ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Visiting managers will soon have an unobstructed view into their bullpen at Rangers Ballpark.
A reconfigured bullpen is among nearly $12 million in stadium upgrades the Rangers announced Thursday. The plans were in the works before the bullpen phone foulup for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in Game 5 of the World Series.
The entire plaza in center field is being redone. A play area for kids that had taken up most of the plaza is being moved to an indoor location nearby. There will be a new indoor seating area, a Rangers-themed restaurant/sports bar and four new concession areas. Bleachers will be replaced by individual seats.
The changes, including changing the orientation of the bullpen to run parallel to the left-center field fence, are scheduled to be completed before the 2012 season opener for the two-time defending American League champions.
The Rangers had previously announced plans to make all protective railings along front-row seats above field level at the stadium a uniform height of 42 inches. Some rails will be raised as much as a foot after a firefighter's fatal fall in July when he reached out to catch a ball tossed his way. That project is also expected to be completed before the April 6 home opener.
Team CEO Nolan Ryan said the changes in center field will add more concessions and entertainment options and provide ways to cool off in the summer months at the stadium that opened in 1994. The Rangers set an attendance record of 2,946,949 this season despite 27 games when the temperature was 100 degrees or higher at first pitch.
"We have a commitment to our fans to provide the finest ballpark experience," said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is part of the ownership group that acquired the team in August 2010. "This project represents the most extensive renovation in the history of the park and we plan to make further upgrades in the coming years."
Pitchers in the visitor's bullpen in left-center would have their backs to the field behind a barrier when warming up during games. With that setup, it was hard if not impossible to see from the visitor's dugout along the third-base line.
When redone, the bullpen will run parallel to the field, the same as the Rangers bullpen in right-center field.
In Game 5 of the World Series on Oct. 24, there was a miscommunication between La Russa and a coach on the bullpen phone about who should be warming up. All the confusion came during the decisive eighth inning when the Rangers went ahead 4-2. Texas ended up winning to take a series lead before the Cardinals won both games in St. Louis to claim the World Series championship.
The new bullpen will replace some seating in left field.
Aluminum bleacher seats on the left and right field sides of the grassy area in straightaway center will be replaced by individual seats. The capacity in the area will decrease from 1,075 to 424, but there will also be covered deck areas with open seating and tables on either side of the new indoor seating area that will be known as the Batter's Eye Club.
Life-sized bronze statues of Ryan and Tom Vandergriff, the former Arlington mayor who lured the Rangers out of Washington for the 1972 season, will remain in the plaza area.