Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dallas - Home to the Wild Parakeets?

      A few weeks ago I was driving home and noticed a parrot flying in my neighborhood. Like any other person, I thought, "Wow, a parrot, flying around my neighborhood." I felt a bit saddened that somebody's pet had escaped and probably wouldn't survive in the wild for long.

      A week later, I saw 2 more parakeets. I started to think there might be more than just a few escaped parrots flying around East Dallas. After a little research, I discovered that White Rock Lake is home to a rather large parakeet colony. (Another thing I learned, parakeets are a type of parrots.)

     Apparently, a few escaped parakeets found a home on a electrical substation that generates enough heat to make their nest warm enough to live year round. A couple of escaped parakeets became a colony over the course of many years. I drove around the White Rock area and found the substation behind the dam about 200 yards southwest of the old pumphouse. The best time to spot the parrots is at dusk, when they return to their giant nests. It's quite a site, to see the colony of South American birds return home each night. Hats of to TU Electric which decided to leaved the parrots undisturbed after East Dallas neighbors voiced theire desire to leave the colony intact.

     I mentioned this discovery one morning on our radio show and received reports of similar colonies on electrical substations in Irving and Everman.


Directions The Parakeet's nests are about the High Voltage towers across from the White Rock Lake Filter Building

 I never would have imagined that in the year since moving to East Dallas, I would have spotted parrots flying around my neighborhood. I add them to my list that includes foxes, hawks, coyotes and Gary Cogill.






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Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Defense of 32,000 Frog Fans

This has been an exciting season for the TCU Horned Frog Football Squad. The November 2nd edition of the USA has the Purple and White ranked as the nation's 4th best team.

However, this past few weeks has been a interesting one for TCU fans and the city of Fort Worth. On October 17th, Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote a column suggesting that the Frogs deserved larger crowds to witness this special season. Earlier this week, Head Coach Gary Patterson spent part of his weekly press conference imploring more fans to fill Amon Carter Stadium.

I agree. I would like to see the stadium packed for all home games. It would be great on so many levels.

But Saturday when the Versus broadcasters and the studio hosts mocked the city of Fort Worth for not supporting the Horned Frogs while showing an empty section of Amon Carter Stadium, I had to throw a penalty flag.

The one thing that is never mentioned is that TCU is a really small school, one of the smallest in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. There are only 8,000 students. Compare that to the University of Texas and A&M which have nearly 50,000 students. Texas Tech has over 30,000 students. Those schools churn out thousands of alumni every year. And any college Athletic Director will tell you that alumni buy the bulk of season tickets.

Texas is averaging 101,000 fans per game. That's about twice the size of their student body. Texas A&M averages 82,000. That's not even twice the size of their student body. TCU is averaging 32,000. That's 4 times their student body. Name another Division 1 school that draws 4 times their student body. (Answer: Notre Dame)

Boise State has been mentioned in this debate as a small school that sells out at home and gives their team a home field advantage. But Boise State's stadium only holds 33,000. Basically, they are drawing the same as TCU. Plus they have an enrollment of 18,000.

Here in the Dallas - Fort Worth area. Can you name another team that averages more fans per game than the Frogs? There is only one, The Cowboys. The Frogs average attendance is higher than the Rangers, Mavericks and the Stars.

Still, it would be great if the Frogs could draw 5 1/2 times their student body and fill 44,000 seats in Amon Carter Stadium, even when they play Mountain West Conference teams and their small cadre of traveling fans. Or at the very least, have the tailgators come into the stadium for the start of the game.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Apologies to the City of Dallas - I Was Wrong.


I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to the city of Dallas. I mocked you, when you spent $50 million to update the Cotton Bowl. Joining the masses, I derided you for putting curtains on a sinking battleship. I laughed at what I perceived as a tremendous waste of money.

But hindsight is 20/20. And I was wrong. $50 million dollars was an incredible investment.

Consider that the Texas - OU game this past weekend brought an estimated $30 million impact on the Dallas economy. When you multiply that by eight, (Starting in 2008, the two schools have agreed to continue to their State Fair tradition until the year 2015) that means your $50 million dollar investment brings over $240 million to the city. Not to mention the economic impact from the future Texas Tech - Baylor Game, the new January first bowl game and the Grambling - Prairie View game.

Of course, the Texas-OU game is the 800 pound gorilla. Move this game, and the Cotton Bowl would never recover. Both Texas and Oklahoma have a love affair with Fair Park, a love affair that has a lot more to do with money than tradition. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News pointed out that both schools make more money from this one game at the Cotton Bowl, than they would if they were to have the game alternate between their home stadiums. The 90,000 plus seats (with out having to sell any low price tickets to students) makes for one big fat $10 million paycheck every year.

