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Arlington voters overwhelmingly support subsidizing new Rangers ballpark

A bond measure asked voters to approve $500 million in tax revenue for a new Rangers ballpark.

The Texas Rangers in November 2016 are asking Arlington voters to approve a $500 million public contribution to the the team's plans for a new ballpark, which would replace the one that opened in 1994.

Arlington voters overwhelmingly agreed to give $500 million in tax revenue to help the Texas Rangers build a replacement ballpark in the North Texas suburb the team has called home for decades, based on early returns.

About 60 percent of voters supported the measure, with most precincts reporting late Tuesday. 

"It's a landslide," said Brian Mayes, a spokesman for Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers, a political action committee that supported the bond measure.

Opponents had all but conceded once early voting results were released early in the night. 

"I can't imagine we can come back," said Warren Norred, an attorney and part of grassroots political action committee Citizens for a Better Arlington. 

See the latest results here.

The city’s political and business establishment passionately backed subsidizing the new ballpark, which they pitched as a way to keep the team in Arlington. Local leaders said ahead of Tuesday that if the measure failed, it could cost the city the existing ballpark, $77 million worth of annual economic impact and 2.5 million visitors each year. 

"The Rangers have been part of the fabric of Arlington for 40-something years," Mayes said. "The people of Arlington understand the city is a better place with the Texas Rangers." 

Citizens for a Better Arlington opposed the deal, which the group said too heavily favored the private sports franchise. The PAC argued that the team and the city had time to work out an agreement that involves a smaller public contribution since the Rangers are slated to remain in their current ballpark through 2024.

Before Election Day, the team gave voters little indication of what it would do if the measure failed. A Rangers executive told The Texas Tribune during the campaign that the organization had yet to discuss such a scenario.

Opponents to the measure fought a financially lopsided battle leading up to Tuesday’s vote. They spent less than $7,500, while supporters spent more than $1.4 million. The Rangers contributed about half of what was spent to support the measure, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Norred said a lack of money made it hard to battle supporters' messages.

"We just didn't have it," he said. 

Arlington voters agreed in the 1990s to spend public funds to subsidize construction of the Rangers’ current home, Globe Life Park. They then approved in 2004 a bond referendum to help build a new home for the Dallas Cowboys, which helped lure the football team away from nearby Irving. Public bonds for both of those venues were paid off early.

The city last year agreed to contribute up to $100 million in cash and tax abatements on a $250 million mixed-use development adjacent to both the current and potential new ballparks. Construction on Texas Live!, a partnership between the Rangers and Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, began last month.

Tuesday’s ballot measure caps the city’s contribution toward an estimated $1 billion ballpark at $500 million. The Rangers will be responsible for the rest of construction costs and will get to count ticket and admissions taxes toward their contribution.

The Rangers are also on the hook for any costs that exceeds the current $1 billion construction estimate. But if costs ultimately exceed $1.25 billion, the city must help the Rangers figure out how to drive the price tag down or identify new revenue sources or the team can walk away from the deal.

"The future is very bright for the city of Arlington right now," Mayes said. 


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