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Texas Rangers Ballpark Upgrades, Take 3

Fri February 08, 2013 - West Edition
Lori Lovely

The Texas Rangers are at it again. Another series of upgrades to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is underway.

“This is the third year of projects,” said Rob Matwick, vice president, ballpark communications. “We’re at the midpoint [of construction].”

During the off-season in 2010, a new scoreboard and 800 high-definition TVs were installed and a complete overhaul of the in-park audio and video systems was performed.

The following year, work focused on centerfield, which Matwick said was rebuilt in 4 and a half months. It cost $12.5 million and was the most extensive renovation in the history of the park, according to CEO and President Nolan Ryan.

“It was the first big physical change since 1994,” Matwick said. In fact, the Vandergriff Plaza project represents the first major structural renovation at Rangers Ballpark since the Cuervo Club was added behind the home plate section of the lower seating bowl in 2000.

Second Inning

Last year’s renovation was well-received by the fans, especially during the heat of summer, Matwick said. Many of the features were designed with them in mind, such as the new Batter’s Eye Club in centerfield, which features seating for 100 behind two-way glass. The 6,250-sq.-ft. (580 sq m) climate-controlled club has its own buffet, bar, dining area and rest rooms.

Other upgrades in 2011 included the brand-new 12,000 sq. ft. (1,115 sq m) Vandergriff Plaza, which features four new full-service concession stands and a large video board mounted on the back of the Batter’s Eye Club to provide viewing of the game.

Aluminum bleacher seats in Outfield Plaza were replaced by individual ballpark seats. Covered deck areas with open seating and tables are above the seating areas on both the left and right field sides of the Batter’s Eye Club.

A two-level, 9,152 sq. ft. (850 sq m) Rangers-themed restaurant/sports bar on the first floor of the office building behind the left-center field seats is open to the public before, during and after home games. “We have new state-of-the-art cooking facilities so we can provide more diverse, gourmet food,” Matwick said.

In the same area is Kid’s Zone, the 6,470 sq. ft. (601 sq m) interactive play area. Matwick noted that his daughter contributed ideas from her classmates for the play zone.

The visitors bullpen was reconfigured, occupying an area that used to be bleacher seating. For the first time, a majority of the seating bowl will have a view into the visitors’ bullpen. The concourse leading from behind section 3 into Vandergriff Plaza was widened to provide more efficient traffic flow.

Up at Bat

Another off-season, another renovation project. This year the work is going on behind home plate.

“We’re adding seats on the field level and expanding the dugouts,” Matwick said.

A third row of home plate seats will be added in front of the two existing rows of premium seating built for the 2009 season. The 52 new seats will bring the number of home plate seats to 148 between the two dugouts.

The wider, cushioned seats feature higher backs and have additional leg room. An added bonus is the complementary buffet in the renovated Capital One Club before every game and complementary soft drinks and snacks delivered to all seat holders.

Other amenities for the fans include extensive renovations and upgrades to the private club, two major concession stands behind home plate and two new free-standing concession stands, as well as a new retail store and concessions stands on the main concourse.

Structural work will be done in the center of the climate-controlled Capital One Club, the private home plate club, to remove several sections of steel in order to improve the view of the field.

New cooking areas, bars and dining room space will become the focal point of the center area. Permanent seating will be relocated and the number of permanent seats will be increased from 76 to 104.

Square footage also will increase — from 8,100 to 9,100 (753 to 845 sq m). The existing entrance to the Capital One Club and seating in Section 126 will be removed, giving fans entering the ballpark through the home plate gate a wide-open view of the playing field.

The existing concessions stands on the main concourse behind home plate will be renovated to create display cooking areas, similar to those in Vandergriff Plaza.

“The six new concession stands and the club space were a big success last year,” Matwick said, adding that he expects this year’s modifications to be equally popular.

Another addition he hopes will be popular is a new 2,120 sq. ft. (197 sq m) merchandise store constructed in the space where the west box office currently exists on the main concourse.

