FW arena project getting closer to reality


Drawing of proposed multi-purpose arena in the Will Rogers Complex
Drawing of proposed multi-purpose arena in the Will Rogers Complex

The new multipurpose arena in the Will Rogers Complex approved by Fort Worth voters last November won’t happen for a few more years, but work on the project has made some significant steps forward.

The City Council on Tuesday was presented with the proposed master agreement between the city and its private backers, Event Facilities Fort Worth Inc., for the development, construction and operation of the $450 million, 14,000-seat arena.

Completion of the master agreement should “allow construction to begin in earnest,” said a city staff memo to the council.

A new arena at the Will Rogers Complex, site of the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, has been in the talking stages for almost two decades.

Approval from more than 70 percent of voters in last year’s citywide election set it on the path to reality.

The proposal submitted by Event Facilities, which is spearheaded by investor Ed Bass, has always been a great bargain for the city.

The master agreement helps nail down most of the details, although a lease agreement, parking operations agreement and final funding agreement are yet to come.

The heart of the deal — the part that makes it so sweet for the city — is that half of the $450 million cost, plus any unexpected expense overruns, will be paid by Event Facilities and its private donors.

Most of the city’s $225 million share will be paid from hotel and mixed beverage taxes, a ticket tax and parking fees.

The city has already made more than $25 million in street, drainage and other infrastructure improvements at and near the arena site.

The city will own the arena and its land, and Event Facilities will manage it “without operating subsidies” from the city, the staff memo says.

The goal is to make the new arena “the pre-eminent venue in the City for all rodeo, sporting, music, theatrical, and similar events that typically target audiences of more than 5,500 and less than 15,000 attendees,” the memo says.

The arena will have first call on being home to “any concert, family entertainment event, ice-related event, sporting-related event, or an event that requires more than 5,500 seats and is a commercial undertaking” in Fort Worth.

Although Bass has said Event Facilities can be flexible on the timing of the arena construction, the agreement says the private group can back out if the city hasn’t sold bonds to finance most of its costs by mid-2017.

Initial projections pegged the arena’s opening for 2019.