VIDEO: From the Top with Texas Rangers Rob Matwick
Earlier this year, the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) sat down with Rob Matwick, EVP of Business Operations for the Texas Rangers, in his team’s sales centre for the US$1.2bn Globe Life Field, scheduled to open in March 2020.
In this wide-ranging conversation, Rob Matwick details Globe Life Field’s signature elements, such as its retractable roof and unique use of ETFE, its premium hospitality offerings, which include field level suites and a traditional suite level between the foul poles just 16 rows from the field, as well as its destinations available to all fans, both inside the park and in the 150,000-square-foot, US$250m Texas Live! entertainment district that includes a 300-room Loews Hotel.
From the ten restaurant concepts at Texas Live! to The Market on Globe Life Field’s main concourse, to The Sky Porch on the upper concourse, to the bridge seats in left field, there’s a unique destination everywhere you look.
Editor’s Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Perhaps the obvious question to the outsider coming in is why did your organization choose to build a new facility right next door to an existing building that seems to have aged really well?
Globe Life Park is a fantastic facility. But in our climate here in North Texas, we needed to address the weather. It really has a negative impact on our ticket sales in July, August, and some years even into September when we have the extreme heat of summer.
All outdoor facilities have the threat of rain on occasion, but the combination of that plus the heat really necessitated us looking at a retractable-roof facility for the long-term benefit of our organization and for our fans frankly. We’re looking forward to being able to offer that convenience for our fans.
The roof being one of the obvious, but I’m sure there are other signature design elements that will really create that sense of place for your fan base. Can you list off some of those for us?
Well certainly, our premium hospitality space is [a signature], particularly on the lower level of the ballpark. We have a significantly sized home plate club, two down the line clubs, and then on what we’re calling our lower concourse, two other clubs. There are really five premium spaces just on that lower level of the ballpark.
We’re also going to introduce some field level, home plate suites between the camera wells between the two dugouts, which will be unique, and then a level of suites about 16 rows up. I think Milwaukee has some comparable suites, their Founders Suites behind home plate, but we’ll have them all the way around that level, foul to foul pole.
We’re really excited about those offerings. We really haven’t had anything like that for Rangers baseball in the history of the franchise, so that’s unique. But like all baseball teams, we also need to be able to offer something for everyone, so we’re looking at a price point for families somewhere in that $9 range.
One of the other big things that we’re doing from a design standpoint is related to transparency and allowing as much light into the building as we can. One thing we noticed in traveling around to some of the other retractable-roof buildings, particularly in home plate areas, was the levels are stacked, and they just looked dark, so we’ve incorporated quite a bit of ETFE into the design above the concourses. And then to translate it down to the main concourse, we have cut openings in the upper level, and our suite level is sort of tucked in, so that allows that light to translate all the way down to the main concourse.
Our north façade is a thousand feet long – the north face of the building which supports the north side of the retractable roof – but that will be primarily glass, so when you’re out on our plaza space, which will be one of the primary entries into the building, if the roof is closed and it’s in the evening, you’ll still be able to look through and see into the ballpark, which I think is going to be a fantastic view.
Let’s weave in and out of the ballpark momentarily. You have this Texas Live! element adjacent to the park. How does that entertainment district impact your business? And how does it help with the storytelling to prospective fans for the new park?
It extends your day. It gives our fans an opportunity to come early, to stay later. And it’s not just Texas Live! In August of 2019, we’ll open the Live! by Loews Hotel. We’ll have 300 guest rooms at a four-star-quality hotel, working closely with the Tisch family and the Loews Hotel chain to bring that all together.
If you have a family coming from out of town for the weekend, and they stay at the hotel, they can have lunch of Texas Live! They can go to a ballgame. We’re in such close proximity to Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor. We’re trying to create a destination. We’ve had it with our ballpark, with AT&T Stadium, with the amusement park, but we didn’t have those things that were additive to what we’re doing.
In Arlington, we do fantastic on the weekends. We’re a great entertainment destination. By adding the hotel and the entertainment piece, we believe we can now build our business travelers. We miss some of that Monday to Thursday business now, but we think these primary developments here can start to address those things.
