Tag Archives: Tri-State Fairgrounds

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.”

Make more room for Tri-State Fair? Sure!

A fellow Amarillo resident has come up with a perfectly solid reason for tearing down the rathole also known as Potter County Memorial Stadium.

His name is Larry Hamilton, who wrote in a letter to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News: Our Tri-State Fair in Amarillo is a really nice-sized fair. However, with our ever growing size and population, why not tear the old stadium down and increase the size of our fair, midway, eateries – anything that will eventually need more room.

Why not, indeed?

I am not a fair kind of guy. I’ve been to the Tri-State Fair a few times over many years. While it doesn’t appeal to me, I understand the appeal it has for others.

The old ballpark — which sits next to the fairgrounds — is no longer a suitable venue for anything. Potter County isn’t going to spend any money to rehabilitate it.

Larry Hamilton has offered a suitable and plausible reason for tearing it down. Let the Tri-State Fair board expand its annual event, giving it more space for those who like these events to enjoy.

Amarillo poised to become a baseball city again

It is a virtual lead-pipe cinch that I won’t be living in Amarillo when they toss the first pitch at the city’s new downtown ballpark.

The city’s new AA minor-league baseball team will commence its initial season in April 2019 in a shiny new 4,500-seat venue.

The journey toward that end has been fraught with some difficulty, some apprehension and, yes, a bit of controversy. It’s going to come to fruition, which makes me happy for the city my wife and will depart in due course.

I will acknowledge that I was not a regular attendee at the independent league games played by teams that had various names. I did attend a few games at the dump once known as the Dilla Villa, in honor of the Amarillo Dillas who were playing baseball there when my wife and I arrived here in early 1995.

They morphed into another team, which morphed again. Then the outfit that ran that team decided to split its home season between Amarillo and Grand Prairie. That lasted one year. Now they’re gone.

The ballpark, also known as the multipurpose event venue, was conceived by local officials and business leaders while all that nonsense was occurring at the rat hole that passes for a ballpark at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. They had a number of public hearings. They put the issue to a non-binding citywide referendum in November 2015 — and it passed.

The price tag for the referendum was pegged at $32 million. It grew to $45 million. They knocked down the old Coca-Cola distribution center, and relocated that business elsewhere.

Has it been smooth sailing? Not at all. I had my own doubts about whether the Local Government Corp. could pull this deal off. The City Council support for the LGC’s work seemed a bit tenuous. Then this past spring, voters decided to elect a new council.

Let us not forget that the general managing contractor, Wallace Bajjali, vaporized along the way in a dispute between the firm’s principal owners. It didn’t deter the progress toward landing the affiliated AA franchise.

The Elmore Group, which owns the San Antonio Missions, is now going to relocate that team to Amarillo; San Antonio will get a AAA team that will relocate to the Alamo City from Colorado Springs.

Meantime, life is good for diehard baseball fans in Amarillo. They’re going to get to watch a professionally run baseball team play ball in a sparkling new venue.

I wish them all well. This journey has given me a mild case of heartburn along the way. It’s all good now as they prepare to break ground on the ballpark.

I intend to watch it grow and will be cheering from afar when they toss out that first pitch.

AA baseball may come to Amarillo … and that’s a bad thing?

baseball

I’ll admit to sitting in the peanut gallery these days while events swirl around Amarillo City Hall.

Thus, I am not privy to many of the details to all that is happening in our city in transition.

The news out of San Antonio, though, has piqued my curiosity about the future of Amarillo’s pending downtown project. I refer, of course, to the multipurpose event venue, aka the MPEV and/or The Ballpark.

I understand the San Antonio Missions are departing that city, which is going to welcome a little better grade of minor-league baseball. The Missions play AA ball; San Antonio is recruiting a AAA team to relocate to South Texas.

Now, as I’ve read in the local media, Amarillo is the only place the Missions are considering as a new home. Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole has said something about the “stars lining up” to lure the Missions here.

The prize being dangled in front of that franchise? The prospect of the team playing in a shiny new ballpark downtown, next to City Hall, across the street from a new convention hotel, and just blocks from Polk Street, which is being reconfigured into an urban entertainment district.

The price tag on the MPEV/ballpark has escalated past the $32 million price tag hung on it when it went to the voters this past May in a non-binding citywide referendum. Voters said “yes” to the MPEV and plans are proceeding to develop a firm design and cost for the project.

Yet I keep reading on social media and hearing some gripes around town about the deal.

I’m trying to understand why the lure of a minor-league baseball franchise affiliated with a Major League Baseball organization is somehow a bad thing for Amarillo.

The Thunderheads — the independent team formerly based exclusively in Amarillo — is going to play half of its home games this season here and in Grand Prairie. The games they’ll play in Amarillo will take place at the rat hole/dump formerly known as the Dilla Villa next to the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

The way I see it, if the city can maneuver itself into building a first-class baseball venue downtown and then link it to an arrangement with a AA franchise that will play some good old-fashioned hardball, then it looks to me as though the city has scored a significant victory.

So, again I ask: Why is that a bad thing?

 

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.

 

How to sell the event venue …

Amarillo downtown

My friend and I had a brief, but animated, discussion early this afternoon about the upcoming vote on Amarillo’s proposed multipurpose event venue.

We are on the same page. We both support what the city has proposed. We both think it will work wonders for the city’s economic well-being.

Three of the five members of our City Council disagree with us. They seem to want it to fail. They decided this week to put the issue to a citywide vote.

But as we visited today at her place of employment, I found myself getting worked up.

My fear is this: The voters are going to say “no” to the MPEV because they don’t understand what it can do; they are “afraid,” I told my friend, of trying something new, of thinking beyond their comfort zone, of looking at the immense possibilities that lie ahead.

My hope is this: Those who support the MPEV and believe in the city’s project — as I do — will organize a grassroots effort designed to lay out in detail how to market a sports and entertainment venue that can become the draw its supporters claim it will become.

The MPEV can be far more than a “ballpark.” Yes, we have this independent minor-league baseball team — now called the Thunderheads — playing in a rat hole of a stadium at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. MPEV critics keep reminding us that the Thunderheads cannot fill that place up, even with the generous ticket giveaways they offer.

Gosh, I wonder why. Oh yeah. The place stinks. It’s been patched up with the construction equivalent of Band-Aids. It really and truly needs to be torn down. With a gleaming new baseball venue in the heart of downtown Amarillo, I hope the razing of the dump formerly known as the “Dilla Villa” can — and will — reduce it to so much trash.

As for the MPEV, there needs to be some seriously creative marketing brought into play.

Can we not find some creativity in this community that is capable of putting together a 21st-century promotional campaign designed to attract events to a venue that its supporters hope will help reshape the downtown district?

I remain squarely committed to this venue. I’m not a marketing guy. I merely believe in thinking big. It’s time we thought bigger than we have in this city.

What’s more, let’s not be coy about what a defeat of the MPEV will mean to the rest of the downtown revival project. The downtown convention hotel won’t be built and without the hotel, there goes the need for the proposed parking garage.

Sure, Xcel Energy has begun work on its new office tower. The rest of it, the work that’s supposed to attract more people in search of something to do after hours? It’ll be gone.

And do we really and truly want to start over after we’ve gone so far already?