The stadium was built in 1965 as Turnpike Stadium, a minor league ballpark seating 10,000 people named for the nearby Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike (Interstate-30 aka Tom Landry Highway). The Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League moved there as the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, and played there for the next seven years, setting many Texas League attendance records, especially after it expanded to 20,500 seats in 1970.
However, the stadium's real purpose was to attract a major league team to the Metroplex. It had been built to major league specifications, and was designed to be expandable to up to 50,000 seats. Due to its location in a natural bowl, only minimal renovations (such as connecting dugouts directly to the clubhouses) would be necessary to ready it for a big-league team. Although it was built primarily for baseball, its general shape was very similar to the major league multi-purpose stadiums that were beginning to emerge in the mid-1960s. The Metroplex had been mentioned as a possible expansion site since the 1950s, and Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff figured that Arlington, halfway between the two cities, would be the best site for a prospective major league team.
In 1971, the struggling Washington Senators announced their intentions to move to the Metroplex as the Texas Rangers. The stadium was expanded to seat over 35,700 people, and was renamed "Arlington Stadium." It was the fourth former minor league park converted for use by a major-league team (not counting instances where minor-league parks served as temporary homes), after Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, Kansas City's Municipal Stadium and Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium.
The park had a skeletal, jerry-built feel, and it was obvious that it had once been minor-league. An upper deck wasn't added until 1978; until then, fans entered at the very top of the stadium and walked down to their seats. It had the largest bleacher section in baseball, stretching from foul pole to foul pole. Unlike most stadiums built during this time, there were very few bad seats, due to its natural-bowl location and the field being 40 feet below street level. Early in the stadium's existence, the stadium could be converted for football by swiveling the third-base grandstands into the outfield. In the process, people sitting in the left-field bleachers had their view cut off. When a football game was played at the stadium, an auxiliary press box, located near the first base side, was used. The 1978 renovations, however, permanently fixed the seats in the baseball configuration for the remainder of the stadium's existence.
Although it had been built for baseball, Arlington Stadium had a number of drawbacks. There was no roof, and thus virtually no protection from the oppressive Texas heat. For nearly all of its existence, it was the hottest stadium in the majors. It was not unheard of for game-time temperatures to be well above 100 degrees. Combined with the Rangers' mediocre performance, this held down attendance considerably during the 1970s. Due in part to the heat, the Rangers scheduled nearly all of their games from May through September at night, a practice that continues today. Other than nearby amusement park Six Flags Over Texas, there was no neighborhood around the park. In his book Storied Stadiums, Curt Smith described it as "small, (but) not intimate."
The scoreboard in the Rangers' early days was a long, horizontal rectangle with a panel shaped like the state of Texas. It was replaced before the 1984 season with a new scoreboard and series of billboards that ran from foul pole to foul pole. "Cotton-Eyed Joe" was played during the seventh-inning stretch for fans to dance to instead of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Arlington Stadium was also the first major league ballpark to sell nachos (in 1974).
The stadium, though, had two advantages. First, before installation of the wrap-around scoreboard and billboards, the predominant gusty winds from the south knocked down many fly balls that would otherwise have been home runs. Second, the large number of metal bleacher seats would come in handy on Bat Night, the promotional game where children under age 12 would receive (in most years) a real bat that could be pounded on the bleachers. As Bat Night would (in some years) be the only sell-out for the usually poor Rangers squads, the spectacle of 10,000-15,000 kids banging their bats all at once would create a deafening sound.
The stadium eventually began to show its age and inadequacy, and the City of Arlington approved the construction of a new stadium for the Rangers. The last game was played in Arlington Stadium on October 3, 1993, resulting in a 4-1 win by the visiting Kansas City Royals, witnessed by 41,039 fans (it was also the final game in the career of Hall-of-Famer George Brett). Following the 1993 season, the Rangers moved to the nearby Ballpark in Arlington and Arlington Stadium was demolished in 1994. The foul poles and home plate from Arlington Stadium were moved to the new ballpark, along with some of the bleachers. The bleachers are currently painted green, but their original blue color is occasionally visible in spots where the green paint has chipped. Home plate was inserted into place at the Ballpark in Arlington by Richard Greene (then mayor of Arlington), Elzie Odom (then Postmaster General and later mayor of Arlington), and George W. Bush (then team owner; later Governor of Texas and President of the United States). The location of the former stadium is now the farthest north parking lot of the current stadium.