An old friend of mine from college named Michael Bertin not long ago sent me an email saying he’d produced and directed a documentary about how Arlington taxpayers got hoodwinked into footing half the bill for the $1.2 billion Globe Life Field. You know, the stadium that this week Twitter destroyed because it looks like a giant metal utility shed. But a documentary about stadium financing? I was not eager to watch it. Especially because I was afraid it would suck, and then what would I tell Bertin?
I’m glad I watched it. Throw a Billion Dollars From the Helicopter, which drops today, is a damn entertaining documentary — unless you live in Arlington. Then this movie is infuriating. The title answers a question. What’s a better way to stimulate the Arlington economy: building a $1 billion stadium or throwing the money from a helicopter?
Here’s the trailer. After that, I’ll tell you how you can watch the full version, and I’ll hit a few highlights from the documentary that I enjoyed.
—Jeff Williams is the mayor of Arlington. He unseated Robert Cluck by, in part, pointing out that AT&T Stadium was a bad deal for taxpayers. Also Williams used “prayer warriors.” Oh, and after he was elected, he said at a City Council meeting that there would be a “lynching” if they didn’t keep the team in Arlington.
—There’s some great old footage of Tom Vandergriff, mayor of Arlington when he was 25 years old, the guy who stole the Rangers from D.C. in 1972. Nixon wasn’t pleased.
–Arlington used profits from gas drilling leases (taxpayer money) to invest in Texas Live! The money had been slated to go to needy kids. Will Texas Live! be the tide that raises all boats? The Cordish Companies is responsible for the deal. They did the same thing in St. Louis. The development there killed existing restaurants and bars.
–Irving’s economy has outperformed Arlington’s since the Cowboys left.
–The campaign to keep the Rangers in Arlington put out false ads that claimed the deal would create no new taxes. There is a new parking tax. There is a new ticket tax. So the Rangers are using their taxing authority to pay for their half of the stadium. Nifty!
–David Schwarz, the architect responsible for the old ballpark, explains that it was designed to accommodate a roof. Mayor Williams said putting a roof on the old ballpark would cost $500 million, making it unfeasible, and that doing so would have disrupted operations for too long. Schwarz says it could have been done for half that and with “minimal impact” to play time on the field.
There is so much more. Like I said, if you live in Arlington, you should be pissed.
Michael Bertin, you did a great job. People, support my old college buddy and watch his movie. If you think it sucks, I’ll give you Bertin’s email address, and you can ask for your money back.