It seems that when the Texas Rangers open a new stadium, we don’t get a full season of baseball. In 1972, they moved to DFW from DC but had the start of the season delayed by a players’ strike. They moved to the Ballpark in Arlington in 1994 and saw the last month and half of the season wiped out by a players’ strike. And they moved into the $1.2 billion Globe Life Field in 2020, but COVID threw the world a massive curveball.
The good news is in 2021, fans are allowed back. The Rangers decided to let fans back at full capacity because… Texas. So Rangers baseball was the closest thing to pre-pandemic baseball in early 2021. It was wonderful to be back at the ballpark with good crowds and to visit my 57th Major League Park. I managed to see a handful of games (weekday/weekend; roof closed/open; night/day) and took a tour, so feel as qualified as anyone to offer this review.
Globe Life Field replaces the not-that-old Globe Life Park. The Texas heat was just too much in July and August for an open-air venue, hence the need for a climate-controlled facility.
When you build a new facility, you’d expect it to be a big upgrade over the previous one. Sadly, this is not the case here. It’s a relatively bland structure with uninspired exterior architecture and a sense of utility over romance. Functionally, it works great ———— awesome sightlines, nice leg room, wide concourses, and a roof that guarantees comfortable baseball, rain, shine or 100-degree Texas summer heat. But unless you’re seating in one of the impressive premium seat areas, it doesn’t have a ton of amenities; Atlanta’s Truist Park, a similarly utilitarian suburban structure that opened in 2017, blows this one away on that front. So while it brought back my smile for live baseball, it is a disappointing new venue. By happenstance, it placed in the exact same slot and earned the same score as its predecessor. Meaning the city of Arlington and Rangers ownership really spent $1.2 billion on a lateral move. That’s pricy air conditioning!
In fairness, some of softness in some of the scores (such as Food) could be due to limitations in opening during a pandemic. This score does have room to move. My fear though is this new park proves successful with the casual fan and sparks a wave of new “practical” ballparks over the romantic ballparks built late last century. That would be a backwards step for us stadium chasers.
Exterior aesthetics 5/10; Interior & Concourse Aesthetics 8/10; Sightlines & seating 10/10; Amenities & entertainment 6/10; Flow 5/5; Celebrating history 5/5; Scoreboards 5/5; Grand entrance 5/5; Sense of place 5/10; WOW Factor 20/30. Total 74 points divided by 2 for 37.
Everything is bigger in Texas. The old ballpark felt huge at 1.4 million square feet. The new one is 1.8 million square feet despite a capacity that’s 10,000 seats smaller. With the 5.5-acre, 24-million-pound roof, it dwarfs the old park.
The roof is the main reason this stadium exists. It’s the largest single-panel retractable roof in the world and features north and south sloped planes and a flat center. It’s conceptually simple ———— slide west to open. It towers 210 feet above second base, 278 feet at its tallest and has 223 clear panels made of ETFE allowing for natural light, although I always found it dark when the roof was shut. Alas it isn’t the most attractive, especially from the outside: some critics have compared the new park to a huge Costco or a giant backyard shed.
- Fan comfort is tip top. Any baseball fan who has sat through July or August baseball in Texas knows how uncomfortable it got. Day games were outright cruel if you didn’t have a shade seat. The new place is air conditioned and offers a ton of shade. And while the roof was mainly designed to protect against Texas Heat, it also protects against spring thunderstorms meaning your ballpark trip won’t be ruined by a rain out or a flash storm. In fact, the park doesn’t even have tarps (which is good since they’d block the view from those below-ground clubs they have down the lines).
- The seats are angled nicely toward the infield, which made it easier to follow the action. Leg room is good. Seats are 20” wide (instead of the usual 18”), and were installed on rails instead of being bolted into the concrete, meaning they have a little more “give” to them (something of which to be mindful if you have a full beer in your cupholder and the guy in the row in front of you is readying to sit down or leave his seat).
- The concourses are open in both the main and upper concourse, allowing you to walk around 360-degrees on both levels.
- For a modern park, the upper deck seats are relatively close to the action. The Rangers still have a lot of suites (it’s Dallas), but they cantilevered levels and kept the upper bowl somewhat close.
- Like most new parks, the scoreboards are good sizes ———— Top 5 or 6 in the MLB in terms of shear size. They are used nicely for baseball while the game is on, and solidly for promotion between innings.
