Rangers resume fan-focused park renovations
Third series of enhancements in three years features open view behind plate
ARLINGTON -- When fans walk through the home-plate entrance at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington next season, they will be treated immediately to a direct view of the playing field.This new vista is part of the $12 million renovations being done during the offseason to the ballpark. This is the third straight offseason the Rangers have undertaken serious renovations to the facility, which will turn 20 years old on Opening Day. These renovations are being concentrated in the area behind home plate. The Rangers installed new scoreboards two years ago, and they completely renovated Vandergriff Plaza beyond center field last offseason. "The Rangers are committed to providing an outstanding experience for our fans," club president Nolan Ryan said. "For the third consecutive offseason, we are undertaking significant renovation and upgrade projects to help achieve that goal, and we plan to continue that process over the next several years as well." This offseason's work includes the addition of a third row of Home Plate Seats, extensive renovations and upgrades to the private club and concessions behind home plate, a new retail store and concession stands in the main concourse, as well as deeper dugouts. The existing entrance to the private club and the seating area in Section 126 are being removed, allowing fans entering the entrance behind home plate to have a wide-open view of the playing field. "We're trying to create a new line of sight for the playing field and open up some air movement behind home plate," said Rob Matwick, the Rangers' vice president for ballpark operations. "It should improve the air circulation behind home plate." The private club was installed in 2000 behind the Home Plate Seats and blocked off the south wind flowing through the Ballpark. One theory is that it created a jet stream that came in from center field and then swirled back out to right field, turning the Ballpark into a more favorable venue for hitters. That theory has never been scientifically proven, but now there will be a significant opening below the private club that will allow wind to again flow through the Ballpark. Matwick said the Rangers have not done any studies to see how this might impact playing conditions. "We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out," Matwick said. The private club will now be known as the Capital One Club, and it is also being renovated and expanded. In addition to constructing more dining and bar areas, the Rangers are adding more permanent seats and making structural changes to enable a better view of the field. The new row of seats around the home-plate area will reduce the park's foul territory. From home plate directly back, it will be 50 feet to the screen. Before the renovations, it was 52 feet, 8 inches. "Most teams' parks are about 45-50 feet," Matwick said. "Fifty feet is a reasonable distance." The dugouts and camera bays on both sides of the field will also be made wider, allowing for more space in those areas. This will also reduce foul territory by about three feet but give teams more room in each dugout. One significant change is that a new retail store will be constructed in the space where the West Box Office currently exists. The 2,120-square-foot store will be open during the game. That means the First Base Ticket Office on Randol Mill Road will be the primary box office, as it was when the Ballpark first opened. Season Ticket Holder Services will also be relocated to that area. There will also be a number of concession stands added in the areas behind home plate, similar to what was done in Vandergriff Plaza last offseason. When the renovations are complete, the official capacity for the Ballpark will drop slightly from 48,194 to 48,114. The architects of record are Sterling Barnett Little of Arlington and Populous of Tulsa, Texas. Manhattan Construction is the general contractor. The construction began a few weeks ago, and the target completion date is March 22. The home opener will be on April 5, with the Angels visiting. The Rangers were able to complete last year's renovations to Vandergriff Plaza well before Opening Day, and they expect the same this year. "Unfortunately, we have extra time this offseason," said Matwick, referring to the absence of an extended postseason run in Arlington. The Rangers lost to the Orioles in the American League Wild Card game. As construction workers went about their work on Tuesday, a banner of free-agent slugger Josh Hamilton was still hanging from the rafters along the Main Concourse. No word yet whether that banner will be hanging there next year. "That's for another press conference," Matwick said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.