March 28, 2017

Texas Rangers ballpark 'a gem' in $4B Texas Live! project, developer says

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It was inevitable that longtime developer David Cordish would step up to the plate and play ball.

After all, his grandfather started the Baltimore-based development company nearly 105 years ago and Cordish Cos. has been hitting it out of the ballpark on casinos, hotels and entertainment districts ever since.

“We’ve been developing real estate and real estate entertainment projects for decades,” said the third-generation Cordish to lead the firm. “Some years ago, we fell into doing entertainment districts and we have Live! trademarked with the U.S. Patent office and we have developed more of these projects in partnership with major teams.”

The Cordish Cos. teamed up with the Texas Rangers on Texas Live!, a $4 billion public-private partnership in Arlington that will bring a much-needed entertainment destination between the Rangers’ new ballpark and AT&T Stadium.

The Rangers, much like other Major League Baseball teams, want fans to come early and come often to baseball games. This plays right into Cordish and his multi-generational firm’s sweet spot, said the chairman and CEO of Cordish Cos.

“Whether it’s an NBA team, an ice hockey team, a football team or a pro-baseball team, there’s a universal interest among owners to make their venues active,” said the developer, who is in his mid-70s.

Cordish and his team — which include his three sons — kicked off Texas Live! on Wednesday on the initial $250 million phase. The Dallas Business Journal spent time chatting with Cordish about his development plans:

Why did you decide to build an entertainment destination in Arlington?

We are doing this across the country. When you see an opportunity to not only have the ability to partner with the Rangers on the land, but on the other side of the project you have one of the greatest sports arenas in history — AT&T Stadium — two is better than one and we will clearly benefit from having events at both venues. And no matter how many teams you have around you, there are plenty of days when there isn’t an event. We develop these districts to sustain day in and day out. They become a destination for the area. We consider this particular pairing with the Cowboys, the Rangers and a brand-new baseball park to be a plus, plus, plus. I also love that Arlington is between Fort Worth and Dallas. We think we will draw from both.

What will make Texas Live! a destination for the community?

We will have an open plaza that is free to the public with one of the largest LED screens ever imagined. It’s bigger than a movie screen. If the Rangers have an away game, this will be the place where you can go to mingle with thousands of people.

Have you ever redeveloped a stadium like the existing ballpark in Arlington?

This is our first time to inherit a stadium. We have worked on 60 million square feet of projects in our 105 years, but we’ve never been given a stadium. We are very excited about it. We will reprogram the existing stadium to host major festivals. It will be a gem.

What will be this project’s biggest challenge?

We don’t know yet. All construction is challenging. Building big-scale projects is not for the faint at heart, but we do it.

How do you plan to create a sense of place at this site?

We do this by creating critical mass and bring in things for people to do that are fun. We brought in one of the best barbecue places in Texas and we will have a lot of these kind of tenants. You also almost never charge for music or any of the programming to make it a social gathering spot. This translates to a sense of place.

What’s the backstory to this partnership with the Rangers?

We started talking last year. We were very impressed. The Rangers own the land. The Cowboys actually own very little land there and Cowboys’ fans park by and large on Rangers land. It was a natural partnership. Ray Davis (co-owner of the Rangers) is a gentleman from the old school that is about my age. They have some very good people running the organization and the chemistry was good from the beginning.

How will this project be different than other Live! venues?

We are building a 300-room-plus hotel — which we usually don’t do in phase one — that will help make it a destination. It is a very nice four-star hotel. We are so confident it will do well near the airport with two anchored that are beloved in the communities. I don’t see how we can miss.

Which hotel flag will be brought into the project?

We are about to sign the deal. It’s a terrific national flag that only does upscale. It will be called ‘Live! at the national flag name,’ We will put unique touches on it.

Does residential development help or hurt entertainment districts?

It’s great because people can not only walk to the games, but walk to the plaza. Residential is not part of our initial phase, but that’s one of the great things about this project. The Rangers have some real land — a couple hundred acres — that will be built out over years. In some of these urban projects we have done, you only have what you have. This will be special in that way.