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Arena & Convention Center Project Could Bring Millions To Fort Worth

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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 (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth may ask voters to move forward with a new sports and events center near The Arts District.  The long term goal would be to lure new events the aging arena attached to the convention center is ill-equipped to handle now.  The old, north portion of the convention is nearly 50 years old and starting show its age.

“Very few buildings do you get to go in where they actually have the tunnels that go underneath, you know, small dressing rooms and sort of have that old feel,” said Shaylett Stuckey, who was visiting for a convention for the seventh year where she also utilized areas around the main stage as a performer.

As a lifelong performer, Stuckey feels nostalgic about the convention center’s old style arena.  But the city finds itself stuck with a crumbling, 10,000 seat arena which falls short as a show venue and flops as a modern convention space.  Compare the old space with the modern new part of the convention center.  And the old arena lacks the ability for partitioned areas which are popular because large spaces can be divided up to accomodate several smaller events.

Leaders say those shortfalls are costing the city millions in lost tourism dollars.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said, “There’s plenty of things [events] that we turn down, just because we don’t have the space, that either go to a smaller city or just don’t come to this part of Texas… to North Texas.”

The city will ask voters for permission to go forward with a new arena by the Will Rogers Memorial Center. It would seat 14,000 people.

The design would be modern and versatile. In addition to the great look the venue would be able to host stock show events, concerts, basketball games and medium sized conventions — events that often wind up in places like Grand Prairie or Dallas.

Price said the venue would, “…fill a niche that we currently don’t have, that other cities do have.”

Under the plan Fort Worth is considering, private investors would pay for half the arena. The rest of the money would come from ticket sales, parking, hotel taxes and fees charged for livestock stalls during stock shows.

Combined with a Convention Center makeover, the buildings promise to bring tens of thousands more visitors to Fort Worth.

And there are actually benefits during construction, since the new arena could host conventions while the old Convention Center is revamped or even replaced.

“I realize at some point we may outgrow it,” Stuckey admitted but said, “I would love to see the building remain as part of the history and culture of this downtown area.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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