Can do (still)

 

In his famous play, The Tempest, William Shakespeare coined the phrase, “What’s past is prologue.”

That was 400 years ago. Today it stands for the idea that history sets the context for the present and predicts the future. The quotation is engraved on the National Archives Building in the nation’s capital.

For Arlington, the words could not be more appropriate as the New Year begins to unfold.

That’s because of the announcement from City Hall last month of the expansive, high-rise $800 million development in the city’s entertainment district that involves major new projects.

We will see construction started on a second Loews hotel – this one of 20 stories with 888 rooms rising out of a new 150,000-square-foot convention center, and a multi-use office and residential tower across the street as one of the ways The Ballpark in Arlington is being re-purposed.

It’s all detailed in the story on page 26.

Added to what these developers have already completed in the entertainment district, the total investment of non-sports venues being added to the city’s economy is about $1.2 billion. When you include the two Rangers facilities and AT&T Stadium, the number grows to $4 billion.

After the city council meeting when all of this was announced, someone I didn’t know asked me, “How does Arlington keep doing these amazing things?”

What a great question, I thought, especially for those in our city who haven’t lived with us for very long.

The answer actually begins with the arrival of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club in 1972. That event set into motion the possibilities of Arlington becoming the kind of major league city with few others that have the privilege of hosting the games of the nation’s greatest pastime.

But, it would not be long before that identity might have slipped away when, in the late 1980s, a change in the Rangers ownership brought about the need for a new ballpark to replace the inadequate Arlington Stadium.

Immediately, and I mean overnight, the Dallas media laid claim to the Rangers, publishing news stories and illustrations of locations in downtown where a new ballpark would be built. One of their sports columnists, obviously overcome with premature excitement, wrote that the Rangers would be moving to Dallas “where they belong.”

All of this was happening during my watch as the city’s mayor, and I was amazed at how quickly Arlington was being counted out as the city where the Rangers would call home.

Ultimately, we worked out a partnership with the team owners and then did what I knew would confirm that Arlington had been underestimated when it comes to protecting what was rightfully ours.

We turned to the quintessential can-do spirit of our people, and they showed up in record numbers for an election proposing a new ballpark that would keep our team where it really did belong.

By a margin of landslide proportions, voters said yes to that new ballpark and seized the potential of what that would mean to the city’s future development of our local economy.

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys was watching that achievement and decided to cast his lot with us and added the NFL to our national identity.

When the lease we had entered into with the Rangers was reaching its maturity, the team owners wanted to develop a new enclosed air-conditioned facility, taking fans and players out of the Texas heat.

Again, that can-do legacy revealed itself once more when voters provided another landslide answer to the opportunity to keep the Rangers and protect our city’s major league status.

Everything that has happened since, including the announcements that came last month, is the result of building one success upon another.

And, it continues. So, don’t be surprised if we begin every new year with expectations that this upward trajectory is going to make us the No. 1 tourism destination between Orlando and Las Vegas.

Or, perhaps we should aim even higher. After all, it’s Arlington’s legacy, and everything is possible.

 

Richard Greene served as Arlington’s mayor from 1987-1997 and currently teaches in UT Arlington’s graduate program in the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs.