Dickies Arena is under construction in the Cultural District. The City Council has approved three new taxes at the Will Rogers to help fund the project. Rodger Mallison Star-Telegram archives
Dickies Arena is under construction in the Cultural District. The City Council has approved three new taxes at the Will Rogers to help fund the project. Rodger Mallison Star-Telegram archives

Fort Worth

Arena price tag goes up $90 million, but taxpayers won’t foot the bill

June 06, 2017 09:41 PM

FORT WORTH

The price tag has increased $90 million for Dickies Arena, which is under construction at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, but officials insist taxpayers won’t have to pay for any of the new costs.

Event Facilities Fort Worth, the private partner with the city on the project, has signed a construction contract with Beck for a total project cost of $540 million. Initially, the price was estimated at $450 million, of which the two sides agreed to split. Event Facilities, headed by Fort Worth financier Ed Bass, said it would bear any additional costs.

The council learned Tuesday of the $90 million increase.

“This is philanthropic gift to the citizens of Fort Worth that we’re very grateful for,” said Susan Alanis, an assistant city manager. “We got a pretty good deal for our $225 million.”

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The city will use a series of three new taxes that will be charged at events — including the Fort Worth Stock Show — at Will Rogers to help pay the city’s portion of the arena, which is expected to open in November 2019.

The three taxes approved by the City Council Tuesday night include an admission tax of 10 percent on each ticket sold; a livestock facility tax of $1 per day per stall, capped at $20 per stall or pen per event; and, a parking tax of 50 percent on each vehicle, with a maximum rate of $5 per day.

The stall tax will be applied to large livestock, such as cattle and horses. Exhibitors of rabbits, pigeons and other small animals won’t be charged the per stall tax. The stall tax will not be charged for the Tarrant County Junior Livestock Show, the city said.

This is philanthropic gift to the citizens of Fort Worth that we’re very grateful for. We got a pretty good deal for our $225 million.

Susan Alanis, Fort Worth assistant city manager

On the admission tax, if a concert ticket costs $20, a $2 tax will be added. But, events such as fundraising galas and luncheons held at the Will Rogers where the meal is the primary reason for the event, will not be subject to the tax.

And for now, the city will absorb the parking tax as part of the current parking rates now charged at Will Rogers, but that could change when the arena opens and a permanent parking agreement is reached, Alanis said.

The city is also paying for its portion through hotel occupancy taxes from nearby hotels and monies the city receives from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

“Our work isn’t done, but this is a huge step forward on this project,” Alanis said. “They’re already hard at work selling this facility.”

Voters approved the arena project in a special referendum in 2014, and with that how the city would pay for its portion.

The city has already raised $26 million for the arena and in mid-July expects to issue special tax revenue bonds for the remainder.

The council on Tuesday also approved issuing $238.8 million in taxable and non-taxable revenue bonds for the project. The amount allows $200 million for the city’s commitment to the arena project, plus two years interest, as well as $18.5 million for improvements at other Will Rogers center facilities.

Those improvements include updates to the cattle barns, an air conditioning system and technology enhancements, the city said.

In April, construction began on the new multipurpose arena at Harley Avenue and Gendy Street. The arena is expected to be one of the region’s top tourist draws. Already, the arena will host the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball first and second rounds and the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships beginning in 2020.

Also in 2020, the 14,000-seat arena will become home to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the event that led city, business and civic leaders to work toward building a more modern and larger facility at the Will Rogers. A master agreement on the facility was reached in November 2015 that gave Event Facilities naming rights. An adjacent parking garage is scheduled to be completed in November.

The city will own the new arena, but it will be financially self-sustaining, Alanis said. It will be operated by Multipurpose Arena Fort Worth.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST