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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Please say it ain't so...

Today's Star-Telegram contains an article by Mitchell Schnurman who argues that Arlington didn't demand enough from Jerry Jones in the initial negotiations over the stadium. Amen, brother.

However, Mr. Schnurman argues that the city of Arlington should have pushed harder to get Jerry Jones and Tom Hicks (owner of the Texas Rangers and a bunch of UNDEVELOPED land around Ameriquest Field in Arlington) to "promise" development, preferably in the form of:
an urban destination. Imagine a dense development with restaurants, town houses, lofts, offices, a rail station and a couple of hotshot sports sites -- all wrapped in a pedestrian-friendly package.
This might be a forty year vision of Arlington, and not one that I have heard articulated by the current city council and Mayor, but it is a vision that will not happen unless gasoline costs $5 a gallon.

No one lives in Arlington without a car, there is no mass transit, there are no cabs, the whole point of Arlington (and most of the cities of the metroplex area) is exactly the opposite of concentrated "dense development" - that won't change anytime soon. Pedestrian friendly is not in the vocabulary of the average Arlingtonian, for many reasons, and it is not clear that a new stadium would be enough to change that sentiment.

When the stadium deal was first announced last month I predicted that a football stadium would serve as a backdoor route to getting mass transit in Arlington, something that the local voters have turned down on numerous occassions. I was scoffed at and "accused" of being to cynical.

Oh yeah?

From the third paragraph of the story: "How about a master plan to develop the surrounding land? And a Cowboys pledge to move their headquarters and training camp to Arlington? Even a strategy to eventually have mass transit?" (emphasis added)

Arlington should have tried to close Pandora's box by offering only limited support to Jerry Jones's hopes and dreams for a new stadium. Forget the idea of stadiums providing development, it hasn't happened, it isn't happening now, it won't happen in the future. The promise of development is the sugar that is intended to make easier swallowing the bitter pill of decades of debt paid by the broad public for the benefit of a small group of politicians and team owners. Why not just claim that hosting the Cowboys would be "cool" and throw $80m to the project? Why not just tell Jerry Jones to build it himself and grant the team a tax abatement for the next thirty years, a la Fort Worth and Intel?

Unfortunately, Mr. Schnurman is fishing in an empty pond. He is looking for a better justification of the millions of public dollars to building a stadium and that is a strong signal that even stadium proponents are having a hard time justifying the mind-boggling expenditure.

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