Fort Worth looks to ease flow at Will Rogers complex

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The city and Stock Show are discussing a plan that would create better pedestrian flow across the Will Rogers Memorial Center, give one of the cattle barns better ventilation and more flexibility to move between horse and cattle shows, and create more shaded area for exhibitors.

The $8 million to $9 million plan is a way to cut the hike between Will Rogers’ new parking at the far south end of the complex and the Coliseum on the north end, an amble that now forces exhibitors and visitors around the complex’s animal barns.

The plan: Create a covered, north-south promenade on the existing unloading area between Cattle Barns 1 and 2. It would cut through the corridor that now houses the old milking parlor — a Fort Worth Stock Show fixture — and exit the north wall, fronting Burnett Tandy Drive.

The promenade would line up with Tower Drive on the west side of the Coliseum, creating a straight shot between the south and north ends of the campus.

“It just makes the complex flow a lot better,” Kirk Slaughter, the city’s public events director, said. “We’ve got a lot of new parking on the south part of the campus. They can’t get up here.”

The city wants to strike a partnership with longtime friends such as the Stock Show and Event Facilities Fort Worth, a nonprofit that supports the show, to get the project done, Slaughter said. Those connections this year produced new pedestrian and vehicle gates.

Brad Barnes, the Stock Show president and general manager, said he believes there’s a “strong likelihood that the Stock Show will participate in this project.

“There is a great deal of work yet to be done as far as architectural and financial planning,” he said. “However, considering the history of the Stock Show and the city in partnering together, ... I believe this will come together.”

Barnes said the promenade would create “clear and direct access” that doesn’t exist now.

“I believe this project makes a great deal of sense ... when you consider all the upgrades and improvement to the parking, pedestrian and vehicle gates and the parking/loading areas that were made south of the cattle barns last year,” he said.

The milking parlor, where Stock Show fans have long been able to watch cows being milked, would move as part of the renovation, likely into Cattle Barn 2 on the east side of the promenade, Slaughter said.

As part of the project, the city would also remodel Cattle Barn 2, to include insulation and a new ventilation system, remove the old cattle ties, and install a stall system that would better handle the differing needs of cattle and horse shows.

It’s all in the name of improving the complex’s ability to compete with Tulsa and Oklahoma City for the best shows, Slaughter said. Eventually, the city wants to renovate all of the animal barns.

“If we’re going to be the world’s premiere equestrian center, we need to be the world’s premiere equestrian center,” he said.

The city would have to participate financially, Slaughter said. One possibility: the city’s share of the DFW Airport car rental tax, which has been growing, Slaughter said.

“Is there enough increment there” that could be peeled off, Slaughter said.

If the money and plan comes together, Slaughter said the city would like to begin work next February, after the Stock Show.

Since the Stock Show moved to Will Rogers from the Northside Coliseum in 1944, it has invested more than $50 million in today’s dollars into Will Rogers, he said.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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