Basketball, ducks and tourists: Final Four, TMS race and other events shining spotlight on Fort Worth area

Robert Francis

“This is going to be a busy – and long – weekend,” said Joe Riscky of Fort Worth-based Riscky’s Barbecue. “It’s a five-day weekend because the game is on a Monday night.” “Our previous record [at the Sundance Square location] was during Super Bowl week,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t break that.” Riscky is hardly alone. If Fort Worth and Arlington have a time to shine – particularly for tourists and visitors – this weekend may be hard to beat. With the inaugural Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival leaving a trail of empty wine glasses and toothpicks in the rearview mirror, the area is preparing for college basketball’s Final Four and the simultaneous Duck Commander 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway the weekend of April 4, to be followed by the always jam-packed Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival. And next month, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial golf tournament will take place, adding more sports activity to the tourist ledger.

During the Final Four, ESPN will provide extensive on-site coverage including analysis, news, reports and interviews across multiple platforms – from Fort Worth’s Sundance Square. ESPN will also set up equipment and staging for College GameDay, SportsCenter, ESPNU, and ESPN Radio, while the fountains at Sundance Square Plaza will remain turned off as that section of the plaza is converted into a sports zone that includes a basketball half court. “Despite the ice during Super Bowl week, ESPN apparently liked being in downtown Fort Worth,” said Riscky. “This time, it looks like we’re going to have great weather.” Aside from beefing up staff and cooking extra meat, Riscky’s is also creating signs for the registers to explain what giant beef ribs are and how to order Texas-style. “We all know how to order Texas barbecue,” said John Fletcher of Fletcher Consulting, who does marketing for Riscky’s and grew up in the area. “But people who didn’t grow up here or live here may not know what ‘giant beef ribs’ are and what the different sauces and rubs are.”

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ESPN won’t be the only exposure Fort Worth will receive. During the Main Street Arts Festival, the city will host more than 60 leading meeting planners looking to make additional bookings in the city. “New developments in our city are providing immeasurable support for marketing Fort Worth to prospective visitors domestically and abroad,” said Bob Jameson, president and CFO of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. Jameson noted that convention sales continue at a strong pace, particularly in fields related to energy, health care, technology and sports. Jameson also said the city has recently learned it will host the U.S. Sports Congress in December 2015, bringing senior executives from the amateur sports world. That coincides nicely with the recent unveiling of a new website,, to highlight the area’s many sports offerings. Between events, area officials are planning to say “Thank You” to residents on May 8 with a lunch-time concert in Sundance Square Plaza. “It’s our way of saying thank you to the citizens of Fort Worth for helping welcome 6.5 million visitors here a year, contributing to a $1.6 billion annual economic impact,” said Jameson.