Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rangers altering and improving youth stadium

Dr. Pepper Youth Ballpark, photographed from an upper deck at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, with a game in progress. My son played a little league game here two seasons in a row. It was a memorable treat for the kids, and for me!

10/11/2007 4:15 PM ET
By Ken Daley / Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- For all the excitement the Texas Rangers feel about the palatial new football stadium being built nearby for the Dallas Cowboys, and the momentum it lends to the planned Glorypark retail development adjacent to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, there was one projected casualty the organization found hard to swallow.
The Dr Pepper Youth Ballpark, a community staple opened in 1994 alongside what was later named Mark Holtz Lake, was in serious danger of being razed to accommodate the new Baird Farm Road being built along the ballpark's northern perimeter from Interstate 30.

"All the initial designs required moving this park somewhere else," said Rangers owner Tom Hicks. "We worked real hard with the planners and designers to find a solution."

That solution was unveiled on Thursday, in a groundbreaking ceremony attended by Hicks, Rangers president Jeff Cogen, Arlington mayor Robert Cluck, Cadbury Schweppes executive Bill Spicer and other city leaders. The youth stadium originally built to resemble Rangers Ballpark will live on, through a bold redesign that will mimic the most famous feature of Boston's Fenway Park.

In a concession to the new bridge and road being built behind the outfield fence, the youth ballpark will be modified with a "Green Monster" of its own -- a 20-foot high retaining wall built to the same height and length proportions as the famed left field wall inside Fenway Park.

The distance from home plate to the left-field foul pole will measure 160 feet, but a ball hit to that part of the field must travel at least 210 feet to clear the new structure. In addition, the deepest part of the outfield wall will be extended by 30 feet (to 232 feet from the plate) and the right-field foul pole will move from 199 feet to 210 feet from the plate, changes that will enable the ballpark to accommodate leagues and players up to 13 years of age.

"By making the stadium bigger, we're going to be able to add a year of age groups," Hicks said. "There's a big difference between a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old."

Construction will begin within the next four weeks and should be completed by early March. Cogen said the project is budgeted at "several hundred thousand" dollars, but preserves an amenity the Rangers felt was important to keep.

"Early in the process, there was talk about the road eliminating the youth park, and that wasn't acceptable," Cogen said. "This is the crown jewel of youth park facilities, certainly in the state and the Metroplex, and maybe in the country. I haven't seen a nicer one.

"It was important to us, from a brand perspective, that we continue to offer this to area youth baseball players. And we figured out a way to do it."

The continued title sponsorship of Cadbury Schweppes, parent company of Dr Pepper, will offset much of the renovation cost.

"With the improvements we're announcing today, this facility will continue to be the crown jewel of youth ballparks in the United States," Spicer said.

Cluck called the preservation redesign "a dream come true" for the city, claiming civic leaders had lost a great deal of sleep worrying about the youth stadium being torn down or moved.

"We want to thank the Texas Rangers for coming up with a solution that satisfies all of us, especially the children," Cluck said.

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