tag Archives: Paul Matney

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.

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.”

AISD should have expanded search . . . here’s why

I feel the need to comment on the selection of a new Amarillo school superintendent. Then I’ll move on.

I’ve stated already that I do not know the new Amarillo public school superintendent, Doug Loomis. I wish him well and hope he succeeds. Given that I live some distance away from Amarillo, I have no particular axe to grind. I do have some thoughts on the process that brought Loomis to the top education administrator job in Amarillo.

The Amarillo Independent School District board conducted an in-house search. It did not look beyond the staff already on hand. I believe it should have done that very thing. My reason why has nothing to do with Loomis. He well might be the greatest superintendent AISD will ever employ.

However, a narrow search, one that doesn’t cast a wide net, does not give board members a chance to have assess the local applicants against those who might have a different view on how to implement educational policy. Loomis emerged as the sole finalist for the job vacated when Dana West resigned suddenly this past year.

Does the board know with absolute certainty that Loomis is the best it could have found to compete for this post?

When I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, we tackled similar issues involving the hiring of chief administrators: at City Hall and at Amarillo College.

  • John Ward resigned as city manager after being on the job for 20 years. The City Council chose to look inward only. It elevated Alan Taylor to the manager’s job. We insisted the council look beyond the city. Taylor took our position as a criticism of him personally, even though we said expressly that it bore no reflection on him. We merely wanted the city to expand its search to include as broad a field of applicants as possible.

Taylor eventually retired and moved away. He did a fine job, although he continued to harbor ill feelings toward me personally and the Globe-News. I am sorry he felt that way.

  • Steve Jones became ill and eventually succumbed to cancer, leaving the Amarillo College Board of Regents with the task of looking for a new president. The man who served as acting president, Paul Matney, was elevated to the permanent post. The Globe-News argued yet again that the AC board should look nationally. Regents decided to stick with Matney. Our rationale for the AC search was the same as it was for City Hall.

It pained me greatly to make that argument, given my immense professional respect and personal affection for Paul Matney. He turned out to be an outstanding AC president and retired with his head held high and the gratitude for a job well done. To his great credit, Matney did not take our editorial position as a criticism of the job he would do.

AISD has some issues to tackle. My hope is that the new superintendent is up to the job. If only the AISD board had decided to expand its search far and wide.

Amarillo has a ‘walking problem’

A retired college administrator manages routinely to put pressing public matters into their proper perspective.

Take it away, former Amarillo College President Paul Matney.

Matney is an avid supporter of the downtown Amarillo ballpark/multipurpose event venue. He spoke eloquently and passionately about it leading up to the November 2015 non-binding referendum in which voters approved its construction.

He took note Wednesday morning of the $45 million ballpark’s construction, which is scheduled to commence early in 2018, while discussing some issues at a focus group session involving potential activities for older Amarillo residents.

Matney knows a thing or two about parking, given his many years affiliated with AC, where parking — particularly at its main campus on Washington Street — has been a chronic issue for students over many years.

He spoke of public concerns stated about downtown parking once the MPEV is built. He took particular note of the 750-space parking garage that’s being completed on Buchanan Street across from where the MPEV will be erected. He also noted that downtown Amarillo has more than 2,000 parking spaces within three blocks of the MPEV. He didn’t mention the on-site parking that will be available once the MPEV is built … so I’ll do it here.

Matney then quoted one of his AC presidential predecessors, who once said, according to Matney, that “Amarillo doesn’t have a parking problem; it has a walking problem.”

Bingo! Ba-da-boom!

You got it, Mr. President!

The MPEV will continue to have its critics. I understand their concern, even though I fear they aren’t looking at the bigger picture. They look at potholes in the street wonder why the city won’t fix them when it is devoting so much attention to the MPEV and other downtown projects. It’s kind of an apples-oranges deal.

I do believe, though, that the pro-MPEV contingent of business, civic and political leaders need to keep Paul Matney’s phone number on their speed-dial. When questions arise about the MPEV, just call him and ask him for his take on them.

He’ll set anyone straight.

Social media turn ‘friends’ into friends

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Social media, particularly Facebook, have this way of turning acquaintances into something more significant than that.

If we’re not actual friends in the manner I prefer to use the term, then at least we are able to communicate on a little higher level than just exchanging banal pleasantries and talking about the weather.

Take for example what happened today.

I ran into someone with whom I’ve been acquainted on Facebook, although we knew each other very casually in an earlier part of our lives. We shook hands.

“I enjoy reading your blogs on Facebook,” he said. “I don’t comment on political things because I know I won’t change anyone’s mind, so what’s the point?” he continued.

“But I guess you’ve found out that our community is full of comedians,” he said. We both chuckled at that.

I told him I don’t write these blogs to change people’s minds. I write because it’s therapy for me.

