Arlington officials are promoting five myths regarding the city’s controversial plan to build a new stadium for the Texas Rangers. Texans deserve the truth.
Myth #1: If the vote fails, Arlington will lose the Rangers.
The Rangers lease extends through 2024, or eight years from now. Legal strings attached to the public financing prevent the Rangers from leaving.
As a result, there is no sense of urgency for the city to rush into another deal with the team. There are at least eight more election opportunities between now and when the city would need to enter re-negotiations.
If voters reject the measure, city officials will be forced to go back to the table and work towards a better deal, or do nothing. Besides, no other city can offer as large of a subsidy as Arlington. The City of Dallas is broke, has a looming pension crisis, billions in deferred maintenance, and would need financing help from Dallas County.
Myth #2: The proposal is a 50/50 split, costing Arlington taxpayers $500 million.
It is not a 50/50 deal between taxpayers and the Rangers. The Rangers are obligated to fund less than $100 million, depending on a variety of factors. On the front end, it appears the Rangers are putting in more, but that’s because taxpayers are reimbursing them for a variety of expenses.
Regardless of the exact split, conservative estimates originally projected the total taxpayer subsidy to exceed $800 million after the upfront cost and ongoing expenses for operations and maintenance were included. But after an investigative news report by WFAA looked deeper into the Master Agreement between the city and the team, the total taxpayer exposure is now projected at $1.6 billion. The report labeled it the “worst” deal ever between a government entity and a sports team.
The tax revenue from the new taxes on admissions and parking won’t go to city coffers. Shockingly, that revenue will be paid to the team. Aside from the new taxes, other operating expenses such as air-conditioning will be paid for by Arlington taxpayers, which inflates the total price tag to astronomical levels.
Myth #3: The current stadium – built in 1994 – will not be demolished.
City officials have no power to deliver upon that promise. In an agreement between Arlington and the Rangers, city officials gave up their say in what happens to the stadium. The Rangers have complete control over the fate of Globe Life Park. Residents have no say in what happens.
Neither Mayor Jeff Williams – nor any other elected official – can make such a promise in good faith, since the decision is completely outside of their control. It’s nothing more than a hollow promise. Never mind the fact that Globe Life Park still looks brand new today, and consumed $130 million in taxpayer money to build, leading many residents to wonder why the city would even consider demolishing it.
Myth #4: “No new taxes” will be created if voters vote “YES.”
If that were true, then no public vote would be necessary. The ballot proposition language asks voters to approve two new taxes—one on tickets and another on parking. It will also extend a sales tax that is set to expire, and dedicate those and millions in other taxpayer funds to the new stadium project.
City officials know this talking point is false because they approved the ballot language, which cannot legally be changed at this point. That ship has sailed.
Aside from the creation of two new taxes, the sales tax revenue which would be rededicated to the new stadium isn’t “free” for local residents. They will pay the tax for items bought in Arlington. More importantly, if not for a stadium, the sales tax revenue could be alternatively spent on other city needs, such as road repair or property tax relief.
Myth #5: The new stadium is better for Rangers fans.
Not for the average Rangers fan.
The new stadium will be smaller than the current one. That’s right—it will hold at least 5,000 fewer fans, or more. The next time the team makes the playoffs, or competes in the World Series, thousands of fans will be shut out. Fewer families will be able to afford a Rangers game. Due to the new admissions and parking taxes – on top of the stadium’s astronomical price tag – a trip to the ballpark will be far more expensive than it is now.
Regardless of whether you support or oppose the proposal currently before Arlington voters in November, neither city officials nor their pro-stadium allies are telling the public the whole truth. Texans deserve better.
UPDATE: This article was edited on Tuesday, October 18th to include information recently published in a recent WFAA investigative report, which projected the total taxpayer exposure for the stadium project to exceed $1.6 billion.