SBJ/Feb. 24-March 2, 2014/Franchises

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  • Finally stability for the Rangers?

    No MLB club in the last six months has seen more major organizational changes than the Texas Rangers. Since the departures last year of their president of business operations, Rick George, and their chief executive, Nolan Ryan, the Rangers have installed co-chairman Ray Davis as the club’s designated control executive, taken on nearly $300 million in future salary commitments in acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, signed a 10-year ballpark naming-rights deal with Globe Life Insurance reportedly worth $50 million, and continued on a multiyear effort to upgrade what is now called Globe Life Park.

    Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ former head of stadium operations, saw his duties expand in the transition and now is the senior day-to-day executive running the club’s business operations. He spoke recently with staff writer Eric Fisher.


    Matwick gives a construction update on the Jack Daniel’s Club, new for 2014.
    Photo by: KELLY GANN / TEXAS RANGERS
    What is your general sense of this offseason, given all the changes that have happened?

    MATWICK:
    I’ve been here six years now, and at this point, we now have the most stability that we’ve had in that time. So I think as an organization, particularly on the business side of the operation, I feel really good about where we are and where we’re headed. We have a good team in place, and with the news about the naming-rights announcement, what [executive vice president of business partnerships and development] Joe [Januszewski] and his team were able to get done, that was huge for us moving forward. In all other areas such as ticketing and sponsorship, those things are moving forward nicely. We’re looking forward to the season, and feel like we have great momentum going into the year.

    What do you mean by having the most stability now?

    MATWICK:
    Having gone through bankruptcy [in 2010], and then a few of the departures that have happened. There have been changes and some people that were here have since left. We went into bankruptcy, through bankruptcy, and then there were some personalities here coming out of the bankruptcy, high-profile people that have left us, people like [former CEOs Chuck Greenberg and Ryan]. And any time you have departures in the organization like that, it’s a little unsettling for staff. But I think we’re beyond that now. We’re now very stable and have a great team in place.

    Since your duties have expanded, how have things changed for you?

    MATWICK:
    It’s evolved. When Rick left in August, I worked a little more closely with Nolan and took on some additional responsibilities. Then when Nolan left, Ray has moved in and he’s more involved with us day to day. We obviously all report straight up to him. From that standpoint, it’s evolved and we’ve had to learn his leadership style. But it’s been very good on a day-to-day basis. He’s a tremendous resource, as is [co-chairman Bob Simpson]. These are great resources to be able to call on.

    How often do you see Ray now?

    MATWICK:
    I walk across the hall. He’s in three to four days a week, depending on his schedule and his other business interests. But typically, he’s been here about three days a week or so with us in the office.

    What has been the financial evaluation in taking on the Fielder and Choo contracts? You’ve had strong attendance and revenue, but those were obviously major commitments.

    MATWICK:
    With the trade for Fielder, there was money coming in [from Detroit] and the contract of [second baseman Ian] Kinsler going out, which obviously factored in. With the Choo signing, I obviously wasn’t privy to the baseball operations conversations, but ownership felt comfortable [and] on the business side we felt comfortable this was something we could take on and make us a better organization. Both these acquisitions have been very well-received in our local community. We’ve seen positive impacts in terms of ticket sales, merchandise, and so forth. And with Choo, we’ve actually had interest from a Korean radio station in airing some of our games this season. Those are certainly the types of business impacts we like to see. But people are just excited about the club. We knew we needed to address our offense and [general manager Jon Daniels] and his team have done a great job.

    What is your expectation for attendance this year?

    MATWICK:
    We’ve been fairly consistent right around the 3 million mark each year, and that’s certainly our goal to start the season. We’re encouraged the way our renewals are going. We’ve established 3 million as an achievable number every year.

    The naming-rights deal was interesting in that reports suggest you received a very healthy number for a legacy building that’s already had several names.

    MATWICK:
    I’d say that’s accurate. We feel very good about the partnership with Globe Life. We like the fact that they’re a North Texas-based company with a strong presence here. [Globe Life’s parent, Torchmark Corp., is based in McKinney, Texas].

    What is the current state of the ballpark renovations?

    MATWICK:
    This year is not quite as ambitious as the last three offseasons. This year we’re renovating what we previously called our Diamond Club area, a traditional stadium club. Jack Daniel’s has come in and they are branding that location. By Opening Day, that will be the Jack Daniel’s Club. We’re also behind the scenes renovating our primary suite kitchen up on the club level. We have 126 suites, and that’s a major project for [concessionaire] Delaware North Cos., about a $2 million upgrade. We have literally taken that apart and put it back together. That will allow a big enhancement in the food and beverage offerings with state-of-the-art equipment. We’re also replacing upper suite-level seats. We’re also renovating our main team store. All told, it’s somewhere between $4 million and $5 million worth of work. And over the four years, ownership has invested $40 million into the building. We’re always looking to boost fan experience and, fortunately, ownership has given us the latitude to do that. It’s had a major impact on the building.

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