FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – According to Fort Worth city planners, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and especially the horse shows it draws, brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to the city.
“Probably the minimum show will bring in somewhere around $20 million in economic impact and some of your larger shows, like the National Cutting Horse Association, will bring in well over $100 million a year to this community,” said Fort Worth’s Director of Public Events, Kirk Slaughter.
But Will Roger’s competitiveness was saddled by old buildings that couldn’t compete with show grounds in cities like Oklahoma City and Tulsa. One of the area’s major horse shows was even threatening to leave.
Now Fort Worth is racing to upgrade everything from horse stalls and RV hookups to restrooms. It’s a five-year, $33 million makeover funded by public and private money.
Vendors in the food areas say the makeover is already helping their business.
“Instead of coming in for two hours now they come in for four hours, because they have a great rest stop to come in and eat, take a break and start their day over again,” said Steven McCarty, service manager for a restaurant that recently received large screen televisions to broadcast sports and ongoing events at arenas around Will Rogers Center.
The largest visible improvement is a huge new multi-purpose equine center.
And there are a lot changes you don’t see. For instance, there are underground tunnels that link one building to another. Why is this important? Well, if you have invested a half million dollars in a show horse and its preened and ready to show, you don’t want to run it outside in the weather and busy streets to get it to the arena.
A number of the changes are unique to Fort Worth and are changes that are important for the big horse shows.
When the expansion is complete the Will Rogers Memorial Center will be able to do something it hasn’t in the past: host two major horse shows at the same time.
City leaders and organizers are hoping the improvements will keep Will Rogers at the front of the horse show herd for years to come.