- For a team without much history and zero World Championships, they do a nice job reliving glory years and honoring the club’s all-time greats. There are bobbleheads out in centerfield of recent Ranger stars Pudge Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young. From the old park, they moved the statues of Nolan Ryan and Tom Vandergriff (the man who brought the team to DFW). They added statues of Pudge (cleverly placed out behind home plate in front of the home plate gate, which is little used, so you have to search for it), and of the 2010 celebration of the Rangers going to their first World Series. The stairway leading to Club seats includes a cool Ryan art piece made of bats and balls, has a life-sized Ryan bobblehead, and lists the names of all the batters he fanned along the walls. There are murals, paintings and shadow box displays through the concourses that pay homage to past Ranger greats. In all, it’s an impressive collection of the (recent) past.
- One of the coolest little quirks is how the Rangers have incorporated their retired numbers and team milestone years into the wall dimensions. Left field is three-29; Beltre had his 29 retired; Before the fence juts out, there’s a mark for three-34 (Nolan Ryan). Dead center features four-07 (Pudge) and four-10 (Michael Young). Right field is three-26 (Johnny Oates). The power gaps are three-72 (the year the team moved to the Metroplex from Washington ), and three-74 (their first winning season in Texas). The backstop is exactly 42 feet from home plate in honor of Jackie Robinson. And while it’s not a park dimensions thing, even the address, 734 Stadium Drive, honors their their two Hall of Famers, Rodriguez (7) and Ryan (34).
- The arches in left field are there as an homage to Globe Life Ballpark (which used the arches as an homage to old Comiskey Park). They provide some architectural flare to a park that largely lacks it and are likely the park’s signature feature.
- IF (and only if) you somehow score seats to one of the premium levels down low, you will enjoy some of the better amenities in baseball. The clubs and lounges are excellent with lots of baseball memorabilia and sharp design. My favorite was the Speakeasy Club which felt like a cool downtown place where I’d hang out. The Lexus Club was also very nice. The food is way better down there as well. In fact, the gap in the overall fan experience between the fancy club seats and the general public seats may be greater here than in any other ballpark.
- From the outside, the place looks like a giant suburban office park consisting of brick and glass (with an ugly roof to boot). The old stadium was attractive; it still sits proudly across the street and is now used to host high school football with no plans to demolish it. The Rangers’ former home used Lone Star pink granite and had “Texas cues” in the building’s red brick façade including bas-reliefs of lone stars, cattle, the oil boom, and the Alamo. The exterior of the old place said “Texas”. The exterior of the new place says “Vandelay Industries”.
- The Rangers’ previous venues, despite sharing the same suburban location, all had a lot of “Texas” cues including the shape of the scoreboard and Texas flags galore. That’s more muted here, especially from the seats.
- As part of their “function over form” mantra, they chose to use artificial turf allowing them to keep the roof closed on those sweltering days and minimize the loss of air conditioning. While the new turf looks good –––– it uses crushed coconut husks instead of rubber pellets and actually needs to be watered occasionally –––– it’s still turf, and the baseball purist in me bristles.
- Perhaps my biggest beef was the elitist nature of the place. Most places have a moated area, usually right behind the plate, for the corporate or well-heeled crowd able to afford multi-hundred dollar seats that includes all-you-drink and all-you-can-eat features. In Globe Life Field, the entire lower bowl was essentially moated off. The Rangers dubbed this the “District Concourse”, but it should just be the “Lower Concourse” and serve as the the hub of the park like it does in every other ballpark. As well, all infield tickets in the “District Concourse” (i.e. where I usually sit) are Club tickets with ridiculous Single Game face values. Access to the lower bowl is controlled through elevators or guarded stairwells, so you need to show your ticket to get down –––– forget sitting low unless you have big $$$ to spend. My non-Club seats along the left field line had a face value of $105 each. The Club seat that I was in (courtesy of a friend with Dallas connections) would have cost me $402. Am I at Yankee Stadium? I know there’s money in DFW, but this seemed crazy.
- If you weren’t in the fancy club seats with the amazing amenities, there wasn’t much to do other than look at all the displays and murals. The kids’ area was modest. The only social area is the Karbach Brewing Sky Porch in leftfield (which is nice) but its coolest feature –––– a row of wooden Texas rocking chairs with a (distant) view of the field originally designed for fans to sit in for an inning and move on –––– became so popular, they had to become ticketed seats because they were snapped up within seconds of gates opening and never got turned over. There were a few concourse picnic tables available for dining but that pales compared to other parks putting in Ziplines and mini-putts and brewpubs. There’s no full service restaurant that can be accessed by any ticket goer, no Rangers Hall of Fame or Legends of the Game Museum (like they had at the old ballpark), and no “Wow” feature for the average fan.
In all, a new ballpark should score much higher than this. But my rating system rewards function AND form, and this ballpark skews hard to function.
In the old place, it seemed like the head of Rangers concessions brought in new foods based on suggestions from fans returning from a Phish concert. A two-foot long chili dog smothered in jalapenos and onions? OK, we’ll call it the “Boomstick”. Bacon-flavored desserts? Sure. A barbecue dish that looks like a banana split? Brilliant. There was novelty.
The new place offers a fairly meh selection. They brought the Boomstick over, but not much of the other crazy items. Austin-based Pluckers and DFW-based Golden Chicken offer their chicken delicacies but other than Lubbock-based Bahama Buck’s Shaved Ice, those are the only “local” restaurants with a presence in the park. It seems like a missed opportunity not bringing in vendors that could offer a true taste of Texas.
The team says that they have simplified concessions for the time being to maximize efficiency and minimize congregations in lines. But wait times felt long and there was no social distancing. I am hoping this gets better with time, but as of now, it’s one of the most disappointing food experiences in baseball.
My personal fave: I used to love the Dilly Dog from the old stadium (i.e. a large dill pickle hollowed and stuffed with an all-beef hot dog, then battered and deep fried like a corn dog) but I couldn’t find it. The Pluckers Baker’s Gold wings were delicious.
Anheuser-Busch rules the roost and owns most of the taps. Macro brews abound as well as the beers from the acquired Karbach Brewing Company. So any place where you get easy access to a Hopadillo is going to score OK in my books. Arlington-based Legal Draft has their “Nowhere but Texas” lager and yummy “Smash & Grab” IPA available in cans throughout. Ziegenbock was plentiful everywhere. A little hunting will find you stuff from Rahr & Sons, Nine Band and Shiner. And AB’s “micros” like Space Dust from Elysian and Kona Brewing were around. While it may not do true justice to the Metroplex’s strong craft beer scene, fans of good beer will be fine.
The park is in Arlington, the halfway point between Dallas and Fort Worth. It sits beside Jerry World, the old Rangers ballpark and Six Flags. Most places around it are suburban offices, chain hotels and fast food joints. Four years ago, I’d have given this a 3/10.
But in 2018 they opened Texas Live! In a similar vein to the Battery in Atlanta or Ballpark Village in St Louis, Texas Live! is a sprawling entertainment venue featuring several bars and restaurants. Yes it’s all pre-fabricated and manufactured versus neighborhoods that organically evolve. And it’s not cheap. But since it opened, I’ve had a couple of my most fun nights there including a 2021 bender that went late. The main arena features incredible screens and a stage for consistently good cover bands; there are an additional 14 food and/or drink places as well. It’s not a place for the hipster as it’s totally mainstream, but if you just like to cut loose and have a good time Texas-style, you’d be hard-pressed not to have a blast. As an added bonus, they mimic the scoreboard on their big screens pre and during the game ———— I’d argue the Rangers’ player intro hype video may well be cooler to see in Texas Live!
If willing to drive or fund a cheap Uber, there are a couple of places within 2 miles of the stadium worth checking out as well. I deduct a few points given they aren’t walkable.
New normally costs more. While concessions and parking are about league average, tickets can be very expensive, especially for a good seat. And the dynamic pricing model makes those weekend games (i.e. the ones with the more lively crowds) significantly more costly.
There is a sneaky added cost here. The Rangers decided to go cashless “due to the pandemic”. While this helps cash control, I think it slows down lines. It also allows the team to add tax to the price of food (rather than including it in the price listed) since it’s less critical to hit an even number. All touch pads (which everyone touches yet, by some logic, are “more hygienic” than cash) ask for a tip after every purchase which is something I usually did for the beer guys, but not necessarily the food vendors, and certainly not the Grab N Go stations. But you feel like a turd not doing it when asked. So ballpark prices become even more inflated on your final bill once you add tax and tip.
Unless you were staying right in Arlington, this involves a longish drive, likely in rush hour traffic. Arlington is the largest U.S. City without public transportation (the Arlington Trolley doesn’t count), so you really have to drive. Be careful with the beer. Parking is plentiful, though the walk from the General Public lots could be a haul in the Texas heat.
This will be a dome most of the time, so it gets a dome score. The roof will only be open on dry days with game time temps below 82-degrees, so if you’re lucky enough to get an open air day, it will be perfect. As with every other retractable roof stadium, it feels way more like a ballpark with an open roof, so perhaps plan for an early season game.
