Since the Texas Rangers debuted in Arlington in 1972, the franchise has seen its ups and downs. They’ve been in the cellar and advanced as far as the World Series. Of course, if you follow baseball, you know how those two World Series appearances turned out, so I will spare you the torture of reliving it. The Washington Senators relocated to Arlington after the ’71 season, rebranded as the Rangers, and then played their first 21 seasons in old Arlington Stadium.
In 1982, the Rangers were working on their 10th season in Arlington. There wasn’t much to celebrate for the 10-year anniversary, as a 12-game losing skid in late April and early May sent the team plummeting in the American League West standings. The team never recovered, and finished the season sixth in the division. In fact, just the Minnesota Twins had a worse record in the AL in ’82.
Although the Rangers fortunes weren’t great in 1982, just 4 miles north, the newest golf experience in Arlington opened for business. Chester W. Ditto Golf Course followed nine-hole Meadowbrook Park (1924), and Lake Arlington (1963) as the third city course. This track was originally designed by Ken Killian and Dick Nugent. This was Killian’s only Texas design, as he predominantly did his work in the Midwest. Nugent, who passed away Jan. 1 at the age of 86, also did most of his work in the Chicago area before retiring to Phoenix.
When Ditto first opened, it was a welcome addition to the city, and was expected to bring additional revenue to the parks and recreation department as well as give those in the rapidly expanding northern part of the city a place to tee it up.
Back to the south, as Arlington Stadium continued to erode (it was a converted minor league park to begin with), making it difficult to lure in big name free agents and fans alike, the franchise and the city launched a campaign to bring a new park to the city. In January 1991, the citizens approved a $191 million-dollar plan to construct a new venue, later to be named “The Ballpark in Arlington”. The new park opened in 1994 to fantastic reviews, and the Rangers have called The Ballpark (now Globe Life Park) home ever since.
In the almost quarter century that has passed, the one chief complaint about attending Rangers games is the crippling summer heat. Temperatures soar well above 90, and sometimes above 100, from basically May through September. Meaning it’s almost impossible to take anyone under the age of 10 or over the age of 60 to a game during the meat of the schedule. After years of seeing potential revenue squandered as seats went unfilled during the dog days, ownership finally made the decision that another new venue was needed. This one, with a modern update and retractable roof. So, the Rangers will have yet another home, their third in my lifetime.
The newest addition to Arlington’s entertainment district, Globe Life Field, is set to open for the 2020 season. This park will feature all the modern amenities and, most importantly, conditioned air to prevent fans from succumbing to near spontaneous combustion caliber heat during the summer months. Before a pitch is ever thrown in the new park, Texas Live! will make its debut. This entertainment hub will feature a bevy of restaurants and bars, a brewery, an outdoor event pavilion, and the Live! by Loews hotel, which will feature 302 rooms, 26 of which will be suites. It will add some much-needed life to the areas around the new park and existing AT&T Stadium. A spot for fans to pre-, and post-game. Somewhere to knock a few back as you prepare for the game or celebrate a big win. Texas Live! is set to open in 2018, and the hotel should open for business in 2019.
As documented here in AVIDGOLFER Magazine, another local staple is undergoing a transformation that will add yet another dimension to the ever-changing face of Arlington entertainment. The golf course now formerly known as Chester W. Ditto has been in the midst of a complete overhaul since December of 2016. A press conference was held in January to unveil the new and exciting re-branding of the property and celebrate a new partnership between the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department and the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.
The Texas Rangers Golf Club will officially become the newest addition to the City of Arlington’s golf community, and the early returns say it could be huge for both the Rangers and Arlington. A laundry list of city and Rangers officials made the announcement at that press conference at Globe Life Park, including Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Rob Matwick, the Texas Rangers Vice President of Business Operations, and Ron Price, president of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The event was even emceed by former Rangers player, GM, broadcaster, and longtime resident of Arlington Tom Grieve. In addition, several other VIP’s and media members were on hand, including former players Claude Osteen and Pete O’Brien, and sportswriter TR Sullivan, who has been covering the Rangers since 1989.
“I have to admit, I knew this was going to be nice, I had no idea it would be this elaborate or this nice. I can’t wait to get out and play it,” Grieve said, as he opened the press conference.
As each dignitary spoke, those in attendance really began to get a sense of what this partnership could mean for Arlington. Namely, more notoriety for the city’s parks and recreation department, and more opportunity to show neighboring cities that Arlington continues to be on the forefront of metroplex entertainment moving forward. Arlington’s other major tenant, the Dallas Cowboys, already have their own course in Grapevine, and reviews there have been nothing short of spectacular. In fact, Cowboys Golf Club has taken home the top spot in AVIDGOLFER’S Best of Public issue every year since it opened in 2001. It was when it opened, and still is, the only NFL-themed golf course in the country.
