- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A high-powered search committee, which includes a former commerce secretary and a president’s brother, is busy scanning the Texas heartland for the best spot to locate President Bush’s library, even though he won’t be out of office for another 42 months.

The formal bidding has not yet opened, but several Texas universities, along with the city of Arlington, Texas, already have prepared lengthy proposals to persuade the search committee.

“[Former Commerce Secretary] Don Evans is a key player in this, as is President Bush’s brother Marvin,” said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, who has written three letters to the president and senior adviser Karl Rove pushing his city as the best site.

Among the top contenders for the library — expected to cost as much as $200 million — are:

• Southern Methodist University, considered by some as the front-runner because first lady Laura Bush attended the Dallas college and Vice President Dick Cheney sits on the school’s board.

• Texas A&M; University in College Station, site of Mr. Bush’s father’s library, which is centrally located for the state’s urban areas.

• Baylor University in Waco, the world’s largest Baptist university and not far from Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, which has put together 100 acres on the Brazos River for the library.

• The city of Arlington, where Mr. Bush lived when he was part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and soon to be the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

While Mr. Bush will be president for another 42 months, the candidates say the decision on the site could be made this year.

“The rumor is, late summer, early fall, but that’s a rumor, and we haven’t been told that by the White House,” said Tom Barry, an SMU official heading up the library campaign for the university.

Along with the rumors of the date the Bushes will make their choice is another that the pair will choose to live in Dallas — not at their Crawford ranch — after the president completes his second term.

That, Mr. Cluck said, gives the city of Arlington, located between Dallas and Forth Worth, a huge advantage.

“We have the space, we have the population that would appeal to the president,” he said.

The city of Arlington announced last month that it would team up with two sports giants — the Cowboys and the Rangers — along with the University of Texas at Arlington in a bid to win the facility.

One possible site is in the city’s entertainment district, which eventually will be anchored by the Rangers’ Ameriquest Field and a new Cowboys stadium, scheduled to open in 2009. Another site would be near the 25,000-student UTA campus.

Mr. Cluck has directed city planners to include up to a 30-acre presidential library site in the city’s entertainment district that now includes the baseball stadium, Six Flags Over Texas, and a water park. The district draws about 7 million visitors a year — expected to rise to up to 11 million once the Cowboys move to town.

“The president has a special relationship with our city from his ballpark days and the fact that we’re in the middle of the metroplex,” Mr. Cluck said.

Then there’s College Station. Because the father-son pair is the first such duo to win the presidency since John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, twinning the libraries on the college campus would be a first.

The 41st president’s facility draws nearly 200,000 visitors annually.

But Baylor, a 12,000-student university founded in 1845, offers its own hometown charms. The school began its campaign to win the library well before Mr. Bush was even elected president. The university, which features a sprawling campus, has bought more than 100 acres on the banks of the Brazos River in downtown Waco and is prepared to donate the land for a library.

“It’s 100-plus acres of untouched riverfront property,” said Tommy Lou Davis, who is spearheading the Baylor effort. “We feel like location, the site itself and the support of the community makes this a good site.”

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