Texas fans can be loud. Attendance is normally solid. But truth is, DFW is not a hardcore baseball market. You’re in football country and baseball is merely the appetizer. The place lacks the intensity of other large-market teams for all but the most crucial games. So the crowd noise only comes in spurts and the scoreboard operator often has to be the one to ignite it.
There are some cool features in a Rangers game to remind you you’re in Texas. They play Cotton Eye Joe in the 7th inning stretch. The 6th inning dot race narrated by legendary in-stadium announcer Chuck Morgan still generates a buzz. They play the theme from The Natural after a Rangers’ home run (which has been going on for long enough to qualify as a Rangers’ tradition). And the place has visual appeal in the stands ———— there always seemed to be a disproportionate number of good-looking women in summery Rangers gear.
I gave this an extra 2 points, however, for two reasons: One, the presence of Texas Live! makes weekend games a little more lively and festive than what I previously experienced in the old place. And two, I got to experience a real MLB atmosphere again in early 2021 after a long hiatus. Thank you Texas for bringing me a sense of normalcy!
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Three fun DFW restaurants:
- A BBQ joint: Dallas used to be a little bit of a barbecue wasteland. No more. It can rival most places for smoky deliciousness. I love barbecue and have hit a dozen or so in DFW. There’s an outpost of Lockhart Smokehouse right in Texas Live which is easily the most convenient. This is a legit outfit. While their Dallas location has more consistent quality, you can’t beat the convenience, and if they’re on their game, it’s very, very good. But if you want to go further and you’re willing to wait in line, here are my top 4:
1. Cattleack (Dallas, near Love Field). Only open Thursday and Friday. The Texas Trinity (brisket, pork rib, sausage) was among the very best I’ve ever had. I think I purred once.
2. Pecan Lodge (Dallas, Deep Ellum). Probably DFW’s most popular, so you’re guaranteed a line. But it’s popular for a reason.
3. Hurtado’s (Arlington). Just two miles from the ballpark. If you’re famished or eat a lot, the El Jefe platter is smoked heaven.
4. Hutchins (Frisco). Voted by Dallas Morning News readers to be the best in the region. They do all the classics extremely well (including a great smoked turkey) and have a nice dine-in facility.
- Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (Arlington plus 8 other locations in DFW). If you have a hankering for excellent fried chicken or smoked chicken served in an atmosphere that takes you back to 1940’s rural America, you’ve found your place. There’s one just a few miles from the ballpark that’s perfect for getting a pre-game carb load.
- Grease Monkey Burger Bar and Social Club (in the Vandergriff Town Center in “downtown” Arlington). Great burgers, live music and a decent tap list. They also offer a $6 round-trip shuttle to the ballpark.
Three places to imbibe before the game:
- Legal Draft Beer Co. Good beer, friendly people and a nice set up. Good pre-game option. 2 miles from stadium.
- Tipsy Oak Gastropub. A short drive from the stadium, this place has good grub and an amazing beer list. Cool patio as well.
- On Tap. Wonderful selection in a no-nonsense beer bar 2 miles from the stadium.
That of course assumes you sought something other than the scene at Texas Live! which is the easiest choice and a must for any infrequent visitors. On weekends, when the bands play and the place is hopping, it’s an amazing post-game stop.
One bar in the area worth hitting:
Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort Worth. In the Stockyards area of Fort Worth lies the mecca of cowboy bars. Billed as the world’s largest honkytonk, it delivers every Texas cliché and stereotype in one amazingly fun place.
Three craft breweries in the area worthy of your time:
- Deep Ellum Brewing (Dallas, Deep Ellum). Good brewery with a nice range of stuff often open in the afternoon. Make it part of a Pecan Lodge trip and/or also hit Brainworks Brewing while in the neighborhood.
- Celestial Beerworks (Dallas, Design District). A relative newcomer, Celestial makes some fantastic hazy IPA’s as well as other worthwhile selections. It’s not too far from Peticolas Brewing which is another great stop.
- Lakewood Brewery (Garland). A little bit of a hike from Arlington but worth it for their stouts, sours and ales.
Three fun tourist attractions in the area:
- Sixth Floor: (Downtown Dallas. Great museum chronicling the Kennedy assassination.)
- Fort Worth Stockyards (See longhorns roam the streets.)
- GW Bush Presidential Museum (SMU. One of the better presidential museums in the country regardless of your political leanings.)
This is a park that may need to age and mature before it fully finds its stride. As of now, it’s a functionally fantastic ballpark but with little to amaze and delight ball fans not sitting in the Club seats. Like the park it replaced, its suburban location can be an issue. Instead plan a short trip with a hotel nearby (or factor in the cost of an Uber ride), kick back and enjoy baseball time in Texas!