Taking a page from that playbook seemed like a no brainer, and now the Rangers will attach their branding to this renovated property and it will become the first and only Major League Baseball-themed course in the country. The agreement means the course will carry the Texas Rangers name until at least 2054, or six years longer than the current naming agreement between Globe Life and Rangers for naming rights to the new park.
“These things don’t happen without a lot of effort. The opportunity for us to cross promote the city of Arlington, and Texas Rangers baseball is a very exciting prospect,” Matwick said.
In addition to the new branding and completely new layout, the new clubhouse design was also revealed. The budget for which has been massaged to allow for maximum amenities at a cost the city could live with. Construction on the clubhouse itself is in the beginning phases and won’t be complete when the course opens this summer, but it is scheduled to wrap sometime in the spring of 2019. The 33,871-square-foot clubhouse will boast a restaurant and bar, covered patio that will face the east overlooking the course, as well as the pro shop, offices, and a locker room. It is a far cry from the small red brick structure that used to sit on the property that featured a single tiny snack bar. For those that feel the memory of Chester W. Ditto is being left out in the cold here, the new clubhouse is expected to bear the name of the late Arlington resident.
The new course should measure somewhere just over 7,000 yards from the tips, with the ninth hole being the longest. This 605-yard beast will play back uphill and into the prevailing wind. The final 130 yards will add a cascading water feature that runs from up near the green and eventually crosses the fairway. This added length will entice tournament play for both high schools and colleges alike. In addition, the venue will help lure in recruits to the University of Texas at Arlington golf program, which is trending upward under the direction of Stuart Deane, who was also in attendance at January’s event. For the amateur, there will be three additional sets of tee boxes: one measuring about 6,500, one closer to 6,000, and the front tees will ring in sub-5,000. Of course, these measurements may see a little tweaking as they have yet to be officially lasered for the tee markers and scorecards.
Greg Durante, the City of Arlington’s Golf Services Manager, has been an integral part in the new partnership, and says he will put Arlington toe to toe with any city in the area for best courses top to bottom.
“The opportunity to partner with the Texas Rangers on the world’s only MLB-themed golf club is a tremendous win for our Arlington Golf portfolio, as the Rangers name carries a certain cachet with it,” Durante said. “Also, this agreement provides many cross-promotional marketing and advertising opportunities that would not have been possible without the partnership. We expect Texas Rangers Golf Club to be one of the premier public golf courses in the region when we open the doors this summer. I’m not sure you will find a more formidable one-two punch alongside our sister course Tierra Verde Golf Club. Those two will steal the headlines, but we frequently hear how underrated Lake Arlington Golf Course is from first-time players. Those three courses, paired with our nine-hole layout Meadowbrook Park, make up a roster of courses for players of all budgets and skill levels.”
The city will pay re-branding expenses, but will include incentives and discounts for the team and Rangers employees as well as VIPs and guests staying at the hotel next to the new park. In exchange, the team will promote the course during games and other events, which in turn should help bring more players out from all over the area. They also hope it will garner the attention of groups from out of town that may be in to support their team as they play a series against the Rangers.
“Our staff expects this new course to rank as one of the top public golf courses in both the region and the state of Texas, and that’s saying a lot,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. “Then, you add in this other component, the name of the Texas Rangers, and this project affords Arlington the unbelievable opportunity to expand the reach of its marketing and advertising efforts and host major events and tournaments for all age groups. It is sure to be a bucket-list item for baseball fans across the globe, especially our Rangers fans right here in Arlington. It is awesome that our citizens are going to have a world-class golf course. It also raises the image of our community.”
As the event wrapped, the media contingent and those in attendance made their way to the field at Globe Life, and listened as longtime Rangers public address announcer Chuck Morgan introduced several former players and some of the city officials just before they hit golf balls from home plate to a flag bearing the new Rangers Golf Club logo in center field. The group was buzzing with stories about playing the old Ditto and other courses in the area, and how they couldn’t wait for the new Rangers course to open and give it a try.
“I’m excited,” said Pete O’Brien, who spent 12 seasons in the majors, the first seven of which were with Texas. “I used to play at Great Southwest quite a bit, but it’s a bunch of warehouses now. We played Ditto several times as well, and I look forward to checking out the new course to see how nice it is.”
If you remember the old layout and course conditions at Ditto, then there is no question this will be a vast improvement in both form and function. Top the great course with a new state-of-the -art clubhouse, and this new venue is sure to ascend the list of top public courses not only in the area, but regionally as well. The Rangers and Arlington have been linked since the team arrived in 1972, and with the new ballpark, Texas Live! and this new course, the relationship is stronger than ever.