Tablet Opinion

Next year’s Final Four at AT&T Stadium will be Dallas-centric, but Fort Worth also will benefit

From its debut in 2009, there was little doubt that Cowboys Stadium would have a major economic impact not only on Arlington, but Fort Worth, Dallas and all of North Texas.

The vision of Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones to turn the professional football team’s home field into a multipurpose venue — hosting everything from major college football and basketball games to superstar music events and championship boxing — meant that the stadium would produce revenue for the ownership and the region for many more days than the average eight home games in an NFL season.

The stadium, now bearing the name of AT&T, already has hosted a Super Bowl and National Basketball Association All-Star Game, along with other high-profile sporting and entertainment events.

While not exactly in the same league as the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, AT&T Stadium is an economic engine in its own right and will be for many years to come.

Next year it will host the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball semifinals and championship. An economic analysis commissioned by local organizers says the event will add an estimated $276 million to the Texas economy, with about $56 million of that benefiting the host city of Arlington.

Unlike Super Bowl XLV, played at the stadium in 2011 and designed as a four-county event, organizers for next year’s Final Four have centered most of the activities — except for the games, of course — in Dallas.

More than 40,000 hotel rooms for the universities and other groups have been blocked out by the local organizing committee. Most of those accommodations will be in Dallas. Arlington has only one convention-class, full-service hotel in its entertainment district.

Arlington still expects to receive around $786,542 in new sales tax revenue from the basketball fans and media that are expected to begin arriving as much as two weeks before the scheduled games April 5 and 7.

But just because the highly touted event will be Dallas-centric doesn’t mean that the western part of the Metroplex will not benefit, as it has when there have been other major activities at the stadium.

That weekend in Fort Worth already is scheduled to be a busy one, says Robert L. Jameson, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Jameson said at the time the NCAA released information about the hotel rooms it was reserving for the basketball classic, Fort Worth already had a major travel business convention booked for the Fort Worth Convention Center and the city’s three largest downtown hotels: the Omni, Sheraton and Hilton.

Along with ESPN, which will broadcast from Sundance Square Plaza during the Final Four as it did in Fort Worth during Super Bowl XLV, Jameson said he expects the remaining hotel rooms to be taken by basketball fans.

“I would expect this to be a very busy weekend for the city from stem to stern,” Jameson said.

The Final Four at AT&T Stadium is expected to have record attendance, exceeding more than 85,700 fans for each of the three games, plus thousands of media members and other working professionals. Each visitor is expected to spend $350 to $600 a day.

That infusion of dollars into a local and state economy is nothing to sneeze at, which is why whenever there are plans for special events at AT&T Stadium, Fort Worth and its contributions, advantages and benefits should be a part of the very early discussions and planning.

Certainly when there’s a bid for another Super Bowl in North Texas, Jones and the organizing committee must make sure it is truly a regional effort, and not just a Big D thing.

After all, downtown Fort Worth, with all its amenities and unique charm, is closer to the iconic stadium than downtown Dallas.