ARLINGTON -- For sports fans, it's a dream weekend in North Texas. On the menu is a smorgasbord of sports events, featuring a heaping helping of playoff baseball and generous portions of college and pro football.
But for motorists, the glut of games scheduled Saturday and Sunday in Dallas-Fort Worth -- each of which is expected to draw tens of thousands of fans -- could create nightmarish driving conditions.
Not only are college and pro football games being played from one end of the Metroplex to the other, but the Texas Rangers are also in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. On Saturday, for example, the Rangers will play Tampa Bay at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, while next door at Cowboys Stadium, Texas A&M faces off against Arkansas.
On Sunday, if the Rangers' series goes to a fourth game, the team will again host Tampa Bay, this time while the Dallas Cowboys are preparing to play the Tennessee Titans a home run hit away -- or at least a long foul ball.
Meanwhile, games will also be played at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Southern Methodist University in University Park and the University of North Texas in Denton.
"It's like the perfect storm of sports," said Trooper Lonny Haschel of the Texas Department of Public Safety, one of several law enforcement agencies that plan to step up patrols on corridors such as Interstate 30 to ensure that motorists proceed slowly and soberly.
'Plenty of capacity'
For those who aren't in a sporting mood, it might be best to just avoid the I-30 corridor and other freeways through North Texas. But officials say they're ready to handle the crowds of people who do plan to go to the games.
In Arlington, officials from the Rangers, Cowboys and the police have huddled for several weeks to come up with traffic plans, said Rob Matwick, Rangers vice president of ballpark operations. They devised several options for traffic flow that can be changed on the fly as conditions warrant, he said.
The plans must be flexible enough to meet the needs of fans attending football games that have been scheduled for months as well as playoff baseball games with start times that remained in flux until Tuesday night.
"There's plenty of capacity in the area," Matwick said. "It's just a question of whether everybody can find it without traffic getting too choked up."
Adding to the challenge is the fact that many fans are from out of town, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said.
"We're having lots of fans coming to the games who don't know Arlington," she said. "We are pushing the information out to the college campuses."
Officials sent traveling tips to officials at Texas A&M and Arkansas to show motorists the best routes to the stadium and urged them not to use navigation systems because of possible street closures and lane reversals.
Parking is also an issue. In most cases, Rangers Ballpark parking lots will be open only to those with Rangers tickets.
However, several hundred Cowboys ticket holders who bought a Rangers parking spot with their football tickets will be given space in Ranger lots A, B or M, Matwick said.
Plenty of entrepreneurial parking is available for fans who don't already have a spot reserved, and much of it is cheaper than what's available closer to the stadiums, officials said. Most off-site parking is along Collins Street, Division Street and Ballpark Way/Stadium Drive.
A rundown of key games and more of what fans and drivers can expect:
11 a.m.: Texas Tech plays Baylor at the Cotton Bowl. Expect the usual delays finding parking at the State Fair of Texas. Try taking the Trinity Railway Express from Fort Worth to Dallas, then transferring to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail, which now serves Fair Park.
2:30 p.m.: Texas A&M plays Arkansas in the Southwest Classic at Cowboys Stadium. Parking lots open at 9 a.m., and a pregame parade featuring the A&M Corps of Cadets and Arkansas Razorback Band begins at 10 a.m.
Fans who carpool from the Dallas area will be able to use the high-occupancy vehicle lane, which has a direct exit to Legends Way. Stadium doors open at 12:30 p.m.
2:30 p.m.: TCU plays Wyoming at Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth.
4 p.m.: The Texas Rangers play Tampa Bay at Rangers Ballpark. Parking lots open at 11 a.m., ballpark gates at 1 p.m. Go to www.texasrangers.com/directions for parking information and directions.
6 p.m.: UNT plays Arkansas State in Denton.
7 p.m.: SMU plays Tulsa in University Park.
Noon: The Rangers play Tampa Bay in game four of the American League division playoffs, if necessary. Lots open at 7 a.m., gates at 9 a.m.
3:15 p.m.: The Cowboys play the Titans at Cowboys Stadium. The HOV lane from Dallas offers direct connection to Legends Way.