Dirt will be flying both inside and outside at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo this year.
While visitors are watching horses, bulls and calves kick up clumps of dirt as they run in the Will Rogers Coliseum, not far away about 800 construction workers will be riding in heavy machinery and creating clouds of dust of their own as construction on the $540 million, 14,000-seat Dickies Arena continues.
On Tuesday, Dickies Arena officials also unveiled models of the new premium seating that they will be showing to patrons during the Stock Show. It also was revealed that the majority of the 2,200 parking spaces in the arena’s new garage will be available to visitors this year.
While the new arena, which is 32 percent complete, won’t actually host its first Stock Show until 2020, the future is already taking shape. The Stock Show begins its 23-day run on Friday.
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“It is a great time for Fort Worth,” said Matt Homan, president and general manager of Dickies Arena. “With one of the largest events at the Will Rogers starting to take place with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and the new arena starting to be erected, you’re going to see a lot of action.”
The arena is being built by a public-private partnership with Event Facilities Fort Worth, a nonprofit headed by Fort Worth billionaire Ed Bass. The city’s contribution is capped at $225 million, with the rest of the funding coming through various foundations, individuals and organizations.
While the Stock Show will become the arena’s only actual tenant — taking over the facility for about a month every year — the arena also will be used to host other events that previously weren’t available, Homan said. The arena is scheduled to host the first and second rounds of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships beginning in 2020.
“There are a lot of opportunities to do a lot of new events that haven’t been here for years,” Homan said. “The amount of family shows, concerts [and] sporting events that we are going to bring into the facility is going to redefine Fort Worth as an entertainment district.”
But with the Stock Show’s move-in day two years away, patrons at this year’s show, accustomed to seeing chickens, pigeons and ducks, instead will be greeted by cranes of a different kind.
Cranes of a different kind
Six construction cranes — the tallest ones 280 feet tall — are swooping steel trusses and materials over the site. Whistles blow and engines growl as the behemoth machines are used to start installation of the roof’s trusses. A more than 140-foot-tall steel tower sits on the arena floor where workers bolt it all together.
The last concrete for the arena itself already has been poured, with additional cement work still being done on the 10,000-square-foot support building for the “rough stock,” or the cattle and horses used in the rodeo. When the arena is finished, it will have 8,400 tons of reinforcing steel and 85,000 cubic yards of concrete.
Brick matching that used on the new garage was being laid on the arena’s southern end. Inside, drywall is already being installed and preform concrete fascia for the various levels was being hung.
While it is hard to imagine exactly what the arena’s interior may look like while standing on the arena floor today, it is possible to get a glimpse of the future by checking out models of its premium seating — suites, loge and box — that are on display in a sales center on the top floor of the new parking garage.
In the box seats, gone are the folding seats and metal bars you have to climb over. They’ve been replaced with padded theater-style seating that includes cup holders. The seating also is tiered to provide better viewing. While there are creature comforts, it still possible to sit up close and personal and see the dirt fly.
Higher up, in the loge boxes and suites, the seating and amenities are even more luxurious. There is leather and dark wood paneling, and servers will provide food and beverage to patrons in those seats.
Above it all will be 4,300 gallery-level seats, which will still provide what officials said will be a good sight line of what is happening on the arena floor. When used for the rodeo, the facility will hold 9,300 spectators.
All of this is a big change from the 1930s-era Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, which has 152 rodeo boxes and about 1,300 club-level seats, officials said. The coliseum doesn’t have loge boxes or suites.
“It is really fascinating to see the different, multiple levels out there including the lower level and the upper bowl. Our upper bowl is only 4,300 seats. It is only eight rows tall. So there’s not really a bad seat in the house. It is a very intimate feeling arena.” Homan said.
Current box seat holders — some who’ve had rodeo boxes for generations — have already started getting an idea of what their future may hold. Pricing for those seats, however, has not yet been set. But there will be an effort to keep it at a price point where no one is priced out of their seat.
“We want to have comparables and we don’t want to price anyone out,” said Alissa Cunningham, the arena’s marketing director.
An immediate impact
While giving folks an idea of what the future may look like, the arena’s new parking garage already is having an impact on this year’s show, Stock Show officials said.
About 1,300 of the garage’s available spaces will be made available to visitors, with the other 900 being used by Stock Show personnel, committee members and volunteers, said spokesman Matt Brockman. Using those spaces in the garage will open up spots in parking structures closer to the Will Rogers complex, he said.
The arena garage was built to accommodate large SUVs and even trucks with dually wheels. A shuttle will run from the garage to the west entrance of the Amon G. Carter Exhibit Hall, he said. Parking at the Stock Show will cost $12, a $2 increase from last year.
Also being made available is the $5 Rodeo Red Line, which allows visitors on the weekends to park at the north lot of Billy Bob’s Texas in the Stockyards and ride a coach to the front gate.
“The arena garage, while new, is not the closest or the most convenient, but what it does is provide us with the much-needed flexibility to accommodate our exhibitors and volunteers with the ultimate goal of making the guest experience as best as possible,” Brockman said.
This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Pick your seat
In the new Dickies Arena there are:
▪ 40 suites
▪ 32 loge boxes
▪ 214 rodeo boxes containing 1,382 seats
▪ 2,600 club-level seats
▪ 4,300 gallery-level seats
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo begins Friday and continues through Feb. 3 at Will Rogers Memorial Center, Lancaster Avenue and University Drive, just west of downtown.
Grounds admission: $10 adults, $5 ages 6-16, free age 5 and younger.
Rodeo tickets: $22 weekdays and $30 on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday. Rodeo tickets are good for general admission to the Stock Show the same day. Some rodeo events are already sold out. Rodeo tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster or in person at the ticket office, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., which is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 817-877-2420.
Parking: $12 per vehicle.
Shuttle service: The Rodeo Redline operates on Saturdays and Sundays during the Stock Show for $5 per car. The shuttle service takes you from Billy Bob’s north parking lot (in the Stockyards) to the Stock Show. The shuttles run every 20 minutes (Saturdays 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-10 p.m.)
Shopping: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall and Brown-Lupton Exhibits Hall (north and south).