Points worth noting: Dallas Stars on the prowl for fans in Fort Worth, Cabela's in Waco

Posted Friday, Feb. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Fort Worth

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Stars on the prowl

Although it may be news to some, Fort Worth has a long, storied ice hockey tradition dating back more than 70 years with memorable ties to some of the nation's most cherished professional teams.

The first hockey game in Texas was played at Will Rogers Coliseum in 1941 when the Fort Worth Rangers made their debut.

Almost from the beginning, there was an arch-rivalry between the Cowtown team and one across the Trinity in Dallas.

That competitive tradition continued through the years when the two cities operated top farm clubs for National Hockey League rivals in Detroit (the Fort Worth Wings), New York (the Fort Worth Texans) and Chicago (the Dallas Blackhawks).

So it is only fitting that the area's only major league hockey team, the Dallas Stars, would want to tap into what should be a natural fan pool in Tarrant County -- fans who were once on board but whose support has waned significantly in recent years.

Stars President Jim Lites said during a North Texas Commission luncheon in Dallas this week that his team would like to move its training camp to Fort Worth this year in an effort to recapture fans from the western part of the Metroplex.

A spokesman for Mayor Betsy Price confirmed that she had met with Lites recently, and city staff and Stars personnel would be meeting to see if dates could be secured at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

The convention center, the only city facility right now with a working ice floor, is heavily booked but mid-September might be available for a Stars camp, said Kirk Slaughter, director of the city's public events department.

There is also talk about possible exhibition or pre-season games in Fort Worth.

When the Stars have had training camps in other cities like Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, the towns have put up incentive dollars. There have been no such discussions in Fort Worth, and Slaughter emphasized, "We're definitely in the business of renting space."

It is good that the Stars are trying to reconnect with Fort Worth fans. That could be good for the city, the team and for the long hockey tradition here.

By the way, the Stars last played an exhibition game here in 1993. The team lost 4-0 to the St. Louis Blues before a crowd of 5,466, but the game was a winning benefit for Cook-Fort Worth Children's Medical Center.

Cabela's chain growing

Growth surrounding the Cabela's sporting goods store in far north Fort Worth may have shown the store to be less of an economic development magnet than expected when planned back in 2004, but folks down in Waco are pretty excited about a Cabela's store drawing development there.

Cabela's said it wouldn't put a store in Fort Worth unless the city and other local governments agreed to finance infrastructure improvements around its Interstate 35W site through a tax increment financing district.

They did, but a city study last year showed the district significantly underperforming expectations. Taxable property values in the 981-acre district surrounding the 200,000-square-foot store had climbed to $45 million by 2011, but the figure by then had been expected to be $200 million.

Over the 20-year lifespan of the TIF, it had been projected to attract $573 million in new retail, hotel and commercial development. Activity would have to speed up very soon to meet that goal.

Meanwhile, down in Waco, excitement surrounds a 40,000-square-foot store planned to open there this fall. KWKT Channel 44 news quoted a city spokesman saying, "When a company like Cabela's comes to town, there's going to be other companies that go, 'Whoa, if they are locating in Waco, we need to look here, too.'"

Maybe.

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