Back in the spring, we successfully applied a notoriously difficult-to-pull-off reverse jinx on both the Rangers and the Astros (yup, that’s what we’ll call it). We made some references to the terrible seasons we expected both teams to have, thereby putting them but in a position to invert those expectations, which they both did: After leading the AL West for most of the season, the Astros have slipped into a tight race with the Angels and the division-leading Rangers, who enjoy a two-game lead on the Angels (and two and a half games on the Astros) with four left to play. With the one wildcard spot in the conference still very much in play, if the Rangers split their series with the Angels and the Astros perform against Arizona over the next few days, it’s entirely possible that both the Astros and the Rangers end up playing relevant October ball.
In other words, you’re welcome, Texas baseball fans.
But there’s a question up in North Texas: Why hasn’t this unexpected success for the Rangers translated to a packed Globe Life Park? As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram explores, attendance for Rangers games looks like what you’d expect if they were a dozen games under .500, not a playoff-bound team leading the division:
As of Friday, the Rangers had the worst attendance of the six division leaders. So far, the team has averaged about 30,000 fans per game, their worst since 2009 and in the bottom half of all teams in Major League Baseball.
Yes, the Rangers are a delightful September surprise. They played .300 ball the first few weeks and still trailed by eight games in August. Yet tickets went on sale Saturday for a possible wild-card playoff game Oct. 6 and three possible league division series games Oct. 8-14. […]
The Rangers will play seven games this week at Globe Life, first against the Detroit Tigers and then hoping to clinch a division championship against the Los Angeles Angels. Tickets start as low as $10 Monday night using an online coupon code.
That “tickets as low as $10” thing is actually even worse than it sounds. If you want to do your purchasing on a secondhand dealer site like StubHub, you can go see the Rangers fight to maintain control of the division against the Angels for a mere $6. You can add a parking pass for another $8. That is a cheap evening of quality family entertainment.
The Star-Telegram explores some potential reasons why Rangers tickets haven’t been selling this year—maybe it’s all the excitement about football?—but that doesn’t really ring true. They like football in Minnesota, too, yet tickets to see the Twins (whose path to the playoffs is unlikely) on Friday start at almost four times the price of Rangers tickets.
But more interesting than the hand-wringing about why fans in North Texas can’t be bothered to show up to support their team is what the organization might do about it: Namely, to consider relocating to another part of the region. Specifically, to Dallas proper.
Make no mistake: Arlington and Tarrant County’s support for the Rangers is a matter of regional debate.
The Rangers’ city lease in Globe Life Park ends on April 11, 2024, only a few seasons away. Dallas leaders have repeatedly denied any effort to lure the Rangers, but team officials have acknowledged that a stadium with a retractable roof anywhere would attract interest.
There’s not a stadium in Dallas sitting around with a retractable roof and no occupants at the moment, but one intriguing option would be the possibility of adding a roof to the Cotton Bowl. That’s not an unprecedented move—one was added to Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York this year—and plans to revitalize Fair Park have long been in the works. Bringing a baseball team that’ll use a central Dallas stadium several nights a week over the course of six months would certainly be a boon to any revitalization plans, and if the Rangers aren’t getting much out of being in Arlington, why wouldn’t they consider a move to a more promising location?
Over at D Magazine‘s Frontburner blog, Peter Simek makes another argument for bringing the Rangers to Dallas—that the way people enjoy and consume baseball as a live experience is fundamentally different from the way they enjoy going to a Cowboys game (where only eight take place at home in a season, making each one an event) or to Six Flags, or the other things people tend to travel to Arlington to do:
Imagine if the Rangers were playing in downtown Dallas while they were making their run for the playoffs. The 135,000 employees leaving their jobs at the end of the day would see a stadium lit up and ready for a game. The young people heading back to Uptown and thinking about which patio to hit for happy hour would see the stadium looming just a hop away. A dad rolling up to his house in Highland Park or North Dallas would suddenly remember that he and his teenage daughter are a few bucks on Stub Hub and a short DART ride away from watching a significant Rangers game in person instead of on TV. They’d likely be home before midnight. These are the kinds of people who fill up stadiums in other cities when the team isn’t playing well or playing unexpectedly well.
The rationale for placing sports teams in Arlington follows a marketing model that treats sporting games as events. You plan it out. You buy tickets in advance. You make sure to bang off work early. You bring some extra money to buy merchandise to help mark the occasion. But the beauty of baseball is that with the extended pace and flow of its 162-game season, the experience can — and maybe should — be more casual and spontaneous. It should feel more like going to the movies than to a football game.
At any rate, it’s clear that attempting to market “going to a Rangers game” as a big event that people should anticipate in advance just isn’t working. If there were ever a time for Rangers fever to be sweeping Arlington, it’d be right now. Even playoff tickets on StubHub—assuming that they’re required—are $16 cheaper to see the Rangers play at home than the “if necessary” Astros tickets in the event that Houston clinches.
It’s not that people in the DFW Metroplex don’t like the Rangers, or that they don’t care about baseball. TV ratings for the games are up, both nationally and specifically in the region. It’s that, for whatever reason, people don’t want to go to Arlington to watch them play, even when a family of four can get out to the ballpark, and—even after parking—only drop $40 on the game. With that in mind, maybe the time is right to look at Fair Park, or downtown, or another part of Dallas as a potential home for the Rangers when that lease ends in 2024.