Some people climb aboard motorcycles for what one biker-friend calls “throttle therapy.” Others go to the gym and pound on punching bags for another form of therapy.

Writing is my bag, man.

I did it for nearly four decades back when I was working for a living. My full-time writing gig ended abruptly — and unhappily, for me at least — nearly four years ago.

I’m still at it. And gladly so.

Which brings me to my actual point.

This blog of mine isn’t intended to change anyone’s mind. I get that everyone’s bias informs their own world view. I also get that the media already are full of talking heads, “contributors” and “political strategists” who fill the air with their opinions.

The only time in recent memory I’ve heard of anyone mind being changed on an issue involved the Amarillo municipal election this past year. Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to our Rotary club and made a pitch for the multipurpose event venue. A friend of mine, a hard-nosed Amarillo businesswoman, told me later Matney’s presentation changed her mind from a “no” vote to a “yes” vote on the MPEV.

I wrote about that event:

A mind has changed on the MPEV

No one has come to me ever and said, “You know, John, that blog you wrote about what a bozo Donald Trump is really got me thinking. I’m going to vote for anyone now other than that guy based on what you wrote.”

I do not expect that to happen. Ever!

That’s not why I write this stuff. I do it because I like doing it. It comes fairly easily … now that I’ve been writing many times daily since my full-time job ended.

I appreciated my Facebook “friend” saying what he did today. It means a lot that he gets something out of these musings of mine.

But, no, I don’t expect to convert anyone.

I call myself an idealist on a lot of issues.

On this one? I’m a hard-bitten realist.

I won’t stop offering my view of the world. You can take it or leave it.

See you next time.

 

Obama fails to channel LBJ

claire

Claire McCaskill calls herself a “friend and supporter” of Barack Obama.

But the Democratic U.S. senator from Missouri has issued a candid assessment of the job her fellow Democrat has done as president of the United States.

The president’s major failing, according to McCaskill? He did not learn how to work with Congress.

The Hill reports on McCaskill’s remarks about Obama: “But one of the president’s shortcomings is that sometimes he sees the world through his eyes and doesn’t do, I think, enough work on being empathetic about how other people view things.”

McCaskill blisters president

In truth, McCaskill might be a bit behind the curve when critiquing the job the president has done.

I don’t think he’d mind my saying this, but a now-retired college administrator told me much the same thing during the president’s first term in office.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney and I were having lunch one day when Matney lamented the president’s testy relationship with congressional leaders. Matney wished that the president would employ the skill that the late President Lyndon Johnson used to great effect.

Johnson, of course, rose from the Senate to the executive branch of government, as Obama has done. LBJ served as vice president from 1961 until Nov. 22, 1963. Then he became president in the wake of tragedy.

When LBJ moved into the Oval Office, he harnessed all his legislative skill to shepherd landmark legislation through Congress. He was a master of working not just with fellow Democrats, but with Republicans.

Matney bemoaned that President Obama had not developed that kind of bipartisan rapport and it cost him dearly.

McCaskill now — near the end of Barack Obama’s presidency — echoes much of what Paul Matney said years ago. LBJ’s legacy, which was tainted for many years after he left office in 1969 by the Vietnam War, is beginning to look better all the time.

He understood that he needed the legislative branch to make government work, that he couldn’t do it all alone.

As Sen. McCaskill has noted, Barack Obama hasn’t seemed to have learned that lesson.

 

Hey, maybe Amarillo really is a baseball town

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Paul Matney seems to be a serious expert on baseball and its potential interest in his hometown.

The retired Amarillo College president hit the stump this fall to campaign for approval of a multipurpose event venue in downtown Amarillo. Part of Matney’s pitch was that Amarillo “is a baseball town.”

The MPEV received voters’ endorsement on Nov. 3 in a non-binding municipal referendum. The Amarillo City Council then ratified the results and voted unanimously to proceed with development of the MPEV.

Then, what do you think was revealed just this week?

Melissa Dailey, head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., told the Local Government Corporation that, by golly, she’s had some informal contact with a Class AA minor-league baseball franchise that might be interested in setting up an operation in Amarillo.

Dailey said she is not at liberty — yet! — to disclose the name of the franchise. She said the city is on a “short list” of communities being considered.

Hey, didn’t Paul Matney predict this might happen if voters approved the MPEV?

Yes, I believe he did.

The LGC is moving forward, per the City Council’s advice. It will report to the council regularly as it continues its work toward developing the $32 million MPEV.

And now the conversation might include a minor-league baseball outfit, with major-league connections, that could move into the MPEV once it’s built.

Who knew?

Oh yeah. Paul Matney seemed to be ahead of the curve.

