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This iconic piece of Fort Worth’s skyline will shine again soon

Pioneer Tower at the Will Rogers Memorial Center will shine again for the first time in decades — just in time for nearby Dickies Arena to open.

Scaffolding will go up on the exterior of the historic 209-foot tower as soon as the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo ends Feb. 9, Kirk Slaughter, Fort Worth’s public events director said Tuesday. Crews will work through the spring and summer cleaning the exterior, improving the building’s structure and installing lighting.

Soon Pioneer Tower will be back to its former glory, Slaughter said.

“We’ve wanted to do this for years,” said Slaughter, who has worked for the city for 20 years. “To be at point where we finally have the resources to take it back to its original status is pretty exciting, I think, for Fort Worth.”

The Fort Worth City Council approved a little more than $3.75 million for the rehabilitation of the tower Tuesday. A $350,000 chunk will aide a public art project that would project images on to the side of the tower.

Slaughter first approached the council in April of last year about studying the cost of costs and vitality of the tower. At that time the estimated cost was close $1.5 million, but Slaugther said costs went up after and architectural study.

Fort Worth contractor Muckleroy & Falls will do the work.

The time frame for work hasn’t been confirmed, but Slaughter said the hope is the tower will be ready when Dickies Arena opens in November.

Architect Wyatt C. Hedrick designed the buildings at the Will Rogers Center for the Texas Centennial. Pioneer Tower and neighboring Will Rogers Auditorium and Will Rogers Coliseum were constructed in 1936.

Though the tower fell out of repair, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2016, the buildings were listed with the National Park Service.

Jerre Tracy, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Fort Worth, said her organization was “simply delighted” the tower will be restored.

“It will be a beacon once again for our Cultural District,” she said. “It should instill pride in all of us.”

Besides a clean facade and improved structural integrity (Slaughter said the structure hasn’t deteriorated much in more than 80 years), the tower will once again be lit from the inside, adding multicolored lights to the Cultural District and Fort Worth Skyline.

“The idea is if tonight is pink at the rodeo, the tower is pink, if it’s TCU night, it’s purple,” he said. “It can change and represent different events and gatherings.”

The fluorescent lighting will return the tower to its appearance in the 1950s. At some point in the late 70s or 80s, aluminum louvers, panels with angled slats, where installed when it was decided the glass lighting was too costly to repair.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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