When the city decided to spend $50 million on the Cotton Bowl, its only other options were let it continue to deteriorate and lose the Texas-OU game, or tear it down. If you took the stadium out of the middle of Fair Park, can you honestly think of anything that you could build that would generate over $240 million in economic impact. Basically, the city of Dallas got a very serviceable 90,000 seat stadium for $50 million. That's pretty cheap, especially when you consider that Jerry Jones spent 20 times that on his stadium.

Speaking of Jerry Jones, he is salivating at the possibility of stealing this game away from the city of Dallas. But asks most Texas-OU fans, and they are firmly against moving the contest to Arlington. Taking this game away from the friendly confines of the State Fair would be like traveling to Chicago to watch the Cubs play in a mall parking lot. Jerry World may have the world's biggest TV screen, but it also is surrounded by acres of $75 asphalt parking spots. Not much of an atmosphere, unless of course, you are lucky enough to be in a luxury box surrounded by Roger Staubach, Cher and a Jonas Brother.

Somehow, the aging Cotton Bowl and it's South Dallas surroundings transform itself once a year into an iconic revenue producing venue that blows Jerry's state of the art palace out of the water.

In 1971, the city of Irving spent $35 million on a state of the art venue called Texas Stadium. I drove by that yesterday for one final look before they tear it down. If I told Tex Schramm that his iconic hole in the roof wouldn't outlast the Cotton Bowl, I'm sure he would have laughed. Look who is laughing now.


Read the Dallas Morning News article on the economic impact of the Texas - OU game.



Friday, October 2, 2009

Cool Thing Hits Dallas - And Nobody Notices

It seems to me, as a new citizen of this humble burg, that people of Dallas love to point out their local government's dysfunction. Even when something good happens, people would rather complain about having to drive to Arlington to watch the Cowboys.
Case in point. This past spring, Dallas opened it's 8th Sprayground in my neighborhood. I must commend city hall for such a simple and cost effective way to cool off in the summer. It's basically a playground consisting of a variety of child friendly fountains. Since the fountains are on timers and there is no need for a staff, it cost very little to run them.
I must admit that I probably wouldn't have known about the one in my neighborhood if it hadn't been built right behind my daughter's school. Sadly, none of the people on my block knew about the Sprayground. At a recent neighborhood birthday party for a 2 year old, not a single person had heard of the park, even though it had been open the entire summer and everybody had kids.
How can something this great fly so low under the radar?
I must also commend the city for it's effective graffiti control program. A few weeks ago, someone decided to spray paint the most ridiculously offensive statement across the Sprayground's pump house. I guess they misunderstood intention behind the word 'Sprayground'. Fortunately, for the younger set who couldn't comprehend the vulgarities, they also painted a rather graphic picture complete with giant body parts.
In a matter of days, the playground Picasso had his work erased. The official city website has a place to report graffiti problems. It took two minutes of my time to report the problem.
I just wanted to take a moment and point out that there a lot of good things that the City of Dallas accomplishes. Next time you're driving to Arlington to catch the Cowboys, slow down a bit. You might be missing something cool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Happened to the Rocket Car?



I drove through my old Fort Worth neighborhood today. I must admit, I was a bit envious. The area between downtown and the Cultural District is in the final stages of a dramatic redevelopment. Soon, a Movie Tavern, restaurants, and cool loft apartments will open, making the West 7th corridor once of the most vibrant parts of Fort Worth.
Yet, I feel an odd sense of loss.
For the twenty years I lived on the westside, this vital link between the city's two biggest attractions featured nothing more than a handful of used car lots and old fast food outlets. Included in that mix was one rather shabby outlet called Aardvark Used Cars and Rental. I honestly don't think in twenty years I ever saw anybody ever shopping at the Aardvark. Why would they? The Aardvark had less than 5 cars on the lot.
But the Aardvark did posses one very special vehicle. The Rocket Car.
The Rocket Car looked like some threadbare handyman's attempt to break the world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. For twenty years, the Rocket Car sat in the lot of Aardvark. Alone. Abandoned.
Can I be the only one who wondered what ever happened to the Rocket Car?
If we made four bent billboard post into a piece of artwork at the new post office, couldn't we have done the same for the Rocket Car?
If I had a chance three years ago to sit down with Roger Staubach, the developer of this new neighborhood, I would have offered him one suggestion. "Believe me, you're going to want that Rocket Car"

(photos courtesy of FortWortholgy.com)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anybody for a dip in White Rock Lake?