New concessions stands will be added on the south end of the new retail store and along the outer wall of the main concourse on the third base side. These locations will add points of sale and are expected to ease congestion along the main concourse on the first and third base sides.

It’s all about convenience and keeping fans connected via new technology when they’re up out of their seats. “We hope the crowds are due to the quality of play,” Matwick said, “but for season ticket holders, it’s unrealistic to expect the fans to sit in their seats for three hours. We brainstormed concepts for improvements and to drive revenue. There are interesting things to do — lots of options.”

Less Is More

The addition of the new home plate seats and permanent seats in the Capital One Club, along with the removal of seats in Section 126 as part of the renovation on the main concourse behind home plate and several other adjustments, will change the seating capacity of the ballpark from 48,194 to 48,114.

While not exactly comparable, it does follow the current trend of smaller, more intimate facilities that are decidedly not multi-purpose. “For the past 20 years we’ve seen traditional, old-school design,” Matwick said. These new ballparks are typically located downtown, integrated into the city skyline.

One thing that never shrinks is the budget. Funding of the $35 million three-year renovation comes from the ownership.

“They know it’s needed and has the potential for return,” Matwick said. Concessionaire and the ballpark’s food and beverage partner, Delaware North Sportservice, also is a partner in funding.

“The Rangers are committed to providing an outstanding experience for our fans when they come to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington,” said CEO and President Nolan Ryan. He added that they plan to continue “undertaking significant renovation and upgrade projects to help achieve that goal … over the next several years.”

The next target area has already been identified: left field. The architects of record for the project are Sterling Barnett Little of Arlington and Populous of Kansas City. They are currently studying plans, Matwick said, and during the first quarter of 2013, he anticipates discussion about the work to be done. Plans for “Year 5” have not been determined yet.

Running the Bases

But first, “Year 3” must be completed. In fact, the upgrades must be completed by opening day: Friday, April 5, 2013.

“We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time,” said Justin Wade, project manager of General Contractor Manhattan Construction. The Tulsa, Okla.-based firm built Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and completed the ballpark renovations last winter. “It’s a tight schedule and a tight budget.”

All demolition work is done. “We demo’ed the existing concessions on the main concourse,” Wade said.

That was done to make way for a bigger concession along the outer stadium wall. The old Cuervo Club above the main concourse was gutted for renovation. The old ticket office on the west side will become a concession kiosk and retail area. Crews also made alterations to the back wall behind home plate and the dugout floor.

Forms for the concrete work on the bowl level were placed in November, with the pours scheduled before the end of that month. Once that cures, crews will start working on dry wall and steel — as soon as materials arrive.

Wade was nervously waiting on materials to show up in mid-November. “We’re having trouble getting the materials when we need them.” Knowing that “time is a big deal” on this project, he said crews have been working a “5 x 10” schedule (five ten-hour days), plus 8 hours on Saturday, but said they “may go into multiple shifts when the materials show up.”

When the steel arrived, it had to be brought through the 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide gate on warehouse forklifts because of the narrow entry. “The steel guys have to manhandle it,” Wade said.

They may be manhandling materials, but the crews have to treat the job site gently.

“We’re working over a tunnel in a garage, so no heavy equipment can be used,” Wade said. Instead, they’re moving materials by skid steers with hoppers. Because they also have to stay off the field, they put plywood down and try to stay along the foul line. “They’re still using the field when we’re not working.”

Special events for non-game-days are part of the marketing plan, according to Matwick. It’s one reason they opted to enhance the HVAC system for year-round use. “We rent the facility for meetings, fan fests and weddings.” In addition to updating the HVAC system, he said plans call for improving the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

As Wade said, it’s a lot of work in a short time. With “subs for everything,” coordination and communication are keys to on-time completion. “It’s a difficult project,” he said. “Not only do I have to communicate with everyone, I have to make sure everyone communicates with each other.” Fortunately, he adds, “I like a challenge.”

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