The opening of Mule Alley and Hotel Drover appears to be just the beginning of re-imagining Fort Worth’s Historic Stockyards District as the developer behind those projects hopes to build a large arena complex and further commit to hosting western sports.
Fort Worth Stockyards Heritage Development Company wants to expand rodeo-related events hosted at the historic Cowtown Coliseum with a trio of arenas just east of Billy Bob’s Texas. The complex would bring thousands of contestants and spectators to the Stockyards and requires an estimated minimum private investment of $52.5 million, though both the developer and the city think the price tag could hit $100 million.
“We are mindful of the history of the Stockyards, but we also are pointing forward on what the next generation the Stockyards is,” said Craig Cavileer, executive vice president of Majestic Realty Co. and Stockyards Heritage Development Co. “It’s really a place for locals and the greater DFW market, but it’s also a place for international tourism.”
Stockyards Heritage Development is the partnership that developed historic horse and mule barns into retail destination Mule Alley and recently opened the the luxury hotel down the street. In late 2019, the city contracted with the group to manage and program Cowtown Coliseum.
Stockyards Heritage is looking for support from the city.
A special Stockyards tax district will be asked this week to pitch in up to $25 million to cover the cost of two parking garages and up to $1 million to rehabilitate a wall and stairs related to the old Armor-Swift meat packing facilities.
The city would take ownership of the garages and arena, valued at $50 million to $60 million, said Deputy City Manager Jay Chapa. That requires a new agreement with Stockyards Heritage identical to the existing contract for the coliseum, he said.
Under that agreement, the city receives 20% of all net profit made through coliseum programming. The total fluctuates depending on attendance, but it will used to fund remodeling the aging building and Stockyards Heritage. The city will split improvement costs 50/50.
The council will vote on items related to that May 18.
“This basically ensures equestrian and western events will continue in the Stockyards,” Chapa said.
The tax district is expected to see a return on investment in 11 years, he said.
New Stockyards Arenas
Under the concept made public Tuesday, two 25,000-square foot areas would take the place of a large dirt lot that sits northeast of the Stockyards Museum on the south side of Stockyards Boulevard. Each arena would seat at least 750 fans, though one or both could be larger, Chapa said. In between, another 25,000-square foot mostly outdoor arena will operate as flex space either for warming up animals or as a third performance area.
Large parking lots with a minimum of 1,300 spaces will replace two surface parking lots east of Billy Bob’s on the eastern edge of the property. The spots will be open to the public, which solves a growing concern over parking in the district, Chapa said. The ground floors will be specially designed to accommodate large trucks and trailers for livestock.
Including weekly rodeos, Cowtown Coliseum hosts events roughly 150 days of the year, Cavilleer said. With additional arenas Stockyards Heritage can host events up to 200 days a year and offer a variety of shows at the same time.
Using team roping as an example, he said the complex could go from hosting about 1,000 contestants in the coliseum to hosting 8,000 contestants across all the arenas.
“Right now we’re sort of a one trick pony, if you will, with one one arena,” he said. “These other arenas will allow us to do multiple things over multiple days.”
The Stockyards likely won’t compete with Dickies Arena, the $525 million venue built in the Cultural District for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo as well as several other sporting events. Instead, Cavileer said the smaller events in the Stockyards, like team roping or junior rodeos, will complement the “mega events” at Dickies and the Will Rogers Memorial Complex.
The project will likely be completed by end of December of 2023.
The arenas will be the latest addition to the growing Stockyards District.
Mule Alley created a renewed buzz over the Stockyards district last year when it opened. The shopping district adopted historic barns for 21,000 square feet of retail space. It is also the headquarters for advertising tech star-up Slimpl.fi.
Along Marine Creek, the luxury Hotel Drover opened in March.
Despite the pandemic, Cavileer said the area has drawn about 4.7 million visitors over the last 12 months and he expects about 6 million over the coming years. With the addition of three arenas and other development, the hope is to double the number of visitors over five years.
“This is an exciting next chapter in the redevelopment of the Stockyards,” council member Carlos Flores, who represents the area, said during a council discussion.