City names architects for expansion of Fort Worth Convention Center

Fort Worth Convention Center

The city of Fort Worth has selected Atlanta-based architectural firm Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates (TVS) and local firm Bennett Partners to deliver design and construction administration services for the first phase of the long-awaited expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center.

The project will take place in two phases and the convention center will remain operational during both, the city said in a news release. The first phase includes construction of new state-of-the-art food and beverage facilities, demolition of the annex, realignment of Commerce Street to create a site pad for a future convention hotel, and rebuilding the center’s loading docks. This phase is expected to cost $67 million with construction to begin in mid-2023 and be completed in 2026.

“TVS has the reputation, experience and vision that will make our convention center a memorable destination in its own right, and Bennett Partners is a well-respected local expert in the industry,” said Mike Crum, the city’s director of public events. “With all the momentum on the southeastern side of downtown with new residential property, new hotels and the Texas A&M campus expansion, we’re looking forward to welcoming larger events and more visitors than ever to Fort Worth.”

TVS is one of the world’s leading convention center designers with major building, expansion and renovation projects in Las Vegas, New York City, Nashville, Puerto Rico, Panama, Canada and China.

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“Fort Worth is an amazing destination with a huge untapped potential for attracting the widest range of meetings and events,” said TVS Principal Rob Svedberg, FAIA. “TVS is thrilled to be part of this historic project that will establish Fort Worth at the forefront of the most important industry trends, anchor the south side of Main Street, and energize the entire convention district.”

Award-winning architectural planning and design firm Bennett Partners brings deep community knowledge to the project, the city noted. The company’s recent developments include restoration of the historic Horse and Mule Barns in the Stockyards, downtown’s Frost Tower, the Kimpton Harper Hotel, the Museum of Living Art at the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Westbrook and Cassidy buildings in Sundance Square.

“Like many of us from the Fort Worth area, I grew up attending events at the arena and the convention center, so I’m especially honored that a Fort Worth-based firm will have a meaningful role on the design team,” said Michael Bennett, principal and CEO of Bennett Partners. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Fort Worth to create a true convention district that will catalyze additional development in the southern part of downtown.”

Expansion of the city-owned convention center to accommodate larger conventions and group meetings had been planned for several years and was about to begin with funding from hotel occupancy taxes when the COVID-19 shutdown began in 2020. In December 2021, the Fort Worth City Council approved spending $52 million in federal money made available through the American Rescue Plan Act to support the first phase of the project.

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Broaddus & Associates Inc. is serving as project manager in partnership with Elements of Architecture Inc.

The second phase of the project will include demolition of the convention center’s arena (part of the original complex that opened in 1968) and creation of approximately 97,000 square feet of new exhibit hall space, 48,000 square feet of flexible meeting rooms, and a new 50,000 square foot ballroom (twice the size of the current ballroom). Renovations also will be made to existing facilities.

The estimated cost of phase two is $500 million and will be funded when hospitality taxes recover sufficiently to support the issuance of debt to finance the construction, the city said.

Originally constructed and owned by Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Convention Center & Arena has hosted thousands of major national and international events since 1968, including sports, concerts, political rallies, conventions and trade shows. The city acquired the convention center in 1997 and the facility was significantly expanded in 2003. With total meeting space of almost 400,000 square feet, the complex is the premier event space in downtown Fort Worth.