City tabs construction firms for Convention Center project

Fort Worth Convention Center

Three prominent North Texas construction firms have been chosen to lead the long-awaited expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center. The firms were chosen based on their extensive past experience and deep ties to the region, according to Fort Worth city officials.

The selected firms are AECOM Hunt, Byrne and EJ Smith. Under the contract with the city, the firms will manage the full scope of the first phase of the project’s construction for up to $30 million.

“The AECOM Hunt/Byrne/EJ Smith team combines a national builder with 35 years of extensive convention center expansion expertise with reputable local builders who have past experience with our center and deep roots in Fort Worth,” said Mike Crum, the city’s director of public events.

Collectively, officials said, the firms have successfully completed hundreds of major projects throughout the region and state. The companies have received numerous regional and national awards for quality and safety in construction, as well as numerous other industry awards, the city said.

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“Our company is proud to call North Texas home, and even more proud to contribute to Fort Worth’s thriving community and economic development,” said Monte Thurmond, AECOM Hunt’s executive vice president and south region manager. “This project brings excitement throughout the entire city and we’re honored to work with the city and help bring it to life.”

“Convention centers are a force for regional economic growth and opportunity, fueling jobs, drawing visitors and building opportunity,” added Cori Smith, AECOM Hunt vice president. Having proudly worked on numerous projects across the country, our team brings innovation and expertise – and we look forward to showcasing the best of what’s possible in Fort Worth.”

“This project will bring incredible visibility to our city, and as a local Fort Worth company, being on this team is a point of great pride,” said Ben Robertson, vice president at Byrne Construction Services. “We look forward to every step ahead in bringing new life to our convention center, and paving the way for all the leading events to come.”

Eugene Walker, president and CEO of EJ Smith Construction, stated, “Our team couldn’t be prouder to have the opportunity to support the city of Fort Worth, and to be a part of building a part of its future.”

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The expansion project will take place in two phases and the facility will remain operational during both, according to city officials. The first phase includes the construction of new state-of-the-art food & beverage facilities, demolition of the annex, realignment of Commerce Street to create a site pad for a future convention hotel, and increasing the center’s loading docks. Phase 1 is expected to begin construction in mid-2023 and be completed in 2026.

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.

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.

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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.

In September, the city of Fort Worth announced selection of 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 expansion.