Tag Archives: Hodgetown

Will this action rile ’em up?

For the nearly 18 years that I worked for the Amarillo Globe-News, I learned something about the population of the city where my wife and I lived during all that time … and then some.

It took a whole lot to rile folks up enough to take strong political action against local government.

That brings me to my point: Will the city council’s decision to pile on $260 million in debt to build a new civic center and relocate City Hall be enough to fire up the masses?

I don’t live there any longer, so I don’t have a dog in that particular fight. Thus, I’ll reserve judgment on what I believe my friends who remain there will do.

Amarillo voters cast ballots en masse during the November 2020 election in rejecting a bond issue to build a new civic center. It was roughly a 60-40% “no” vote. The council, though, decided to go after something called “anticipation notes” totaling $260 million. The debt will boost the municipal tax rate about 59% over a period of time.

If you own, say, a $250,000 home in Amarillo, the tax bite will be substantial.

I’ve already implored Mayor Ginger Nelson and City Manager Jared Miller to get ahead of this matter. Explain the thinking behind what appears to the untrained eye to be a slap in voters’ faces. I am casually acquainted with Nelson; I don’t know Miller. I cannot predict what they are thinking or pondering.

If they do not explain themselves, though, there might be enough latent frustration in the city to spur some sort of political uprising. Perhaps it will come in the form of a recall election. Or perhaps it will occur at the next citywide municipal election when a slate of candidates could run against the current council and, well, give ’em the boot.

It happened just a few years ago when some residents disliked the push to build the downtown baseball park now known as Hodgetown. That tempest turned out to be all for naught. The park rose up and they’re filling the stands most nights at Hodgetown with fans cheering for the Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team.

This dust-up won’t dissipate anytime soon.

Just remember that voters throughout the land are angry at government at all levels for reasons that at times make no sense. Raising people’s property taxes, though, over their expressed desire against it seems to be cause for some turmoil.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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

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

Ready for baseball

OK, let me be clear about something. My baseball-loving days are behind me. I don’t follow the Grand Old Game with nearly the fervor I did as a youngster.

However, I am kinda getting ready for teams to report for spring training. I say that as we’re still enduring a winter blast in North Texas and as I read about the chilled bones among my many friends in the Texas Panhandle.

My many friends who are devotees of the Amarillo Sod Poodles no doubt are waiting, too, for the first pitch of the season. I don’t blame ’em. Not one single bit.

The Sod Poodles were unable to defend their Double A league pennant last season, having been shelved for the 2020 season by the COVID-19 virus. No worries this year. I’ll cheer for them from afar. I hope to get back to Amarillo one day next season to see a game at Hodgetown. Or … I might yell for the Soddies when they venture to nearby Frisco to play the Roughriders.

But … that will occur in due course.

The Big League season will commence, too. I have one favorite player. Albert Pujols wants to play one more season. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer finished last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. No word if he’s returning or if he’ll shop himself around for a final fling with someone else.

Still, the football season is almost over; they’re going to play that big game soon in LA. I cannot say I am all that dialed into the pro basketball season, nor with the college hoops players.

Baseball is still out there, waiting to commence. Bring it!

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.

Soddies have firm grip on fans

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Amarillo’s Central League baseball team, the Sod Poodles, are struggling a bit on the field this year. They are in last place in their division.

But … there’s some good news to report on the team that won the Texas League pennant in their first year of existence in 2019.

The fans are still flocking to Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark that sits along Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo. How do I know that, given I now live in Princeton, a suburb of Dallas?

I get the Sunday Dallas Morning News each week. I went out this morning to pick it up off my driveway. I opened the sports page and turned to the Central League box scores. I saw that the Sod Poodles had lost a game Saturday night at home to the Frisco Roughriders. However, they played before a packed house at Hodgetown.

This is good news on at least one important level. It tells me that the Sod Squad — a social media group — isn’t just a gaggle of fair-weather fans who cheer the Sod Poodles on only when they win. They’re with ’em through thick and thin. Let’s face it, they’ve hit a “thin” patch this season after sitting out all of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I remain proud of the baseball community in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before relocating to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, a vocal proponent of bringing minor-league ball back to Amarillo, once referred to his hometown as a “baseball city.”

That means they’re in it for the long haul with the team that many folks fought hard to bring to the High Plains.

What tastes best at the ballpark?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone who belongs to a social media group to which I also belong has asked what well might be the most, um, silliest question ever posed.

She wants to know “What’s the best thing to eat at the stadium?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this question posed on Facebook. The query comes from a member of the Amarillo Sod Poodles fan club.

I am going to presume something implied in the question. I will presume that “stadium” refers to the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play baseball in Amarillo.

My answer was unequivocal. I said, “hot dog.” I should have put a few exclamation points behind it.

I mean, I can think of nothing that tastes better at a ballpark during a baseball game than a hot dog smothered in mustard. I believe the late talk show host Mike Douglas once said that a hot dog at a baseball game was equal to “a filet mignon.”

Man, he was so right.

I am not going to make fun of the question or the questioner. It just boggles my noggin that “hot dogs at the ballpark” isn’t known universally as among the best eatin’ ever.

Soddie fans get good news

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So help me I thought I could hear some wild cheers coming from Amarillo when news came from federal medical experts about the mask and social-distancing mandate.

The cheers would have come from fans of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s minor league baseball team that opens its home season next week at Hodgetown.

Why the cheers? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed the mask and social distance mandate for those who are fully vaccinated against the COVID pandemic.

That means, if I get this right, that Hodgetown can be filled to the max with fans who don’t need to sit six feet apart from each other.

I am happy for the fans who get to go to the ballpark to cheer the Soddies on. I hope they exercise at least a modicum of caution. How? They ought to wear their masks, even if they are fully vaccinated against the killer virus.

I wish everyone in Amarillo the best as we all take these baby steps toward what we used to think was a “normal life.” As for the Sod Poodles’ fans, they now get a chance to show the Central League — where the Soddies play their hardball — how rock-solid baseball fans act when they get the chance to cheer for the home team.

Soddies’ home opener approaches

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — If only we could stay for another, oh, two weeks.

We cannot. Why the wishful thought? I would love to sit in the stands when the Amarillo Sod Poodles begin their home season in the newly aligned Central League, a Double A baseball organization.

Our agenda takes us away. My sense, though, as we sit so close to Hodgetown is that the Soddies’ baseball faithful are chomping at their proverbial bit to sit in the ballpark and cheer their hometown team on to victory.

I’ll be with y’all in spirit.

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.