DFW Sports History: The Presidential Buyer

Former President George W. Bush
Former President George W. Bush walks onto the Texas Rangers field | Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

On April 21, 1989, the Texas Rangers got a significant boost when future President George W. Bush and his ownership group bought the team from oil tycoon Eddie Chiles.

The franchise had yet to make the playoffs in its history, but Bush was determined to turn it into a respectable ball club.

His impact on the franchise and the city of Arlington was immediate. He quickly worked with then-Mayor Richard Greene to create a proposal for a new stadium by the following October, which eventually became the Ballpark in Arlington. The city’s residents approved the proposal in January 1991, and the Ballpark officially opened at the beginning of the 1994 season.

“As the principal leading partner in the ownership group, his influence with his partners was very significant,” Greene recalled to The Dallas Express in an email. “His role during the negotiations was entirely supportive of developing an outcome that was in the mutual interests of the City, the Rangers, and the people of Arlington. His promise was to work fairly with us, and he conducted himself true to that promise.”

“[M]any other cities in the region, especially Dallas, put forth offers to the Rangers to consider theirs the future home of the team. My response to those proposals was some form of ‘Not on my watch!'” Greene added.

The new Ballpark was just the start of what would become Arlington’s Entertainment District, which now includes AT&T Stadium, Texas Live!, the E-sports arena, Loews Arlington Hotel & Convention Center, and other attractions.

“Today, the Arlington Entertainment District, with the Rangers and Cowboys as centerpieces, is the largest of its kind between the East and West coasts of the country with $5 billion of development,” Greene said. “That is the result of the Rangers partnership that first built The Ballpark in Arlington that opened in 1994.”

During Bush’s nine years as owner, the team featured star players like Nolan Ryan, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, and many others. While Bush was certainly part of the effort, his work securing the Ballpark in Arlington may have also been a factor in attracting and keeping players.

“The decision to bring top players to the team would not have been as successful without the new Ballpark in Arlington which led the Rangers into elite status among all the major league teams,” Green explained.

The Rangers finally made the playoffs in 1996, losing in the ALDS to the New York Yankees in four games. Bush sold the team in June 1998, but his impact on the club continues to this day.

“[I think the fans will remember his ownership as] very enthusiastic and positive,” Greene told The Dallas Express. “During his time as one of the principal owners, he was available and present in public meetings during the campaign to win approval of Arlington voters for the new Ballpark, and he was in attendance at most of the home games and continued as much as possible after becoming governor and president. Now, as former president, he attends several games every year and always is greeted with generous applause when introduced. He has always been a great baseball fan and, as owner and former owner, his devotion to the game is legendary.”

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