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Fort Worth

Convention Center study will recommend changes


Scott Nishimura

A study examining Fort Worth’s Convention Center and the city’s hotel needs will “recommend investments” when it comes out this spring, the consultant running it said Wednesday during the annual meeting of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“The reason we’ll be making recommendations for investments is because of the opportunity,” said Rob Hunden of Hunden Strategic Partners, the Chicago firm hired by the city and CVB to conduct the $150,000 study.

Texas led the nation’s recovery, tourism is on the upswing, and Fort Worth is poised to snag a bigger piece of the market, Hunden and Convention Bureau CEO Bob Jameson told the breakfast meeting audience at the City Club in downtown Fort Worth.

The study is expected to recommend that the city replace the aging arena on the north end of the Convention Center with more marketable space.

The city expanded the Convention Center in 2002, but didn’t address the arena. The city has been turning away some business because it doesn’t have enough meeting and hotel space, and the arena often isn’t suitable space, tourism officials have said.

The study will address what to do with the space, and what kind of “hotel inventory…would best support that investment,” Jameson said in an interview after the breakfast.

Jameson said he did not know whether the study will suggest any level of public investment in a hotel.

“Certainly, the significant public investment is in the center,” he said.

Tourism officials and the downtown business community have been focusing on the need for more full service hotel inventory.

Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., in its once-every-10-years master plan released last fall, recommended an increase in hotel inventory, focusing on full service. Downtown developer Ed Bass, in opening the new Sundance Plaza in November, said Sundance Square is looking at potentially developing a high-end hotel on the east end of its holdings.

Among other developments for 2014, Jameson said, the CVB plans to enter a contract with a New York public relations agency to increase national awareness of Fort Worth. The CVB is re-examining its brand through a contract with a local agency, Concussion, Jameson added.

The CVB doesn’t believe its message is being misinterpreted, Jameson said, but it has been years since the bureau looked at how its message is being received, and audiences have changed.

“Where is the right emphasis in that message in order to reach millennials and other groups?” he said.

The CVB this year also will revamp its mobile offerings, Jameson said.

“One of three travel decisions is being made in mobile,” he said. “Our web content does not read well with mobile devices, and we have to fix it.”

The CVB told breakfast attendees that Fort Worth’s number of visitors grew to 6.5 million in 2013 from 5.5 million in 2008.

Visitors are spending $130 per day on average, leading to $1.6 billion in annual direct spending, CVB Chairman Gary Brinkley said.

That saves Fort Worth taxpayers an average of $840 per year on their property tax bills, he said.  

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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