Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

Herring rumbles persist

I keep hearing the rumbles from up yonder on the Texas Caprock about a landmark structure in downtown Amarillo.

It’s the Herring Hotel building. I need to add the term “building” because it hasn’t been an actual hotel since the 1970s. It has been rotting for decades.

Along comes a firm that is trying to market it to investors. One of my spies in Amarillo tells me the firm specializes in historic hotel structures. It is working, my snitch tells me, on the Le Meridian in Fort Worth. The theme of whatever happens to the Herring will be to honor the heritage of the region.

OK. Let’s see. That would be cattle, railroads, oil and natural gas exploration. Let’s throw in medical research and development, along with nuclear weapon assembly and disassembly, and — oh, yes! — with aircraft manufacturing and assembly.

That’s a varied history, don’t you think?

The Herring used to be the place to see and to be seen. It was the site of extravagant parties and was a gathering place for the rich, famous and those who aspired to be, um, rich and famous. These days it’s a place where homeless people seek shelter from the frigid Panhandle winter.

I want life to return to the Herring. The city has turned several important corners in its efforts to revive its downtown district. It has restored old buildings (turning two of them into hotels), built a baseball park, welcomed a glitzy new hotel near City Hall.

I am not going to predict that the Herring site is going to turn into shiny new jewel that towers over the north end of Amarillo’s downtown district. However, the rumbling just won’t stop. It leads me hope there’s something to what I suspect might be about to occur.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My heart fluttered … but wait!

This morning brought a bit of a surprise that I thought initially might mean a huge announcement involving a downtown Amarillo, Texas landmark-turned-community eyesore.

It appears my hopes are a good bit premature.

I refer to the Herring Hotel, the long-abandoned structure on the northern end of the downtown district.

My preliminary snooping this morning revealed a website;

Herring Hotel – Amarillo Investment (herringhotelproject.com)

It appears to be the creation of an investment firm that is looking for people to sink money into rehabilitating the Herring Hotel site. The site has lots of pictures of the structure as well as photos of other downtown hotel projects that have succeeded in other communities.

Does any of this signal the pending rebirth of the once-grand hotel? Not necessarily. Then again, lightning could strike.

I also reached out this morning to Bob Goodrich, who has owned the site for many decades. He pays the tax bill every year on it and has been doing what he can to entice someone — anyone! — to buy it from him. On at least two occasions over the years I have known Goodrich, he has told me of a pending sale only to see it fall apart.

I cannot speak passionately enough about how I want to see the building revived and brought back to life. It stands vacant and, truth be told, time has not been entirely kind to it.

Here’s the good news, though, for those of us who want a brighter future for the Herring: The Barfield Building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street — which was actually uglier than the Herring — has returned to the world of functionality. It is now a boutique hotel. I haven’t seen it yet in its newfound glory; maybe one day soon.

Meantime, I will continue to send good vibes and karma to the Herring in the hope we hear of an announcement soon.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Play ball … in Amarillo!

Hot diggedy, doggie! They’re going to play hardball in these United States of America. My friends up yonder in Amarillo are a happy bunch of folks, as their beloved Sod Poodles are commencing another season playing Double-A baseball.

The Sod Poodles are affiliated with the National League’s Arizona Diamondbacks. They won the Texas League pennant in their first season since moving to Amarillo in 2019 from San Antonio. The COVID pandemic wiped out the 2020 season; the team resumed play this past year, but finished out of the running for a second-straight pennant.

Now we have begun the 2022 season. Hodgetown, the shiny baseball park in downtown Amarillo, will be bustling once again with fans cheering and chanting their support for the Sod Poodles.

Once again, I will join my friends who will populate the ballpark watching the team play baseball.

Amarillo has proved itself to be a baseball community, given its support for the Soddies. The city response to this franchise has been gratifying to watch.

Play ball, Sod Poodles! I am rooting for you.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hotel signals a potentially shiny future for city

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was unable to attend the dedication of a new hotel in downtown Amarillo, given that I now live about 360 miles southeast of the city.

The opening of the Barfield Hotel, though, has been on my radar for some time, dating back to my days as a journalist covering downtown Amarillo’s rebirth, revival and its renaissance.

The city has crossed what looks to me — even at some distance — like an important threshold.

The Barfield sat vacant for more than 30 years. It was a rotten hulk of a structure. Homeless people would sleep on the ground floor, freezing during winter nights. Then through a series of ownership changes, some fits and starts and a hiccup or two along the way, the city managed to cobble together a development package that resulted in the opening of what they call a “boutique hotel.”

