Culture / Sporting Life

Inside Fort Worth’s New $540 Million Showcase — An Exclusive Sneak Peek at Dickies Arena

High-End Perks Galore, a Big Screen to Swoon Over and Surprises in Store

BY // 10.21.19
photography Courtney Dabney

At last year’s rodeo, there were some tearful eyes and heavy hearts in the crowd. Generations of Fort Worthians were on hand to tip their hat to The Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, and bid the aging landmark a fond farewell.

This January the dirt will fly once again, at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, just as it has for more than a century ― but for the first time in the brand-new Dickies Arena instead.

The 1918 Fort Worth Rodeo, which was first held at North Side Coliseum, is considered the world’s first indoor rodeo, and The Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1936, has hosted the longest running, indoor rodeo in the world, for more than 80 years.The historic Coliseum will continue to serve as a major equestrian venue.

A $540 million project ― Dickies Arena, is a glamorous upgrade. It feels more like a luxurious private country club than the multipurpose venue that it is.

It will host rodeos, basketball games and concerts, as well as transform into an ice rink for hosting hockey and other ice events, with nine miles of refrigeration coils laid under the one-foot thick concrete slab floor.

The arena was designed by Washington, D.C.-based architect, David M. Schwarz, whose fingerprints can be seen all over the metroplex ― from The Bass Performance Hall, Southlake Town Square and The American Airlines Center, just to name a few. The Beck Group teamed up with Austin Commercial to construct the venue, which took 30 months to complete.

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Dickies signage was set into place on all four sides Friday, via helicopter.

The adjacent Chevrolet parking garage provides 2,200 spaces on six levels, and additional lots have been added nearby.

Trail Drive Management Corp. (TDMC), the not-for-profit operators of Dickies Arena, will host a ribbon cutting ceremony and community open house, including self-guided tours, on Saturday, Oct. 26, showcasing the new facility. The new arena has already secured a lineup of entertainment, concert and sporting events, drawn by its world-class features and amenities.

The ribbon cutting will begin on the newly christened, Simmons Bank Plaza, located on the east side of Dickies Arena, which can accommodate up to 3,000 guests and will host pre-event parties and serve as a connector to the cattle and show barns beyond. The plaza sports granite benches and railings, and has a bubbling fountain.

Dickies Arena Pavilion
Dickies Arena’s Pavilion is its own stage.

A pavilion is located on the opposite side with a myriad of possibilities. On ground level, outside the pavilion, a plaza has been formed for staging areas, with walkways of brick and epay wood. The pavilion appears, from the surface, to be a stand-alone building, but actually its floor is set below ground and is connected to the arena underground. It can be closed off to host light-filled, large events and parties, or can be opened to a massive underground area for expositions of all kinds.

The terra cotta-hued exterior of Dickies Arena is clad with 1.3 million bricks, sourced from Acme Brick ― also headquartered in Fort Worth. Its design and detailing marry with the Art Deco design of nearby Will Rogers, including two glass-tile mosaic murals and two bas-relief bronze sculptures which were first revealed to the public this week. The public art program at the arena is a gift from the Alice Walton Foundation.

The southern facade of Dickies Arena features a 12-foot-tall, 63-foot-wide mosaic mural by Denver-based, William Matthews. The colorful piece titled “Los Caballos” is comprised of more than 600,000 hand-cut tiles, highlighting the significance of horses in Western culture. Two bas-relief bronze sculptures of a cowboy and a native Comanche flank it on either side. They were sculpted by Texas-based artist, and Cherokee Nation member, Buckeye Blake.

On the north side is a triptych measuring 10-foot-tall by108-foot-wide. This mural is made from colored glass tiles, fabricated in Italy, illustrating early pioneers and cowhands in Texas. Other iconic Texan symbols including prickly pears, pecan trees, wildflowers, bluebonnets, Texas longhorns and oil wells are also depicted.

Fort Worth residents are not prepared for the palace that awaits them. The city’s never had a venue like this before.

Inside Dickies Arena

Inside the Arena, prairie motifs like wheat in the metal-work and railings, are carried through into the lighting elements as well. There are four spiral staircases in Dickies arena ― two are octagonal and two are oval-shaped ― affording elegant, European-inspired, floor to ceiling views.

Clerestory windows shower the interior lobby and concourses with natural light. And, the windows throughout the upper levels frame unparalleled views of the city from every angle.

Under foot are luxe, 100 percent terrazzo floors, with stunning architectural patterns. About 60, star-shaped, LED chandeliers hang overhead ― costing around $50,000 apiece. No expense was spared in the design, and the custom finishings will erase all sentimentality for the WPA-era Will Rogers Coliseum.

The central video screen, that measures 25-feet high and nearly 38-feet wide, provides 360-degree views. It is the second largest continuous scoreboard in the country (second only to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which has hosted a Super Bowl). The pixels are set within one fourth of an inch from each other for a jaw-dropping visual display.

Dickies Arena North Main Lobby
Dickies Arena’s North Main Lobby looks like it belongs in a billionaire’s palace.

The acoustics in Dickies arena will be unsurpassed. The entire ceiling deck and walls all around the arena are clad in a special ribbed and perforated, stamped-steel, set against insulation to absorb sound. Most other spaces have installed acoustic fabric on walls throughout. It is sure to become one of the most coveted musical performance venues in the country.

Ringing the 14,000-seat arena are many different seating options. All seats on suite levels are upholstered in imported Spanish gray leather, with countertops alternating between granite and quartz.

Founder’s Suites (which are currently sold out) include 16 seats. Dickies Arena has 40 such superior suites. Loge Boxes are located next to the exclusive North and South Clubs, located on both ends of the private suite level, offering dedicated service to smaller groups of four to six people. Dickies Arena’s 32 upscale loge boxes are also sold out.

The North Club, which is describes as “white table cloth,” is the most exclusive space available at Dickies Arena. With access granted to suite, loge box and founders rodeo box holders only, and clad in solid mahogany, it will be the place to see and be seen. The North Club has an expansive bar with an unobstructed view of the action, as well as separate VIP event spaces.

On the northwest corner is a snug “high end” bar, finished in teak wood with copper counters and bar-backs. It will host exclusive events.

On the arena’s opposite end, the South Club is also bi-level, with upper and lower bars glowing with back-lit, honey onyx, and finished in solid cherry wood. Both Club areas are open to the arena, providing arena goers a full view, with upscale food and beverage service ― unlike anything you’ve ever seen in an event venue.

During rodeo season, the seating configuration will shift and boxes will provide the thrill of on-dirt action. The Reliant Club lounge will also grant access to suite, loge box, rodeo box and club seat holders. The two-story club, with a market-style selection of refreshments, will be located directly above the rodeo chutes.

Additionally, the Simmons Bank Plaza will become the new home to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo’s Bud Light Roadhouse, a live music venue, as well as The Corkyard, a new destination where Stock Show guests can enjoy a selection of award-winning wines served by the glass.

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