Recently, Fred Lockhart received a $300 ticket for 'wading' in White Rock Lake. Well, that's what was written on the ticket. Actually, he was floating in an inner tube and fishing.
Mr. Lockhart says if he is ticketed, then so should every kayaker and boater who must get a foot wet to push off from White Rock shore. That's a pretty good point.
Here's my question. Why can't we wade in White Rock Lake? Furthermore, why can't we swim in White Rock Lake?
I can already hear a chorus of 'Yuck'. But before you dismiss this as a ridiculous musing, consider a few points.
White Rock Lake was built as a reservoir for the city of Dallas in 1910. Until the late 1950s, the lake was a popular swimming hole. The first art deco building in the Southwest was constructed in 1930 complete with locker rooms, concession stands and a sandy beach to accommodate swimmers.

 That building still stands today as the Bath House Cultural Center off Buckner.


In 1958, the city suffered a drought and needed the lake again as a water supply. Swimming officially ended in September 2, 1958. After 1958, the city of Dallas focused more on building segregated neighborhood swimming pools rather than re-opening the beach.
During the next three decades, the lake slowly fell into disrepair until it became a teenage cruising spot. In the 90's, the city spent $12 million to clean up the lake, including a two year dredging project. Today, few would argue that it wasn't money well spent. White Rock Lake has become a true gem to this city. The neighborhoods surround the lake have seen their home values skyrocket, thus increasing the property tax revenues.
With this in mind, I recently took a trek out to the restored bathhouse. Since the dredging, one could argue that the lake is as clean as Lake Lewisville or Grapevine Lake. Could we once again have a beach in the middle of Dallas? Could White Rock Lake be resurrected as an urban oasis? Could it be as popular as Austin's Barton Springs?
These are questions I pondered as I looked out at the old swimming dock that still floats in the lake. As I contemplated dipping my toe in the water and making a civic statement, I saw a water snake swim by.
Never mind.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My biggest surprise since moving to Dallas

When I moved to Fort Worth in 1988, Cowtown was rather sleepy. I think the last napping panther had just been swept from the streets. I lived on the west side of town just off Camp Bowie Boulevard, which offered one dumpy grocery store and a Chili's. Fort Worth was boring. We used to lament that there were only 4 place to eat out in Fort Worth. If you wanted to some excitement, you had to make the long trek to Dallas.
About 1995, things started to change. Sundance Square started to take off. Movie theaters, bars, bookstores, restaurants and Bass Hall all opened downtown within a couple of years. All of sudden Fort Worth was a fun place to live. By the year 2009, even the shabby 7Th Street corridor was finally being redone after years of being home to used car lots and an abandoned McDonalds. Fort Worth was becoming an incredible great city. (They are even planning streetcars to connect downtown and the museums
So when I moved to Dallas, there was a bit of remorse that I was leaving when Fort Worth was at the top of it's game.
But hey, I was moving to Dallas. If you are bored in Dallas, it's your own fault.
Except if you live where I live. I think I may have moved to Yawn Town.
I live on the east side of White Rock Lake.
The White Rock Lake area is perhaps the most picturesque part of Dallas. But when people talk about the White Rock area, most are referring to the western side. Lakewood. Lower Greenville. The M Streets.
Have you ever been to the east side of the lake? Equally beautiful. Old growth trees. The Arboretum. Gigantic lots. Great neighborhoods. And a Chili's. That's about it.
Don't get me wrong, I love my home and the half acre lot it sits on in the passed over part of Dallas.
But can someone tell the Shannon Wynne and Phil Romano that the east side of White Rock Lake has tons of potential customers that would love to spend some money for a good time.
In the mean time, you can find me enjoying a drink at Chili's. With my Unicard.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Metroplexing - A Comparison of Life in Dallas vs Fort Worth




My name is Hawkeye. I am a morning DJ on 96.3 KSCS. For the past many years I lived in Fort Worth. I loved living in Fort Worth. I made some incredible friends, lived in a beautiful neighborhood and became a member of the community.
But in November of 2008, I got married to my lovely wife Madelyn. And because I work in Arlington and my wife works in Dallas, we found it more conducive to a good family life to move to Dallas.
I realized that I was in an unique position to compare life in Dallas vs life in Fort Worth. Of the 5 million people who call North Texas home, very few can actually say that the have lived in both Fort Worth proper and Dallas proper. I am probably also one of the few people who subscribe to both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News.
Before I start, a few items of disclosure.
I am the son of a career military man. We moved quite a bit growing up. Whenever we moved to a new city, the first year was always very difficult. That is why I purposely waited a year before starting this blog.
While growing up, I always longed to live in one place. The longest I have ever lived anywhere is 20 years in Fort Worth.
I have a 15 year old stepdaughter who attends Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. So we are committed to staying here at least until her graduation.

Enough for now. My next post: My biggest shock after moving to Dallas.


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