And there’s more to come. We have other things in the pipeline of course. As we said through the bond election in 2016, Globe Life Park, our existing ballpark, will remain. We have the XFL coming in the spring of 2020. We have a couple of other opportunities for sports-related things that we’re in conversation with right now. They’re not quite ready to announce, but this building will remain as a viable facility.
We operate the office building out in center field, so we’re looking for an anchor tenant to come in and take over the space that the Rangers currently have. Once we do that and get the building full, we’ll have a viable office building in close proximity to entertainment, a hotel, and two great facilities in Globe Life Field and AT&T Stadium.
Aside from the XFL tenant that you mentioned, will there be any other content that is programmed into Globe Life Park, any concerts or anything of that nature?
I think it might make more sense for us to look at Globe Life Field as a concert venue, for the same reasons we’re moving there for baseball. We can control the weather. We’ve built the facility to accommodate concerts from things we’ve done back-of-house-wise in terms of power and drivability and setting a concert, so not to say we wouldn’t look at those opportunities at Globe Life Park, but they might make more sense in the new building.
It takes a village to build one of these things. Could you name all of the stakeholders that are involved on the design-build team?
Our master architect is HKS. Brian Trubey led the design. Manhattan Construction, the same construction company that built Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium and the American Airlines Center, is leading the construction side of things.
And I do need to mention a gentleman named Jack Hill who is a Rangers employee. He’s our Senior Vice President for Project Development. He was actually the Project Manager on Globe Life Park, AT&T [Stadium], and American Airlines [Center], in addition to [Levi’s Stadium], so Jack, in our opinion, is the preeminent project manager in the country for these types of projects.
Who are you collaborating with to develop the Texas Live! entertainment district?
We’re partnered with The Cordish Companies out of Baltimore, who we believe are the preeminent sports-anchor developers in the country. We’ve seen their successful developments in Philadelphia, certainly in St. Louis at Ballpark Village. Of course, we believe Texas Live! is the biggest and the best.
Cordish has been a great partner for us. They helped bring the Loews Hotel chain to the table as we were talking about the potential for additional hospitality and lodging, so that partnership has resulted in the Live! by Loews Hotel.
Being positioned in the center of the Metroplex, relatively equidistant between Dallas and Fort Worth, ten minutes from the south entrance of DFW Airport, and only about 20 minutes from Dallas Love Field puts us in a great spot. And with amenities like AT&T [Stadium] and Six Flags, we’re a magnet for families and fans during the summer.
What will the capacity be in the new park?
We will be in excess of 40,000. I think somewhere around 40,300, a little step down from Globe Life Park which is at 48,000. But we think it’s a good number for baseball.
What is the final construction cost or anticipated final construction cost? And what’s the construction timeline?
The cost right now is at $1.2 billion. We’re about a year from opening, so we feel pretty good about where the numbers are because the majority of packages have been let.
In terms of when we started, the bond election was passed in November 2016. With excavation, we really moved forward in 2017. The plan is to open March 2020, so we’re closing in fast.
And what is the funding mechanism?
There’s a contribution from the city of Arlington, primarily through sales tax; although, there are some rental car and hotel taxes associated with that.
It’s the same funding mechanism that the city successfully used to fund Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium, and actually to retire the debt on Gold Life Park in about 14 years of a planned 30 years of using that sales tax increment. And then with AT&T Stadium, the city was scheduled to retire that debt in about the same amount of time, about half the time. Now they refinanced it in order to help fund Globe Life Field, but the city has proven that this mechanism works, twice over and now a third time here. So the sales tax is the primary driver for the city funding, and it’s capped at $500 million. The Rangers are responsible for the balance.
Rob, we were sitting in an incredible sales centre earlier today. Can you share with our membership how this centre is being used today and the strategy that you’re going to deploy through the construction process?
We sit here across the street from the project, so not only do we have the benefit of the sales center, but we can literally direct people to the view across the street and actually see the construction, so we think that’s a tremendous benefit.
We studied other sales centers. We went around to see what the Raiders are doing. We wanted to see what the Rams were doing. We took a trip to Detroit to see what the Red Wings were doing in opening Little Caesars Arena. We went to Atlanta before SunTrust Park opened, so we tried to learn from our peers, and we think we brought a lot of those elements together here in the sales center.
