Since the ABC affiliate in Dallas ran a news story today on the new Rangers deal with the City of Arlington, it’s been all over the usual sports sites. People are irked that the agreement for the new park has a provision in it that allows the City to funnel tax revenues, which are normally collected on ticket sales and parking to help pay the municipal portion of stadium obligations, to the team instead. What this means is that the Rangers and City of Arlington aren’t really splitting the costs of the new field 50-50. It will be more like 80-20 because Arlington will not only pay its half but will give out a good portion of the tax collections that should help fund the City’s share to the Rangers as well. It certainly is an outrageous arrangement, but there’s more to the story than just Arlingtonians having to swallow a big payout.
I mean, they’ve done that before. This hook up is just what Arlington previously gave to Jerry Jones to build the “Dallas” Cowboys’ stadium. (Have some self-respect, Arlington, and at least make them shoe horn the right name in there, a la Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.) Still, it seems like an orgy of stadium funding for Arlington to go back-to-back on. Now, I’m not saying Arlington is a gold-digger but, as the Dallas Morning News put it, this was a “bear hug” that the bigger city was unwilling to give up.
Which leads us to the man in charge: Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. When WFAA 8 interviewed him for its report, Williams denied that the City was giving anything to the Rangers and claimed the “Master Agreement” was necessary to keep the team from getting enticed away by other potential partners. To quote from the report:
Williams also said that Arlington was in competition with other cities for the Rangers, but when pressed, offered no details. “I could name lots of cities, but I’m not going to disclose that. But I can tell you there are a lot of cities that would like to have the Texas Rangers.”
While everyone (though apparently not Dallas) may be wanting to get in on that sweet Rangers action, Williams was all over it. Per the report:
Williams said he started pushing for a new Rangers stadium deal when he became mayor last year.
Hmmm, what might incline His Honor to pimp this arrangement aggressively? As it turns out, Williams previously worked at Graham Associates, Inc. (GAI), an engineering firm in Arlington. GAI was the Civil Engineer of Record for the Ballpark at Arlington (the current Rangers field) and AT&T Stadium (where the Cowboys play). WFAA 8 asked about the connection.
Williams said he does not have conflict of interest concerns when voting on current stadium issues despite his civil engineering firm, Graham Associates, having been a key company in building both AT&T Stadium and the Arlington ballpark. He said no conflict exists because Graham Associates no longer submits bids or accepts money on city of Arlington stadium-related business.
If you believe Williams’ claim to impartiality…well, I have a ballpark in Arlington to sell you.
Really, the obvious logical question here is: Was this a good-old-boy arrangement where Williams, who has experience with such corporate welfare schemes and the welfare Johns involved, ran for office precisely to do the deal for his cronies? Right, that’s what we should ask? Hasn’t Arlington gotten around enough to not take Williams’ smooth talk at face value and, if it was the case that this was an intentional plant, at least cut him off — even if it’s too late for prophylaxis on this stadium screwing? Or, has Arlington been trafficked by the same firm so many times it doesn’t know how to get out?
As for the rest of you luscious communities out there with your sweet, full tax coffers ripe for the plucking, take notice because if Jeff Loria can get a Jerry Jones Master Agreement elsewhere, he’ll pull out of Miami as soon as he can find a civil engineer on the inside for a wingman. And, if the stadium is anything like the proposed one for Arlington, it’ll have even less seats — meaning higher ticket prices and a happy ending for fewer fans.