Fort Worth

July 11, 2014

Fort Worth council to consider proposal for Cultural District arena

After years of discussing the need for a new arena, the Fort Worth City Council will vote on the initial approval of the project on Tuesday.

After years of discussing the need for a new arena to replace the aging, domed “flying saucer” downtown, the Fort Worth City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a new multipurpose arena and sports facility in the Cultural District.

The proposed arena would be at Harley Avenue and Gendy Street on the southern side of the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

It would be funded by an even split of private money and public dollars, including tax on each ticket sold for an event at the venue, on parking, and on each stall or pen used by livestock, according to city documents.

Voters still have to approve the project in a referendum, probably in November, said Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who represents that area.

A consultant’s report about Fort Worth’s hospitality services released in June recommended tearing down the 46-year-old landmark arena at the Fort Worth Convention Center to make room for a new facility.

“I’m very confident” that voters will approve a new arena, Shingleton said. “It is not an increase in [property] taxation, and it is something we need to do.”

A new arena and a remodeled convention center “would certainly enhance the tourist and entertainment processes within the city,” he said.

Tuesday’s resolution states that the project “will allow for the Phase III expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center,” which includes tearing down the current arena, site of high school graduations, circuses and concerts since it was built in 1968.

A nonprofit organization, Event Facilities Fort Worth, was created in 2000 to help fund the new arena and Mike Groomer, president and chief executive officer of that group, said the project is a long time in coming. Groomer wouldn’t say how much money the group has raised from the private sector.

“The arena has been talked about for a long time, and the need to expand the convention center is very important to the future of Fort Worth, and you can’t do one without the other, so we are anxious to see what the council does and where we go from there,” Groomer said.

“As far as the arena itself, there is a lot of work ahead from Tuesday night, assuming the council approves that resolution. There is a lot of work ahead to get to the actual construction. So speculation of money is a little premature from my standpoint at least,” he said.

Details about the size and cost of the proposed arena were not available Friday. The resolution states that it will be “appropriately sized for the market” and that it will “complement the architecture of the Will Rogers District.”

It will be a venue for concerts, family shows, sporting events, community and high school sporting events and ceremonies, rodeos and other agricultural and equestrian shows.

If the council approves a new arena Tuesday, the city must send a copy of the resolution to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to determine if it will have a “significant negative fiscal impact on the State revenue,” according to city documents.

Then, either after the city receives approval from the comptroller or 30 days from the date the comptroller receives a copy of the information, the council can call a referendum for residents to vote on the project.

Hunden Strategic Partners said Fort Worth “can and should” support its own full-size concert, event and sports arena. The Will Rogers Coliseum, a city-owned complex, holds 5,900 people and Stock Show officials have said for years that they want a 10,000- to 14,000-seat arena to supplement that facility.

The city completed a $75 million expansion of the convention center 10 years ago, but the 10,000-seat arena, built in 1968, was left untouched.

“Event planners and promoters love the Fort Worth experience, but cannot be accommodated by existing facilities, due to space or quality issues,” the report said.

The full report will be presented to the council on Tuesday.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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