 

Potter County ballpark: not worth any more effort

baseball

So … I’m visiting with a health care professional and the discussion about the topic at hand comes to an end.

The conversation then turns to the city’s effort to build a multipurpose event venue downtown — which includes the ballpark that would be the home field for a minor-league baseball team.

My acquaintance — who favors the downtown MPEV — then mentions the Potter County Memorial Stadium next to the Tri-State Fairgrounds. “I’ve heard the argument that we should pump more money into that ballpark,” he says. I shake my head and tell him, “But it’s a dump!”

He agrees, adding that the Potter County already has pumped too much money into the ballpark as it is and then he broaches a subject that few individuals seem willing to address: It’s in a depressed neighborhood that is unlikely to see any kind of revival any time soon.

What’s the point, he asks, of putting more money into that ballpark when the city hopes to build a new venue downtown?

Bingo! Presto! Enough said! Those are the thoughts that banged around my noggin at that very moment.

The Potter County-owned ballpark, in the words of retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, “at the end of its life.” The clock should be ticking on that venue. Its best days are long gone. It is held together with the proverbial equivalent of rubber bands, wire, duct tape and perhaps a staple or two.

Matney made the case all over Amarillo as he campaigned successfully on behalf of the non-binding citywide referendum that voters approved on Nov. 3. The MPEV, with its current price tag of around $32 million, will be built eventually — at least that’s my hope.

Let’s no longer discuss the Potter County Memorial Stadium as having any kind of meaningful future for the county, or the city, or any other entity.

The county has put enough money into it already.

It’s time to look to the future.

 

MPEV argument making more sense

matney

Paul Matney did not say this directly as he was touring Amarillo on behalf of a proposed multipurpose event venue, but I think I have gleaned a message from his pro-MPEV pitch.

It is that if we build a shiny new baseball park in downtown Amarillo we’re going to attract the attention of a serious, well-funded minor-league baseball franchise that can come here to run a team the right way — and not the way it’s being run these days.

I refer to the decision to combine the Amarillo Thunderheads with the Grand Prairie AirHogs and to split the 2016 baseball season between two locations, nearly 400 mile apart.

I believe I now get what the retired Amarillo College president was getting at.

Amarillo’s baseball fan base deserve better than to be treated to this clown show.

They haven’t broken any ground yet on the MPEV. The $32 million venue has been (more or less) endorsed by the Amarillo City Council, which has handed off implementing the development of the project to the Local Government Corporation.

I’m not certain how this combined franchise location thing is going to work for the owner of the Thunderheads/AirHogs. My gut tells me it’s a loser.

It well might give MPEV supporters additional grist to expedite the development of the new ballpark, to get it built, to market the city to the owner of a legitimate Class AA franchise and return serious minor-league baseball to Amarillo.

Hey, maybe this franchise combo deal can be a blessing after all.

 

Positive vs. negative in MPEV debate

amarillo MPEV

Amarillo’s campaign on the multipurpose event venue is heading for the home stretch. Early voting ends Friday.

A week from today, the polls open and those who haven’t voted early will get a chance to vote on whether to build an MPEV that includes a ballpark, a place where a minor league baseball team can play a little ball for about 50 or 60 dates annually.

Have you heard about an alternative to the ballpark if voters nix the notion? Me neither.

Which brings to the point today: The Against Crowd hasn’t delivered an alternative. It has, as near as I can tell, relied on a purely negative message.

That’s expected. An “anti-anything” campaign by definition must be negative. You don’t like something? Say “no.”

On the other side of the divide is the pro-MPEV group. The leading advocates belong to something called Vote FOR Amarillo. The very name implies a positive message.

And that message is?

Well, as its leading spokesman, retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, has stressed: The MPEV will put Amarillo on baseball’s “radar” by providing a first-rate sports venue; it will create several dozen permanent jobs and hundreds of temporary construction jobs; the bonds to pay for the $32 million construction will be retired using hotel/motel tax revenue; it will become an essential element in downtown Amarillo’s rebirth; and that rebirth will spur further economic expansion throughout the city; the MPEV could play host to a variety of activities throughout the year that have nothing to do with baseball.

That’s a positive message, yes?

Of course it is.

Those who oppose the MPEV say the Civic Center needs renovation first. How do we pay for that? With, um, public money. They contend the city shouldn’t acquire debt to build an MPEV, but don’t seem to mind acquiring such debt on the Civic Center, with a cost that will far exceed the price tag attached to the MPEV.

They keep bringing up things such as secrecy, nefarious motives, the failed master developer (who was nowhere in sight when the MPEV idea was first floated around 2006).

If only we could hear some options from those who oppose the MPEV — for whatever reason.

If there are alternatives on some hidden table, then let’s not talk among yourselves. Share them with the rest of us.

I’m planning on going with the positive message.