Led by Arlington Heights High School junior Brittaney Harrison, 11-month-old heifer Rylee mooed appropriately just before she became the first animal to cross the threshold of the newly renovated Cattle Barn 2.
Businessman Ed Bass, Mayor Betsy Price and other Fort Worth Stock Show supporters escorted Rylee and Harrison, vice president of the school’s FFA chapter, into the barn, which is part of $15.4 million in renovations that were unveiled Tuesday at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
But while all eyes were on the renovated barn and the new, covered Tower Promenade walkway next to it, Bass and city leaders took the opportunity to tout the $450 million multipurpose arena expected to be completed for the 2020 Stock Show. The city and Event Facilities Fort Worth are splitting the tab on the planned 14,000-seat arena.
Construction has started on a 2,200-space parking garage to serve the new arena, Bass said.
“Do a little dreaming,” said Bass, who heads a nonprofit that supports the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. “Look ahead, in less than 100 yards, just beyond Gate 44 there will be a … beckoning tower and a grand stair that will take you to an expansive, beautiful plaza that will lead to the finest multipurpose arena of its size in the United States.”
This year’s Stock Show runs Jan. 15 through Feb. 6, at Will Rogers complex, between University Drive and Montgomery Street in the Cultural District.
On the heels of a record-breaking 1.2 million visitors to the 2015 Stock Show, Price predicted attendance will again break the 1 million mark.
“It’s going to be a fabulous year,” Price said. “The next month to six weeks, get your boots out, get your jeans out and get your hats out and wear them everywhere. Our biggest challenge is to teach those new people who have come to Fort Worth what we’re all about here in Cowtown.”
The city and the Stock Show partnered on the newest renovations.
In 2014, the council approved paying for the project with certificates of obligation and money from the Cultural and Tourism fund. But at least half of the cost, or $6.8 million, is being reimbursed to the city by the Stock Show over a 20-year period. The Stock Show also covered $2 million in costs for new electrical service to all the cattle barns.
Cattle Barn 2, built in 1948, features improved lighting, ventilation and space for the animals, but it also includes a 120-seat viewing area for a new milking parlor, improved hallways and restrooms, and wider walkways. Improvements were also made to the Stockman’s Cafe.
The 300-foot-long Tower Promenade is between Cattle Barns 1 and 2. The wide, arched pedestrian walkway will make it easier for thousands of visitors to get from parking lots on the south side of the Will Rogers complex to the north side without having to work their way through a barn, said Kirk Slaughter, Fort Worth’s director of facilities and public events.
By 2020, the arena may not be the only new thing at the Will Rogers complex. Bass told the crowd that the Cattle Barn 2 renovations are a prototype for planned renovations to Cattle Barns 1,3 and 4 as well as the swine and sheep barns that will finished in time for the 2020 Stock Show.
Councilman Dennis Shingleton called the Will Rogers complex an “iconic story” for the city and said the latest improvements are “once again an indication how important this complex is” to the mayor and City Council.
“It’s our intent to continue to preserve and improve our public facilities, not just this facility,” Shingleton said. “I can’t tell you how easy it is to sell Cowtown when we preserve and protect these venues as we do.”
Said Price: “We’re only going to make Will Rogers better. It is a gem for this community. We will go back and make it even better to serve all of you and all our new citizens, our visitors, tourists and our exhibitors alike.”