ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers announced plans to upgrade a handful of areas of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in time for Opening Day 2012, including the orientation of the visitor's bullpen, something that was talked about during all the confusion regarding the Cardinals and the bullpen phones during Game 5 of the World Series.
The bullpen will now run parallel to the left-center fence, the same orientation as the Rangers' bullpen. As it is set up now, the bullpen has a screen in front and pitchers throw behind that screen and away from home plate while warming up, making it difficult to see them at times from the dugouts.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he and the bullpen coaches had trouble hearing each other on the phone during Game 5, causing issues as to who was supposed to warm up. It's easy to see which Rangers are warming up because of how the bullpen is set up behind the right-center field fence. Now, the visiting bullpen should be easier to see from all parts of the park.
Rob Matwick, executive VP of ballpark and event operations, said the change "should solve that issue for the visiting team."
The Rangers, by the way, say this decision has nothing to do with that game, as these plans were in place well before that.
But the bullpen is only a small part of the changes that will cost approximately $11.5 million and include more than 55,000 square feet. Vandergriff Plaza and most of the first floor of the center field office building will be renovated, with construction already starting. The changes will actually mean the overall capacity of the stadium will decrease by about 1,000 seats. The team has not determined pricing for any of the new seats yet.
The club said the railings on the front row of all seats will be raised this offseason as well, as previously discussed following studies done after the death of fan Shannon Stone in July. That is expected to be completed by Opening Day.
"Our ownership group is extremely committed to improving the ballpark experience both on and off the field," said Rick George, Rangers chief operating officer. "This is another example." The club is building:
• A new Batter's Eye Club, an indoor seating area at the top of Greene's Hill. It will feature four rows of seating for about 100 fans and a view of the playing surface through two-way glass, which will be dark on the field side. It will be a 6,250 square foot structure that is climate controlled and will have its own buffet, bar and dining area. It's an area that can be used for group rentals and as individual seating for certain games.
• A Rangers-themed restaurant and sports bar, which will take up part of the first floor area of the office building. It's going to be a two-level facility with 9,152 square feet that will overlook the playing field. It's air-conditioned and open to the public before, during and after Rangers games. ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Southwest are expected to have studio space in that area.
• Kid's zone. Part of that first floor office space will be allotted to a zone for kids that includes interactive games and other attractions and would be open for rental at other times of the year.
• Updated Vandergriff Plaza. The club is converting what used to be the Children's Sports Park into four new concession stands and various seating clusters. A large video board will be installed to help fans since the view of the field is obstructed. There's also some seating under shade.
• Seating areas. The aluminum bleacher seats on either side of Greene's Hill are being replaced with regular ballpark seats. By going to individual seats, the seating area actually decreases to 424 seats from 1,075. There will be covered decks and areas above the seating areas to the left and right of Greene's Hill.
• Wider concourse. Walkways in the outfield area will be widened to help with pedestrian traffic flow.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.