Tag Archives: Hodgetown

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.

Almost time to ‘Play ball!’

AMARILLO, Texas — They used to refer to the place pictured here as the “multipurpose event venue,” aka . . . the MPEV.

It’s now gotta name. And in a little more than a day from now some guy in an umpire uniform is going to stand behind home plate and shout “Play ball!” to two minor-league baseball teams.

One of them will be the Amarillo Sod Poodles, who will open their home season in their shiny new ballpark in downtown Amarillo, just across the street from City Hall and a couple of blocks from a newly bustling Polk Street corridor.

I snapped this picture Sunday afternoon while running an errand. My wife and I came back to Amarillo for the weekend. We have to shove off Monday morning for points downstate.

I truly wish I could be parked in the stands to watch the Sod Poodles play hardball.

This is a big event for this city of 200,000 residents. It marks a huge turn around a lengthy and occasionally contentious corner toward a future that isn’t yet defined fully. I sense that it is going to be a bright one.

The Sod Poodles are affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres. They will play AA baseball, which is two steps below the Big League. The players will boast significant talent and will provide a season full of entertainment for baseball-starved fans of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

Oh, but there’s minor hurdle to clear Monday night when the ump gets the game started at Hodgetown. It involves an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game that is occurring in Minneapolis at the same time. One team is the University of Virginia; the other is Texas Tech University.

You see, Amarillo sits just a bit north of Lubbock, where Texas Tech plays its home games. On Monday night, the Red Raiders are playing for their first-ever men’s college basketball championship.

I fear that some Sod Poodles ticket holders might want to sit out the home opener to watch the Red Raiders try to make men’s basketball history.

Talk about an embarrassment in riches.

Well, to those Tech faithful who have a decision to make . . . good luck. It’s your call.

I’ll be cheering for Tech’s Red Raiders to bring home the trophy. I also will be cheering for the Sod Poodles to wow ’em at home and bring back the first of many victories in this maiden season.

Hodgetown: a fitting name

I have been known to speak disparagingly about naming structures after living humans, fearing that the person being honored might do something down the road that would embarrass himself or herself — and the community that honored them.

However, I also have been known to make exceptions, holding to the belief that the individuals honored would never do such a thing.

The picture attached to this blog post illustrates one of the exceptions I have made.

Hodgetown is where the Amarillo Sod Poodles are going to begin playing AA minor-league baseball in a few days. It also is going to be a venue for other community events in downtown Amarillo.

Its name honors a former city mayor and a business tycoon who has devoted much of his adult life to improving the community he has called home. Jerry Hodge is the honoree. I should note that he is so willing to share the spotlight with his wife, Margaret, who also is a force of nature in her own right.

I’ve known Jerry and Margaret Hodge for many years; I know Jerry Hodge better than I know Margaret. I’ve known Jerry Hodge as a hard-driving pharmaceutical company mogul who built Maxor into a worldwide concern. He had left the mayor’s office by the time I had taken up my post in early 1995 as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, but he never really has stepped completely out of public view.

He has been an outspoken advocate for the city and for the Panhandle. He and Margaret used their influence and their financial resources to lure the Amarillo Sod Poodles from their former home in San Antonio to the High Plains. They also have been big hitters in bringing the Texas Tech Pharmacy School to Amarillo — which, given the Hodges’ ties to Maxor was a no-brainer. Most recently they donated $10 million to Tech toward its planned construction of the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

So, you see, my aversion to naming structures after living human beings isn’t ironclad and all-inclusive. The Hodges have given much back to the community that has enriched them. It is only fitting that the ballpark formerly known only as the “multipurpose event venue” would carry their name over the main entrance.

I am proud to know them.

Good luck on opening night, Sod Poodles

I messed up.

I had thought I might be in Amarillo on April 8, when the city’s baseball team, the Sod Poodles, open their home season at Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark in the city’s downtown district.

Oops. Not so. We’re going to be on the road that day en route to points south and east hauling our recreational vehicle.

So the Sod Poodles are going to have to win their home opener without me in the stands.

Damn!

But the season will start, I presume weather permitting. The AA baseball team has sold all 7,000 seated tickets for its initial home game. The pre-game publicity seems to have worked. The city is fired up; indeed, the entire Panhandle must be ready to cheer after they toss out the first pitch.

I wish I could be there. It won’t happen. Maybe later this year we can find our way back to Amarillo while the Sod Poodles are in the middle of an extended home stand.

Please know that this former Amarillo resident remains committed to the success of the team and to the future of the city’s central business — and entertainment! — district.

Play ball!

Amarillo Sod Poodles: We’re No. 1?

This bit of news simply knocks me out.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, which is about to begin playing AA hardball, has been named the top team nickname in all of minor-league baseball.

The Sod Poodles beat out the El Paso Chihuahuas by a couple of percentage points in a vote taken by Fox Sports: MLB.

Is this the real deal? Is this poll legit, or does it assume credence merely because it gives the home team some positive karma?

I don’t know. I do think believe it’s kind of cool that a name that was greeted initially in the city by across-the-board scorn has won this particular honor.

I saw the names of the other teams being considered. I liked the Lansing Lug Nuts and the Hartford Yard Goats, too.

But I am one who has gone through a change of heart regarding the Sod Poodles name. I hated it at first, then grew to embrace it.

Now it appears that others like it, too.

Unless Amarillo’s baseball fans have stuffed the ballot box. Whatever . . . the Sod Poodles are No. 1!

‘Ruckus’ a better mascot than that . . . other thing

I have to hand it to the Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball organization.

They’ve come up with a mascot for the AA baseball team that seems oh, so very appropriate for what they’ve decided to call the team.

The mascot’s name is “Ruckus” and it looks like, well, a “Sod Poodle,” which the community is told is an old-time name for prairie dog. So, Ruckus looks a bit like a prairie dog.

Compare “Ruckus” with what the previous baseball organization rolled out about eight years ago. It was meant to symbolize a “Sox.” It looked, well, kinda weird. And perhaps vaguely obscene.

It was unidentifiable.

See what I mean?

So, the Sod Poodles are going to play before a sold out house at Hodgetown on April 8. It’s their home opener in the Texas League. They’re playing in a shiny new ballpark in downtown Amarillo, and not in that rat hole dump at the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

At least “Ruckus” looks like what he symbolizes.

It’s a start!

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.