Marriott Corp. is the lead company in this deal. I haven’t yet seen the newly revived Barfield building. I hope to get back there soon to lay eyes on the structure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street.

Why is this an important event? Because it signals to me that the city’s downtown rebirth is continuing. The Barfield is just the latest in a series of triumphs that businesses and the city have scored along the way.

Hodgetown still welcomes fans flocking to the ballpark to cheer for the Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball team; the Embassy Suites hotel is up and running nearby; various storefronts have opened along Polk Street; the city is offering some additional entertainment venues for residents and visitors to enjoy.  Downtown hasn’t become Nirvana. That parking garage downtown is still lacking sufficient business activity to pay for itself, from I have been able to discern.

Still, downtown Amarillo, as near as I can tell, bears little resemblance to the moribund district I discovered when my wife and I moved there in early 1995.

Is the city done? Has the work been completed? Oh, I doubt it strongly. City Hall might be relocated. The Civic Center is slated to get some major work done. They’re building a new courts building to serve Potter County downtown. Oh, and then there’s the Herring Hotel building … another rotting structure that cries out for some tender loving care.

All in all, I am happy to see the progress being made in a downtown district where I used to work and which I once lamented about its future. I worry far less these days about the future of the city. It’s looking brighter all the time.

How do you measure success?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I wrote an item nearly four years ago that projected good, even great, things for the city where I used to live.

My wife and I plan to return there soon on a brief stopover on our way to the Pacific Ocean. We will be hauling our RV behind our big ol’ pickup. I intend to take a quick look around Amarillo, Texas, just to see if my projection holds up.

I think it will. I certainly hope that is the case.

The blog I posted referred specifically to what was called the “MPEV,” which became an acronym for “multipurpose event venue.” The MPEV, when completed, took on the name of Hodgetown, which is in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge, who possesses one of the city’s deepest pockets, not to mention an abiding love of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

When it’s built, MPEV will benefit entire city | High Plains Blogger

Hodge and many others worked hard to lure a AA baseball team to Amarillo. The community honored him by putting his name on the site known formerly as the MPEV.

The city continues to undergo a major facelift in its downtown district, or so I have been told. They’re going to open the Barfield Building — presumably soon — as a boutique hotel. Those of us who used to see the rotting hulk of a structure regularly are amazed at its transformation.

Interstates 40 and 27 are in the midst of major expansion and improvement. They’re installing a new and improved version of Loop 335 along the city’s western boundary.

So, yes, the city is trekking toward a future that remains a bit unclear. I do believe it will emerge from all this makeover a better place. It will be a more livable community … not that it was unlivable when my wife and I called it home.

That baseball team, the Sod Poodles, will open its 2021 season very soon after sitting out 2020 because of that damn COVID pandemic.

I intend to report back to you what I see upon our return to the Caprock.

Getting set to play ball

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have many friends in Amarillo, Texas, where we lived for two decades before relocating southeast to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I join my friends — and baseball fans — as they prepare to start cheering for their beloved Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball team.

The Sod Poodles open their 2021 season next Tuesday in Tulsa, which if you think about it for a second is a most appropriate place to commence your second season in existence.

You see, the Sod Poodles came into being in time for the 2019 season and then they won the Texas League title. Where did they do that? In Tulsa, where they defeated the defending champs on their own field. The COVID pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, leaving the Sod Poodles to wait an extra season to defend their league title.

To be fair, the Texas League is now called the Central League. So the Sod Poodles won’t be defending precisely their pennant.

I am happy for my friends up yonder that they’ll now be able to return to the ballpark — aka Hodgetown — to cheer for their Double AA team.

The Sod Poodles’ home season opens May 18 when Midland rolls into town to play six games in a row at Hodgetown.

I have been cheering for the Sod Poodles from some distance. I realize that I no longer am able to attend games at Hodgetown.  Indeed, the park didn’t open until after we had departed the Caprock. That hasn’t dulled my interest in all the good things that have occurred in Amarillo since our departure.

The Sod Poodles’ initial-season success is just one of the things we’ve been cheering from afar.

With that, I will enjoy looking at the standings each day to see how the team from my former city of residence performs. I wish them well. I wish the fans — and our many friends — well, too, as cheer on the home team.

Old hotel site coming back to life?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of my sons occasionally serves as my eyes and ears in Amarillo, Texas, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before we moved to the Metroplex.

He posted something today that piques my interest greatly: Well, I passed by the old Ambassador Hotel site today and noticed a banner for some construction and remodeling company on the fence. Could it be that someone is finally going to resurrect that place? About time!

