Fort Worth welcomed Dickies Arena on a sunny, brisk Saturday morning, the culmination of many years of talking and planning.
“In Fort Worth we know how to focus on quality,” said Edward Bass, the businessman and philanthropist who headed up the campaign for the arena.
“We are in the Cultural District with this arena. Fort Worth is a place where culture includes fine arts, but it also includes our roots in the livestock industry, our Texas roots. Our cultural district has the finest equestrian and livestock facilities in all America and three of the finest fine art museums in America. And it has other museums and organizations of indisputable quality. Why shouldn’t this new arena have that same quality?”
The 14,000-seat venue conceived and developed by Bass and a public-private partnership between the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, the state and a group of private-sector participants including foundations, individuals and organizations.
Located in the city’s Cultural District and adjacent to the Will Rogers Memorial Center campus, the venue will be owned by the City of Fort Worth and managed by a not-for-profit operating entity, Trail Drive Management Corp.
The partnership was approved by Fort Worth voters in November 2014, capping taxpayers’ portion at $225 million. The $540 million project will complement the current Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, which will continue to serve as a major equestrian show arena.
Bass noted that voters approved the plan with 79% of the vote and that much of that margin had to do with the Hispanic community turning out to vote.
“A lot of that had to do with Father Jasso, a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Bass.
Father Stephen Jasso, pastor at All Saints Parish in North Fort Worth, has long been a leader not only in the Catholic community, but in the Fort Worth community in general. He has been on the local United Way board as well as the Task Force on Racism in the city. He has been very ill and retired in 2017.
“We brought him to be part of this this morning and to see the arena and he’s in a room watching on video,” said Bass. “Father Jasso, we love you.”
Mayor Betsy Price was there to lift the gate to open the arena for the pubic. Her speech was interrupted by some citizens unfurling a banner that said, “We don’t feel safe,” and repeating that slogan. Their presence reflected the tensions in the city following the Oct. 12 shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer. They were soon ushered out.
Bass noted that the new arena will be “a magnet for audiences,” and that it will be a plus for Fort Worth’s perception around the country. “I think it will help people wake up to the fact that Fort Worth is its own city. It’s a big city, the 13th largest in U.S., and an important city.”
“I’ve very happy and proud to deliver today to the citizens of Fort Worth – and to all who come here – this beautiful multipurpose arena,” said Bass. “It is intended for everyone. It is intended to be diverse and inclusive, a founding value of this arena. And to bring to you the best in music, sports entertainment, civic events and of course, rodeo.”
With that, a recording of the Rolling Stones’ hit, “Start Me Up,” blared from the sound system and fireworks flew up into the bright blue sky. A new era had indeed started up.