Despite plans to tear down the Fort Worth Convention Center arena, the city’s head of facilities wants to replace or rehab its 10,000-plus seats to make sure they’re comfortable in the meantime.
“The current condition of a great many of the arena seats, especially in the upper bowl, can only be described as deplorable,” a staff report to the City Council says. “Our guests come out of beautifully renovated spaces to a session in the arena and experience seating that does not reflect well on the venue or the city.”
All the permanent seat frames date to 1968 when the Fort Worth Convention Center opened, but the seats have been renovated only once, said Kirk Slaughter, city director of facilities and public events.
Slaughter said the 10,490 seats are in poor condition and are an eyesore.
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“If you’re doing an event in the arena when the lights are off, it’s not so bad,” Slaughter said.
It’s another thing when the bright lights are on and visitors can see the stains and the worn and dirty upholstery, he said.
Slaughter estimates the cost to rehab the seats with new parts and materials, or to replace them, at about $950,000. He’d like to get bids on both options and will ask the City Council on Tuesday for permission to move forward on the project. If approved, the project would immediately be put out for bid, with work starting after mid-September and final council approval, he said.
The staff report recommends paying for the project with unused convention center money and other funds designated for improvements in the Culture and Tourism Fund.
Replacing the seats would be more efficient and faster, Slaughter said. Rebuilding padding and reupholstering them could take six months because crews would have to work when the arena is not in use, he said.
Rebuilding the north end of the Convention Center, on Ninth Street between Houston and Calhoun streets, is part of a plan that calls for first building a 14,000-seat multipurpose arena and sports facility in the Cultural District. In November, voters approved funding the arena project, to be at the southeast corner of Harley Avenue and Gendy Street. Half of the $450 million project is coming from private money.
A consultant has recommended that the Convention Center renovation be completed by 2020, but that hinges on funding the work.
Ten conventions used the arena in 2014, in addition to other events and shows. About 50 more conventions that will use the arena are scheduled through 2020.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727