Texas Panhandle residents might be interested in this little bit of news. You see, the Ambassador Hotel once was the place to see and be seen. It was that place when my wife and I arrived in Amarillo back in early 1995. It was located on Interstate 40 and served as a way station for motorists traveling through the city, not to mention for artists who performed in Amarillo or just those artists who were passing through. It served as a meeting place for conventions.

It closed its doors a few years ago after going through some changes in names and ownership. It has been laying fallow ever since.

Now, according to my watchdog son, someone has posted some signage on the property, preparing to resurrect the structure.

This is a good thing for the city. Yes, there has been an enormous hotel construction boom along the I-40 corridor for many years. None of the hotels, as near as I have been able to see, has provided the kind of “full service” that was available at The Ambassador.

With all the commercial and entertainment activity that has sprung up downtown, it appears our former city of residence is getting new life pumped into an old structure that once was the place to go.

Who knows? It might retrieve some of its old glory.

Sod Poodles to play ball?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This message ought to be directed to the couple of Amarillo soreheads who have chastised me for commenting on the city’s minor league baseball team because I no longer live in the Texas Panhandle.

My strong hope is that the Amarillo Sod Poodles will play ball this spring and summer. My stronger hope is to be able to watch the Sod Poodles play hardball, although it is not likely I’ll be able to do so at Hodgetown.

I won’t give up on the notion of attending a Sod Poodles game at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. The greater likelihood will be that I will watch ’em and yell for ’em while sitting in the Frisco Roughriders park, which is a whole lot closer to our home in Princeton.

I had intended to attend a Roughriders game vs. the Soddies in 2020. Then the pandemic wiped out the Texas League season. The Sod Poodles couldn’t defend the league title they won in their initial season in 2019.

A new season well might commence in a few months. I am awaiting the shout to “play ball!”

We have friends who attend ballgames regularly … when they’re playing ball. If we get an invitation to join them when the Sod Poodles come to the Metroplex, we’ll accept.

We might not wait for the invitation. I truly am looking forward to watching the team that has created all the buzz in the Texas Panhandle.

‘Trash,’ you say? Why, I never …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I feel the need to share a message I received from someone in Amarillo, Texas, who apparently believes I shouldn’t comment on matters relating to the city I once called home.

I won’t tell you his name, since he sent the message to me privately. I responded privately as well, telling him he was full of feces … except that I used a more descriptive term that means the same thing.

He wrote me this message: Your writings about the Sod Poodles is (sic) trash. You don’t live here so you can stop writing about stuff here. I figured by the way you look you would be a Biden fan.

Well, excuse me, buster!

I have taken to  writing about the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new Double-A minor league baseball team because (a) I believe the team brings a lot of pizzazz to the city and (b) the city has invested a lot of actual and emotional capital in reviving its downtown district and the Sod Poodles are a big part of that revival.

I am not sure what my correspondent has read that would anger him so much. It’s not as though I have been trashing the Sod Poodles. On the contrary I’ve been cheering them on every step of the way. I applauded the team for winning the Texas League title in 2019 in the Sod Poodles’ first season ever. Granted, they weren’t an expansion team; they relocated to Amarillo after vacating San Antonio, so the team was an established entity in the Texas League.

Moreover, I have cheered the construction of Hodgetown, the Soddies’ new ballpark that was erected downtown. If I have one concern about the project it has been the absence of any businesses buying retail space in the parking garage the city built next to Hodgetown. The park itself is a thing of beauty. Granted, I haven’t yet attended a ballgame there, but I have seen it up close on visits to Amarillo. Hodgetown is a beaut, man!

I am not sure what my correspondent’s assessment of my political leaning has to do with anything. I guess he was just looking for something else to sling at me. Whatever.

My goal is to continue to comment on matters relating to Amarillo. I still have a member of my family living there. My wife and I spent many years there and grew to love the community.

That qualifies me as someone who is fit to comment on matters that I deem appropriate. So … there.

What’s next for Civic Center?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I guess there’s just no pleasing some folks.

My former neighbors in Amarillo griped about the alleged lack of attention the city was giving to its Civic Center while it was plotting the construction of the ballpark that would be named Hodgetown.

Then when they get a chance to approve a $275 million bond issue to, um, enhance the Civic Center and help the city attract conventions and top-tier entertainment events … what do they do? They vote it down!

Hmm. I guess the size of the tax bill attached to Prop A got to them. They must not want to spend public money on public venues to improve public entertainment and business activities.

Go figure, man.

Amarillo long has boasted one of Texas’s lowest municipal tax rates. I guess for now it’s going to stay that way.

Meanwhile, the Civic Center still needs improvement.

Who in the name of civic responsibility is going to pay for it?