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Commentary: XFL Gives an Old Ballpark New Life

  • Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The relaunch of the XFL will be coming to Arlington, and its home stadium will be the "old" stadium of the Texas Rangers. (Harold Stiver/Dreamstime/TNS)



Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The fate of the “old” Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas will not immediately be a wrecking ball, but rather home to a new pro football team.

In an effort to find a new purpose for Globe Life Park, the Texas Rangers pursued a variety of alternatives and found a winner in pro football. The relaunch of the XFL will be coming to Arlington, and its home stadium will be the “old” stadium of the Rangers.

The XFL officially announced its eight new franchise locations on Wednesday, one of which is Arlington. The other seven are Houston, St. Louis, L.A., Tampa, Seattle, New York and Washington D.C. League play is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020.

The league previously existed for one year in 2001 before folding. The new XFL plans to be dramatically different than when it last played, which was a major concern for the Rangers. XFL founder Vince McMahon said on Wednesday at a news conference the season will begin the week after the Super Bowl in February 2020.

If you are counting at home, Arlington will have three large venues that could host a variety of events within a range of approximately 300 yards: AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field, which will open in ’20, and the old place, Globe Life Park.

A new football team should also generate foot traffic and business for the Texas Live entertainment area between the venues.

“The Rangers approached us and this just seemed like a natural fit,” XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said in a phone interview. “The venue is already there. We can use it year-round. And there is no other place that likes football any more than Texas.”

Luck, father of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, said that he hopes to have attendance figures for XFL games “somewhere in the 20s.” As in 20,000.

Currently the seating capacity for Globe Life Park is listed as 48,114; that would mean the Rangers would reduce, and or not use, approximately 20,000 seats for an XFL game.

Texas Rangers senior vice president of events Sean Decker said the team will have to “selectively” demolish portions of the lower level to accommodate a football field; his hope is to have a capacity for an XFL game between 20,000 to 25,000.

“Right now, the football field will run north and south along the first base line,” Decker said. “So we would have to demolish the visitor’s dugout, and our commissioner’s box seats just beyond the third base line.”

Neither the Rangers nor the XFL want to cram in a football field in a baseball stadium for the sake of doing it, as is currently the case in some baseball stadiums that host the random football game. Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco all host the occasional football game in venues made for baseball, and both the optics and the configuration for a football game are off.

The XFL, which will own all eight franchises, will pay rent to use Globe Life Park. Should any scheduling conflicts arise between a football game and a Rangers’ home date in 2020, the XFL will defer.

Luck promised the Rangers, and fans, that the short-lived XFL they may remember from 2001 will not be the product in 2020.

“Totally different,” said Luck, who was hired to be the league’s boss shortly after WWE head McMahon announced plans to relaunch the league. “We want to be family friendly. We want something that is affordable. And we want good football. Our research said people want football, and there is a market for spring football.”

The most successful run at spring football was the USFL. The spring league competed for three years, from 1983 to ’86, and included some of the decade’s bigger names, most notably Herschel Walker, Anthony Carter, Reggie White, Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly and Steve Young.

Just as the league was beginning to gain some traction, the owner of the New Jersey Generals, Donald Trump, led an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The hope was to not only win the case, but for the USFL to be able to schedule its games in the fall.

The lawsuit was a disaster, and resulted in the USFL being awarded $1. The league folded shortly thereafter.

The XFL tried spring football in ’01, and had the backing of NBC. Founded by McMahon, the league advertised a more violent brand of football and implemented some of the marketing and story telling devices it uses to make the World Wrestling Entertainment a multi-billion brand.

Football fans rejected the game, and the WWE-style gimmicks. The league folded after one year.

The new XFL could not have found a better person to start its league than Luck, who has a long history both in football and as sports executive. He previously worked as an executive for the NCAA, served as the athletic director at West Virginia, and also as the President of NFL Europe in the ’90s.

“He’s a big reason we wanted to do this,” Decker said.

A football brand with Luck as the face has a better chance than McMahon, even if its the latter whose money and ambition are driving this venture.

Unlike the USFL, which led by Trump wanted to take on the NFL, Luck has no visions of duplicating that horrendously stupid decision.

“We want to be a complement to the NFL,” Luck said.

As to whether the XFL is a minor league, Luck would not say. The XFL will be professional football that plays, in Luck’s mind, like a regular football game.

“I really want crisp, good football. That’s a big reason we are doing this now so teams can prepare for a full year before we play an actual game,” Luck said. “That’s important because that’s what fans what. We want up tempo football and good, ol’ fashioned, rock-’em, sock-’em football.”