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Will Rogers Center Expansion Could Attract New Shows

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Fort Worth is battling other cities in an effort to lure lucrative horse shows to the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

But they’re saddled with one problem — a lack of space for the growing number of vendors who ply their wares at the shows.

“We get a lot of people,” said Garry Owens of KO Trading, a company selling everything from belt buckles to saddles.  “We just don’t have enough space to get what we need for everybody in here.”

Like many vendors, the stock show is one of several shows Owens will attend at Will Rogers this year.

Whether they’re selling artwork, boots or saddles, space for vendors is at a premium.

“We’d like to get a lot more saddles in,” Owens said.  “We don’t have but just a couple of saddles here.  It just don’t show the line of saddles that we carry.  We don’t have room.”

“You can tell, many of these shows have outgrown the exhibit space that we have,” said Fort Worth Public Events Director Kirk Slaughter. “We think we can put some flexibility in here that will help us all.”

The need for space is spurring new development at the Will Rogers Center.

The city is considering a $2-million plan to convert livestock stalls into exhibition space and meeting rooms.  The money would come from a tourism fund and would have to be approved by council.

The addition would be the latest in a series of upgrades to facilities.

Fort Worth has been in a building race with other cities vying for lucrative horse shows.

From quarter horses to cutting horses, horse shows pump up to $100 million into the city’s economy.

Event planners say if those show organizers don’t have the space they need they could easily saddle up and ride off to another city.

“The big thing for us is it keeps those horse shows happy,” Slaughter said. “It keeps them in Fort Worth as opposed to going to Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Las Vegas wherever it may be.  It keeps them in Fort Worth because we’re giving them the experience they need.”

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