It’s a great place for us to be able to close business. Certainly, the model helps bring things to life. The roof actually moves, and we’ve got Texas Live! and the hotel there as part of it, so people can see how things will work in relationship to one another. But I think the best sales tool is actually across the street, being able to physically look out and show people what’s happening with the construction then see what it will look like in the model. And then hopefully this summer, we can be in a position to take small groups of people actually into the stadium and physically take them to their suite locations or seat locations and show them the proximity to the field.
One of the things we’ve done is split several of the levels. The building is pretty tall, but by making it tall, we’ve been able to pull seats closer to the field, even in our upper levels of the ballpark. Our upper deck is split, so you only go down ten rows if you’re in the lower portion of the upper deck or up a maximum of 12 rows. By splitting it, we’ve been able to pull those seats in the upper portion of the upper deck forward, so even those folks in the ‘cheap seats’ if you will have a great view of the game.
Is this sales center a device for prospective premium sales? Is it a part of the relocation process for season ticket holders? What are some of the specific applications that you’re using it for?
We’ve started with our current suite holders and season ticket holders. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the premium areas we have in the new ballpark are things that we haven’t been able to offer our customers previously, so it’s been a little bit of an education process to show them all the amenities that are available.
Suite holders obviously understand the suite product, so it was finding the right fit and right location for suite customers. But with our home plate club and our down-the-line clubs, that’s been a little more of an education process, and that’s where the sale center has really helped.
We can actually project images from the different locations. The sales team can walk through a multitude of options and let the customers experience them. And then within different parts of the center, we have different seat types, so they can literally sit in the seats. We’re trying to allow fans to experience as much as they can here in anticipation of what’s to come.
Some level of amenity needs to be offered to all fans, not just premium seat fans. Are there some examples of destinations around the ballpark that will be accessible to all fans that are available to mention today?
In development, you want something that’s interesting around every corner. In listening and trying to learn from people who do this for a living, we kept that in mind as we designed the building.
Our lower concourse, which has more of the premium areas, will still have a very robust concession area with upscale food and beverage offerings for people that may not have club access, so even on that premium level, there will be premium concessions [for all fans] to go with it.
On our main concourse, we’ve developed an area that I’m excited about over on the third base side called The Market. It’s a big open-concept floor plan which has a multitude of different food offerings. We’re looking at some branded concepts on the main concourse from very popular Texas brands and a national brand too that we’re talking to. We want to make sure that people get a little bit of everything. Of course by extension, you can take it out to Texas Live! and the 150,000 square feet there as part of the experience either before or after the game.
On our upper concourse, we have a really cool Sky Porch area in left field which is going to have a barbecue concept tied to it. It’ll be a really unique seating area. And then in left field, we’re referring to some seating we have there as the bridge seats. They actually cantilever out almost to the edge of the field. Our all-you-can-eat seats [in Globe Life Park] have been very popular, so again on the upper concourse, we’ve built a very robust location to accommodate our all-you-can-eat guests. We think we have something for everyone.
Up until we opened this park, fans would pull up, park the car, come into the ballpark, and that was it. At the end of the night, there was nowhere to go. You get back out to the parking lot, get in your car, and go.
Now even if it’s just sitting out on the plaza before the game and enjoying the fountain with your family or taking a picture there or wandering into Live!, you can just go in and look around and just enjoy the experience. If you’re 30 minutes before the gates open, you can go in Live! and enjoy the air-conditioning, see what’s on the big screen, use the restrooms, and when you’re ready to go in the park, you go in the park. And again, that’s what I’m excited about. We haven’t been able to offer that kind of experience to our fans.
As we continue to improve the district, as the hotel comes on, we’re going to do some improvements on the waterway next to the hotel, Live!, and the ballpark. It’s going to be a tremendous destination.
This article and video has been reproduced courtesy of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD). See the original online at: https://alsd.com/content/top-rob-matwick
The annual ALSD Conference & Tradeshow, which includes the Sports Venue Design & Build Forum, is being held in Chicago, United States, this June 30-July 3. The ‘International’ edition of this – the industry leading event for the Premium/VIP Seat & Hospitality sector – will then be held at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, this October, 28-29. 3D Digital Venue is a sponsor/exhibitor/speaker at both of these events.
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