Fort Worth

Nearly 4 decades after it last lit up, iconic Fort Worth tower could soon shine again

Pioneer Tower to be lit up once again

The glass block panels on each side of Pioneer Tower at the Will Rogers Memorial Center have been covered with metal for about 40 years. Plans are afoot to restore the panels and again illuminate them internally with LED lights.
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The glass block panels on each side of Pioneer Tower at the Will Rogers Memorial Center have been covered with metal for about 40 years. Plans are afoot to restore the panels and again illuminate them internally with LED lights.

It's been about 40 years since light shone from inside Pioneer Tower at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, but plans are in the works to have that happen again.

"It's something we've wanted to do for years," said Kirk Slaughter, Fort Worth's public events director. "The tower has been an iconic marker for many, many years. We want to take it back to its original intent."

Slaughter told the City Council on Tuesday that he'd like to have a design and engineering study done to see how much it would cost to replace or repair the glass and install color-changing LED lighting on the interior. Early guesstimates are it could run about $1.5 million, he said.

If approved, the work would be completed in time for the opening of the $540 million, 14,000-seat Dickies Arena at the south end of the Will Rogers complex in late 2019, Slaughter said.

Jerre Tracy, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Fort Worth, welcomed the news and commended the city for wanting to reinvest in its historic properties.

Because the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, any restoration will have to follow "Secretary of the Interior Standards," which Tracy described as "the standard-bearer."

"It's good stewardship. The tower makes the Cultural District the cultural district that it is," Tracy said.

Built in 1936, the 209-foot tower sits between the Will Rogers Auditorium and the Will Rogers Coliseum. In 2016, the buildings, at 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., were listed with the National Park Service.

Each side of the tower's shaft featured glass block panels internally illuminated with fluorescent light. Those lights shown through the 1950s, according to the National Register listing. The glass blocks were covered with aluminum louvers in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when it was decided to be too costly to repair, the listing said.

The new project would be paid for from the city's culture and tourism funds, monies collected from hotel occupancy and car rental taxes, and profits generated from events at the Will Rogers, Slaughter said.

As part of the project, Fort Worth Public Art, the commission that oversees the city's public art projects, is proposing video projection mapping at Pioneer Tower as a project. The technology, growing in popularity the past several years, turns objects such as building facades into surfaces for video projection.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST
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