On April 11, the face of Irving was forever changed when Texas Stadium, the iconic structure that had more or less defined the city for almost four decades, was imploded. Though the change was a long time coming, it raised a question: what does Irving, a large, not exactly desirable suburb, do now?
The answer: keep doing what it’s been doing.
Irving has been busy the last few years improving the city, starting inside City Hall and moving down each and every street. Irving was the only city to win the Texas Quality Foundation’s highest award for effective management, thanks to its adoption of Six Sigma quality control strategies. Six Sigma is usually saved for executives; in Irving it’s city-wide. A water pipe repairman, for instance, used to do one job per day. Now the tools in the water pipe repair trucks are standardized. When crews share a truck, they know where everything is—and now they do two jobs a day. The city has saved $12 million with its Six Sigma initiatives.
But the good news in Irving goes beyond management philosophy. City employees are part of an iWin program, rewarding them financially for getting in better shape. Employees can make $150 a month, and it saves the city $700,000 annually. A new library in the western part of the city will have a net zero energy use, actually putting electricity back on the grid. Two high-end developments are in the works, and the new Irving Convention Center is scheduled to open late this year.
City Manager Tommy Gonzalez—former college football quarterback, assistant city manager in Dallas, and a colonel in the U.S. Army for the past 22 years—has big plans. His biggest challenge is to make Irving one cohesive city—not Las Colinas, Valley Ranch, and the rest of Irving. Is he worried that Irving came in 55 out of 62 surveyed suburbs? Not happy, but not dismayed. “I’m used to throwing four touchdowns, getting picked off one time, then having people focus on the interception.”
As far as the Texas Stadium land, TxDOT has a lease on the property for another seven years (although they could be moved), while Irving considers its options. (Gonzalez says he’s never heard the rumors the land might be used for a casino.) This economy is a good time to plan, research, and dream, he says.
“That was an emotional loss for a lot of people,” he says. “That can’t be understated. We have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that the next generation of that land is developed in a way that the community, the region, the state is very proud of. It definitely has to be iconic and attention-getting. It is the entry point to Irving.”