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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Will Rogers Memorial project moves forward

Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

A proposed new arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center and related development would cost about $450 million, and a nonprofit that has long benefitted the show complex has committed to raise half that. Event Facilities Fort Worth, the nonprofit, would pick up any overrun beyond the city staff’s $450 million estimate, “thereby capping the public sector participation at $225 million,” Fort Worth investor Ed Bass, the Event Facilities chairman, said in a letter to Mayor Betsy Price and City Council members. The council will vote Aug. 12 to call a Nov. 4 election for taxes that would be attached to parking, admission and livestock pens at Will Rogers to help pay for the arena. “This is a jumpstart to this city,” said District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton, whose district includes Will Rogers. “This is a remarkable opportunity for the city, for the citizens,” Mayor Betsy Price said. City and business leaders have long championed a new Will Rogers arena to capture business the city has lost due to its small or outmoded facilities, or doesn’t get now. It would also become a new rodeo arena during the Fort Worth Stock Show’s one-month run. The city staff on Aug. 5 put a $450 million estimate on the cost of the project, which would include a $197 million arena.

The remainder of the project cost would be in surrounding development: • Parking structure, $29 million • Livestock building, $20 million • Plaza, $17 million • Site work, $38 million • Public art piece, $27 million • Land acquisition, $27 million • Professional services, $42 million • Contingency and marketing, $37 million • Finance costs, $15 million

“These are preliminary cost estimates,” Susan Alanis, assistant city manager, told council members. “We spent a little bit of time looking at these kinds of facilities around the country and what it costs to build them.” The city’s share of the expense would come from three sources: more than $125 million in projected growth in hotel, sales and mixed beverage taxes from a short radius around Will Rogers; $52 million-$82 million in user taxes on parking, admission and use of livestock pens; and $10 million in city and county expenditures that have already been made. Incremental growth in hotel, sales and mixed beverage taxes in the area around Will Rogers are already being set aside to help pay for the arena under a City Council vote last year. Alanis told the council that the State Comptroller projected July 31 that Fort Worth will generate $1.3 million in incremental tax revenues in the special zone this year that will be set aside for the arena project and $762,000 is already in escrow. “That is double what the early projections were for this project,” Alanis said.

Voters will be asked to approve the taxes in three propositions: • Admissions: Up to 10 percent on each ticket. • Livestock facility use: Up to $20 per event. • Parking: Up to $5. There won’t be a separate proposition for the arena itself. City officials also have said the goal is to have projected volume from the new arena pay off the cost of building, precluding the raising of rates.  

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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