ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The presidential showdown isn't the only contentious race on the minds of Arlington voters, who also must decide whether to approve public funding for a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium for the Texas Rangers.
Figuring that the larger turnout for the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would benefit a new stadium, city officials rushed to get the initiative on Tuesday's ballot, and observers say it could be close, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The new stadium would replace Globe Life Park, which opened in 1994. To pay for as much as half of the new stadium, voters are being asked to extend Arlington's half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel-occupancy tax and 5 percent car-rental tax. Arlington currently uses those revenues to pay down the remaining $155 million debt it owes for its share of the construction cost of the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009.
The vote also would allow for a maximum 10 percent admission tax and $3 parking tax for the Rangers' use, which opponents have criticized because the city legally could have used those taxes for its share. It approved the same deal for the Cowboys.
Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers, a political action committee that includes the mayor as chairman and all city council and school board members, has said the Rangers should get to use that revenue since they will take responsibility for maintenance and operation of the stadium.
Sarah Patterson voted against the new stadium during early voting because she didn't “see a point in spending money that doesn't need to be spent.”
And Juddie Rice echoed the concerns of city officials, who struck a deal with the Rangers in May to keep them in Arlington through the 2053 season. If the stadium proposition fails, she said, “I just think it opens it up for Dallas or Frisco to talk to them. I want to keep them.”
The Rangers haven't publicly threatened to leave, although a team representative held preliminary talks with Dallas officials about a covered stadium.
Vote Yes! campaign manager Brian Mayes told The Associated Press on Monday that “a lot of supporters have turned out to vote” and the group will campaign until polls close Tuesday.
He said he believes the opposition has been turning people off by being aggressive and negative. “Nobody wants to be accosted at a polling location. Our people stayed positive,” he said.
Peggy Rudd and her husband, Bill Gaut, had distributed fliers denouncing the new stadium to thousands of Arlington homes. And during early voting, they had more fliers critical of the stadium, including a rip on the roof: “The Rangers have played ball here 44 years. Suddenly now, it's too hot.”
Rudd told the newspaper that she was seeing a correlation between a voter's stadium choice and presidential pick.
“We're finding that when they vote for Trump they vote against the stadium,” Rudd said. “I guess they don't like seeing government joining forces with rich dudes.”
Despite the politically charged environment, University of Texas at Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe predicts the new stadium will become a reality. “The `Yes' vote will win, but it won't be overwhelmingly so,” he said.