Country music legends Lefty Frizzell and Willie Nelson both famously sang, If You Got the Money, Honey (I've Got the Time).
That same sentiment could be applied to the relationship between North Texas and the Academy of Country Music Awards, which presents its 50th anniversary show Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
If the spectacle generates as much money as expected — more than $120 million for the local economy — the show could become a regular visitor here.
Bob Romeo, CEO of the ACMs, said as much Friday at a news conference, when he confirmed that he’d talked with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about the show returning to AT&T Stadium every five years.
“That discussion has happened,” Romeo said “I think we’ll know more after Sunday night’s show.”
The ACMs and the weekend’s worth of associated festivities are expected to bring nearly $123 million into Dallas-Fort Worth, with visitor-associated spending at more than $37 million in Arlington alone, according to information provided to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in late 2014.
The ACMs are getting incentives as well. The event has been added to the state’s Major Events Trust Fund, which provides local and state tax money to offset costs of certain events that attract a lot of out-of-state visitors to the area, such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the College Football National Championship Game, all of which have been held at AT&T Stadium in the last five years.
The state fund could provide as much as $5 million in tax money to help stage the ACMs.
But beyond the bottom line, Arlington in particular should get a big boost from the national exposure.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Arlington to be in the spotlight again,” says Decima Cooper, senior director of marketing and public relations for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It makes me happy to see that 90 percent of what’s going on with the ACMs is actually going on in Arlington. It’s a great opportunity for people who are first-time visitors to our region to see exactly what we offer.”
The awards show, which will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS (KTVT/Channel 11), is just the tip of the ACM iceberg. There’s a two-day Party for a Cause Festival, featuring multiple country acts performing in special duets, which began Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood helped host a Lifting Lives Benefit Gala on Friday night at the Omni Dallas hotel, with performances from Hunter Hayes, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and the Band Perry.
On Saturday, singer Dierks Bentley will lead a charity motorcycle ride that will tie in Grand Prairie and Carrollton, along with Dallas. Dallas also gets the ACM Lifting Lives Celebrity Golf Classic, hosted by singer Darius Rucker.
But the big event is in Arlington, where 70,000 tickets for the awards show sold out in 18 minutes when they went on sale a year ago, and where an additional 35,000 are expect to attend the Party for a Cause Festival.
Hotels and restaurants should be busy all weekend, with retail establishments also gaining from the visitors. A December economic impact report, done by BDO US on behalf of the Stadium Events Organizing Committee, estimated that visitor-associated spending would reach $37,352,887 in Arlington.
A long time coming
The idea of having the ACMs at AT&T Stadium has been in the works for a while now.
Romeo told Billboard magazine that Jones had approached the Academy with the idea of having the awards in Arlington for the stadium’s grand opening in 2009. “That didn’t happen, but the seed was thrown for the 50th,” Romeo said.
When the stadium opened in 2009 as Cowboys Stadium, the state Legislature set up a Major Events Trust Fund to leverage state funds and defray costs associated with hosting the NBA All-Star Game and related activities in February 2010. The fund applies local and state gains from sales and use, auto rental, hotel and alcoholic beverage taxes generated over a 12-month period from certain major sporting championships or events to pay costs incurred from hosting the event.
The fund was originally designed for sporting events, but in 2011, was expanded — after urging from Arlington city leaders — to add the Academy of Country Music Awards, as well as national political conventions, to the list of eligible events. Romeo told Billboard that the Academy of Country Music, with help from the Dallas Cowboys organization, also lobbied to get named to the fund.
The fund has drawn praise for helping Texas land big events but has also raised concerns about how some taxpayer dollars were used.
David Arditi, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Texas at Arlington who does research on the music industry, doubts that the ACMs will be a boon for the local economy in the end.
“These kinds of economic packages are often billed as a stimulus to the economy, but there is little economic data to demonstrate this,” Arditi says. “Some places may see an increase in revenue this weekend, such as record stores, bars, and hotels, but will the state and North Texas cities make back the tax money they spent in collected taxes? No.”
Although none of the public ACM events will take place in Fort Worth — the Lifting Lives Benefit Gala was originally supposed to be two events, taking place simultaneously in Fort Worth and Dallas, but the academy decided to consolidate them in Dallas after hearing from people who were going to try to attend both — Fort Worth still stands to benefit.
“We don’t have any official room blocks for the ACMs,” says Jessica Dowdy, director of public relations for the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. “But our hotel partners are reporting near-sold-out conditions, especially in the downtown area, so Fort Worth is full this weekend.”
Dowdy adds that there is a “major corporate party” associated with the ACMs taking place this weekend at Billy Bob’s Texas, and within that group there are 2,200 attendees fueling Fort Worth hotel attendance. She also says that there’s another factor to the busy weekend: The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, which are taking place this weekend at Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.
“People in town for the ACMs or the NCAA Gymnastics Championships are visiting our museums and other attractions,” Dowdy says. “They go to the zoo, or go to the museums, or go to Billy Bob’s, or go see the rodeo. Those are all affected when we host these groups.”
Cooper adds that the Arlington CVB has been hearing from fans as far away as Florida about accommodations in Arlington, and when so many out-of-town visitors come here there are intangible benefits in addition to financial.
“Texas hospitality benefits,” she says. “We have a different type of vibe here with our hospitality. Our tourists are constantly telling us how friendly we are here and how fantastic it is, and how much they want to visit again.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
The ACMs economic impact, by the numbers
The 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday in Arlington is expected to provide a windfall of the DFW area. A report by research firm BDO USA, which was requested by officials in Arlington and Dallas, anticipated the expected increases in spending by out-of-state visitors. ( Fort Worth numbers were not requested or included in the report).
Hotel spending $4,814,759
Rental car $327,948
Hotel spending $13,251,425
Rental car $784,144
Hotel spending $21,692,222
Rental car: $1,295,813
Source: Texas Major Events Trust Fund: 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards Tax Impact Analysis, by BDO USA, Dec. 5, 2014. Provided by Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts