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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Rangers Ballpark upgrades nearing completion

By Bryan Dolgin

When doing the play-by-play call in the Texas Rangers radio booth, it was quite common for Eric Nadel to notice action in the visiting bullpen through his peripheral vision. He would point toward the bullpen, and I would then reach for the binoculars while sitting in the second row of the radio booth.

If I didn't see the pitcher first stand up, then I prayed my binoculars would have some sort of supernatural ability to see the uniform number through the darkened wind screen as that pitcher warmed up. That problem won't exist in 2012. There won't be a darkened wind screen to hide the visiting relief pitcher. It's a Tony LaRussa excuse-free look.

"The visiting pitchers will throw back toward Greene's Hill, which is the same direction, the same orientation that our pitchers throw in. It kind of matches it up," said Rob Matwick, the Rangers executive vice president of ballpark operations who spoke during Wednesday's construction update tour. "It will be a lot easier for fans to see who is warming up when visiting pitchers get up in the bullpen."

Construction is scheduled to be completed on March 20 for the visiting bullpen, the Batter’s Eye Dining Club, the center-field plaza with concession stands and video boards, an indoor Kid Zone and a restaurant/sports bar. The project is 65-70 percent complete.

"If we'd of had the winter we had last year, that would have made this a lot more difficult," said Wesley Weaver, the senior project manager for the contractor. "The winter has been great."

Rangers executives visited 15 ballparks around the country last season to view fan amenities. The Batter's Eye Dining Club was inspired by visits to a half dozen or so ballparks including Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. For those who buy standing room only tickets for Opening Day or merely have children that won't sit still at any game, there's more space to move around in center field.

"If they want to get out of the heat, they can come back into the restaurant, the retail shop or the Kid Zone. It just gives fans more choices," Matwick said about the center field amenities. "I think you'll see that it’s going to become a gathering point for fans. With the videoboard, now there's not a reason to vacate this area. It's a place where you can stay and still be connected to the game."

The project, which began the Monday after the World Series, is near completion, but the Rangers are still thinking ahead. The Rangers are already looking into ways to improve the fan experience next season.

Follow Bryan Dolgin on Twtter @RangersRadioBD