Fort Worth breaks ground on $97.5 million police, fire complex

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- City officials broke ground Tuesday on a $97.5 million police and fire training center and headquarters in south Fort Worth.

The center, to open next year, will give the police and fire departments more training capacity, improve and consolidate training now done at an outmoded city facility and outsourced at others, and move the city closer to adding a sixth police patrol division to the fast-growing far north, city officials said.

"This is a great investment and a great way to get a lot of bang for our buck," Councilman Joel Burns, whose district includes the center, said during groundbreaking.

Mayor Betsy Price said, "We will be the envy of the nation."

The city is building the center on the grounds of the former 75-acre Federal Depot at Hemphill and Felix streets, which Fort Worth bought for the project.

The city will demolish a half-million square feet of warehouse space, renovate another half-million in two buildings and add a 60,000-square-foot administration building.

The indoor police firing range will open by next summer, and the rest of the project should open later in the year.

Last year, the city sold its 48-year-old public safety training complex at 1000 Calvert St. to the Tarrant Regional Water District to make way for the Trinity River Vision.

For police, the new center will add more classroom space, greater technology and the ability to sell training to outside police agencies. It will include a driving track, enabling the police and fire departments to move that training from Texas Motor Speedway parking lots and other facilities.

The indoor gun range will reduce noise for neighbors and allow more flexibility on when recruits and officers can use it, Police Chief Jeff Halstead said.

The police "Tactical Alley" will have movable walls, allowing changes in the configuration and letting officers drive into it for simulations.

The current complex has an outdoor range and a simulation center without movable walls. Catwalks in the new center will let trainers evaluate recruits and officers from above.

The center will allow for more and bigger police recruit classes -- three to four classes of 40 to 50 recruits a year, Halstead said. Now, police typically have two classes of 30 recruits apiece.

The latest class graduated 16 recruits Friday after starting at 30, Halstead said.

For the Fire Department, the center will have facilities for training in confined spaces, high-rise and other high-angle emergencies, and hazardous materials and other "heavy rescue" situations. It will have burn facilities -- training now done at Tarrant County College and in Cleburne -- and pools for swift-water training and dive teams.

The Fire Department now has much of its classroom training at the Calvert Street complex, and it can still use the drill tower's stairs. But the city hasn't run burn training at the complex for years.

The city is paying for the new complex through the sale of certificates of obligation, money from the Crime Control and Prevention District fund, and proceeds from the sale of the police headquarters downtown.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

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Hemphill and Felix, Fort Worth, TX
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