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Government Icon of the Year: The votes are in, it's the arena

Icon of the Year: The votes are in, it’s the arena

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Robert Francis
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.

When Business Press staffers sought to identify our annual Icon of the Year, the easy choice was Fort Worth’s new multipurpose arena. Downtown’s continued growth was also on the table. Hey, The Cheesecake Factory, why not?

After years of discussion, Fort Worth finally pushed the new arena, which will be at the Southwest corner of the Will Rogers Memorial Center, onto the front burner. Event Facilities Fort Worth, a nonprofit chaired by Ed Bass and directed by a board of prominent benefactors, guaranteed to raise half the arena’s projected $450 million cost and to cap the public cost at half. Voters in November overwhelmingly approved a slate of new user fees that will make up 15 percent of the arena cost. It didn’t hurt that Bass, Stock Show officials, councilmembers and other members of the city’s power structure put their considerable weight behind the plan, which was tied, however tangentially, to a plan to refurbish downtown’s Convention Center. Bass, in an annual appearance Jan. 6 before the City Council to update members on the economic impact of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, held at Will Rogers, touted the arena, due to open in five years.

“Let me begin by carrying you forward five years to 2019, when we will be gathered here on a Tuesday night in early January, not only in anticipation of a 125th edition of a Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, but also in anticipation of inaugurating Fort Worth’s new multipurpose arena.” The arena has skeptics. Westsiders worry that Cowtown’s well-established loathing of paying to park will push arena goers into the neighborhoods west of Montgomery Street. City officials concurred the city needs a solution to mitigate traffic impact on the neighborhoods, but said they wanted to secure the arena funding and get its planning going first. The arena will be configured at up to 14,000 seats for concerts, expected at 14-16 over a year and what makes the facility break even. It’ll also be marketed at family shows such as circuses and ice exhibitions, basketball and hockey, and high school and college graduations. Tarrant County College, for one, is looking forward to the opportunity to have all campuses graduate together, Bass said. “It’s Fort Worth it!” Mayor Betsy Price said in advertisements promoting the voter measures. – Scott Nishimura  

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