May 3, 2024 - News

Fort Worth voters to decide on convention center project

A rendering of a building with a glass facade

Downtown Fort Worth will look different in the future if voters approve its hotel occupancy tax hike. Rendering: Courtesy of city of Fort Worth

Fort Worth voters will decide this week whether to add 2% to the city's hotel occupancy tax to fund renovations at its downtown convention center and the demolition of the "flying saucer" arena.

Why it matters: Fort Worth must compete with Dallas, Arlington and other cities in the metro that have shinier events centers and tourist attractions.

State of play: The $540 million Dickies Arena opened in 2019 in Fort Worth to host concerts, rodeos and other sporting events.

  • The Cultural District's arena fills the need for a sporting facility, but city leaders say the convention center needs more meeting and expo space.
A rendering show different construction phases
Fort Worth's proposed phases for modernizing the area around its convention center. Illustration: Courtesy of city of Fort Worth

Catch up quick: Fort Worth leaders have planned for years to renovate and modernize the 56-year-old convention center. The project includes adding kitchens and loading docks and eventually straightening the curved Commerce Street.

  • Just five years ago, the project was estimated to cost about $377 million. The price tag is now more than $700 million due to inflation and rising construction costs, per city records.
  • Construction has already begun on the $95 million first phase, partially paid for by pandemic-era relief funds.

How it works: The city estimates a 2% increase in the hotel occupancy tax could generate $10 million a year to pay for bonds to renovate the convention center.

  • The tax hike would help pay for demolishing the arena, building a ballroom and adding a 97,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

Context: Visit Fort Worth estimates a renovated convention center could double the number of events at the facility, which currently ranks 47th nationwide for available space.

  • Last year, the facility booked 475 events.

What's next: Election Day is Saturday.

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