W.R. “Bob” Watt Jr. has worked at the Fort Worth Stock in some capacity since 1960.
He’s best known for serving as its president from 1977 through 2010 when he was succeeded by Brad Barnes who currently holds the reins. Bob Watt succeeded his father, W.R. Watt Sr., who headed up the Stock Show from 1946 until his death in 1977.
The 82-year-old Watt has witnessed burgeoning growth over the years at the Stock Show. But he said the biggest standout feature is the abundance of state-of-the-art facilities that constantly are used for equestrian and rodeo events year round.
“The show (Fort Worth Stock Show) has grown each year,” Watt said. “But the big thing that has happened out here is the new facilities that we have here.”
In 1988, Watt witnessed the opening of the Will Rogers Equestrian Center. In the late 1980s, the John Justin Arena and an abundance stall barn space were added to the property, which in turn attracted major shows to move to Fort Worth from other cities.
One prime example was the American Paint Horse Association World Championship Show. The 2017 edition is scheduled for Sept. 20-Oct. 1.
The equestrian center also receives lots of business from the National Cutting Horse Association, which conducts all three jewels of its Triple Crown Series at the Equestrian Center. The shows are the December Futurity (the first jewel), the April Super Stakes and the July/August Summer Spectacular. Each of the three shows run about three weeks or longer.
The Stock Show Rodeo runs 3 ½ weeks, from mid-January to early February. Throughout the 23-day run, 36 rodeo performances are conducted in Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
“We’ve got some type of mega event nearly every week of the year,” Watt said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Watt credits the late Fort Worth boot company executive John Justin for leading the charge to establish the equestrian center. Justin chaired the Stock Show’s board from 1983 through 2001 when he was succeeded by Ed Bass who since has served as chairman.
Watt said he admires Justin’s aggressiveness.
“He’s the one that made all of these buildings come around, starting with the equestrian center,” Watt said of Justin. “He was a great leader. Then we had tremendous support from the city, everybody working together to build what we have here today.”
In 1996, the W.R. Watt Arena was added to the property. It opened during the Fort Worth Stock Show’s centennial celebration.
So, for the past two decades, Fort Worth has been able accommodate larger horse shows because the Will Rogers Memorial Center offers an abundance of stalls, massive exhibit hall space and three arenas: the John Justin, the W.R. Watt, and the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
“It means a lot to Fort Worth,” Watt said.
In three years, a state-of-the-art fourth arena, called the Fort Worth Multipurpose Arena, is scheduled to open on the property. By comparison, the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum seats around 5,600 for the Stock Show Rodeo. But the new arena is expected to seat more than 9,300 for the rodeo beginning in 2020, officials said.
“It’s something we’ve needed here for a long time,” Watt said. “It’s going to be hard to replace the atmosphere we have in Will Rogers Coliseum. But this new arena is going to be designed very much like the old arena, but much larger.”