Dickies Arena starting to take shape
Fort Worth is a major league city by population but it remains deliberately minor league when it comes to sports.
It is a reason why our fair city remains labeled as a tumbleweed town or, worse, a suburb of Dallas.
Fort Worth grows like a bed of weeds fertilized with steroids but do not expect this city to embrace the model like so many others and recruit a major league sports franchise “to spur” development, and “legitimize” the town.
It is one thing to pitch to Amazon, and quite another to a pro sports franchise. Unlike Frisco and so many other places, Fort Worth has no interest in providing handouts to sports teams so they will move to our city.
A future city leader may go for this model, but current Mayor Betsy Price remains opposed to the idea.
“(Sports) is a great tool for tourist growth,” Price said in a recent interview. “It’s not a great tool to grow the population of your city, in my opinion. You need a stable economic base for that. But the sports piece, we have had great luck with tourism through sports.”
There is precedent throughout the United States, including Texas, of professional sports teams opening new stadiums approximately every 30 years; and there is precedent of teams moving into venues that are actually not in the name of the team.
The Dallas Cowboys play their home games in Arlington. FC Dallas of the MLS is located in Frisco.
Both the New York Jets and New York Giants play home games in New Jersey. The 49ers of the NFL play their home games in Santa Clara, Calif., which is 54 miles south of San Francisco.
The Washington Redskins’ home games are played in Landover, Maryland. Their training facility is in Ashburn, Virginia.
All the city has to do is provide a new stadium subsidized mostly through tax-payer measures.
Don’t expect that to happen in Fort Worth any time soon.
THE SPORTS FUTURE IN FORT WORTH
The following is the the pro sports’ scene in Fort Worth:
* With Charles Schwab signed as the title sponsor of the Colonial, the PGA Tour will remain a constant in Fort Worth for at least the next three years.
* NASCAR and Indy Car racing have been a steady presence in Fort Worth for 20 years.
* The Brahmas minor league hockey team plays in North Richland Hills.
* The Vaqueros’ minor league soccer team has steadily grown in recent years.
* There is a new plan for minor league baseball to return to Fort Worth as investors have pledged to rebuild LaGrave Field and bring back the Cats. Expect the Cats to be an independent league franchise, a notoriously difficult sell.
* It’s not uncommon to see visiting MLB and NFL teams stay in Fort Worth during their visits to play the Texas Rangers or Dallas Cowboys in Arlington.
* The new Dickies Arena, scheduled to open this year, should have a positive affect on the rodeo and other equestrian events; it is also scheduled to host the NCAA gymnastics championships, the 2020 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament, and an NCAA men’s basketball regional in 2022.
“It’s hotel nights. It’s restaurants, and it’s good exposure for the city,” Price said. “Fort Worth has that identity issue, that people continue to think we are 48th or 49th in size. Or a small city. Hardly. We’re the 15th largest and with the next census probably the 13th largest.”
DID FORT WORTH MISS
As Frisco grew, its city leadership made the calculated decision to court sports as a vehicle for development in the previously quiet community 30 miles north of Dallas.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Frisco offered an aggressive deal for the Dallas Stars to relocate their headquarters from Irving to a new facility there. The city helped to build a baseball stadium for the Double A Frisco Roughriders.
In 2016, the city announced the cliche “public-private” partnership with the NFL franchise to lure them to build The Star and the Ford Center. Frisco ISD uses the Ford Center for high school football games, among other events.
The PGA will soon move its headquarters to Frisco, and build championship-caliber golf courses there.
Visibly, Frisco has grown into a “city;” in 2000, its population was 33,714. Last year, Frisco population was over 180,000.
Meanwhile, the tumbleweed town to the west, Fort Worth, boasts a population of 895,000.
Having a pro sports franchise is a major point of sale, and can “validate” a city to outsiders. That’s why politicians are routinely sucked into asking tax payers to pay for stadiums, and why so often the measures easily pass.
The question is if it’s worth the money Frisco, and so many other cities, have spent to secure these franchises either as their home stadium, or their team headquarters.
Price sees sports as a complementary piece for Fort Worth, not a launch for growth.
As a fiscal conservative, she does not see the value in asking Fort Worth tax payers to spend their money on sports beyond what we already do.
So while we may be a big league city by numbers, Fort Worth remains committed to the minors.