Dickies Arena’s debut in 2019 was a long-awaited milestone for Fort Worth that was greeted with fervent fanfare.
Four years have passed since Fort Worth voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to build a world-class multi-purpose arena where residents could enjoy concerts, sports and other events without leaving town.
The new venue did not disappoint. The result was a resplendent installation by famed Washington, D.C. architect David M. Schwarz, whose footprint in the Dallas-Fort Worth area includes Sundance Square Plaza and other Sundance Square projects, the Sid Richardson Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. , the American Airlines Center and Globe Life Park (now Choctaw Stadium).
Seating up to 14,000 for concerts, 13,000 for basketball, 12,200 for family shows and hockey, and up to 9,300 for rodeo shows, the new arena was a welcome arrival for fans. enthusiasts who quickly began buying tickets for a dizzying lineup of events.
Despite all the anticipation and excitement, the timing of the $540 million venue’s debut couldn’t have been worse.
“We built and opened this great venue here in late 2019 and everyone is really excited,” said Matt Homan, President and CEO of Dickies Arena. “We had a great few months and then we had to close because of the pandemic.”
The venue hosted several high-profile events in its first few months, including a rare performance by country music superstar George Strait and the arena’s 2020 debut as a featured venue for organized rodeo events as part of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.
The six-month pandemic-forced closure has scrambled venue operations, causing many events to be postponed or canceled, but that hasn’t dampened the resolve or commitment of Homan and his staff to make the best of it. part of the situation.
The result of this dynamic spirit has seen the arena turn a profit every year – even in 2020, when the facility was shut down for six months.
“It’s a great source of pride for me that we haven’t had to lay off or lay off any employees,” Homan said.
Two loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s pandemic-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped keep those employees on the payroll.
While the site was closed from March through most of August, Homan and his team spent their time finding ingenious ways to reopen safely when the lockdown was eased.
Dickies resumed operations on a limited basis in August 2020.
“When we were able to reopen, we had a lot of safety rules in place such as social distancing, mask requirements and seating spacing,” Homan said. “Even though we could have had 50% capacity, we stayed closer to 35-40%.”
Events that year included college basketball games, catering events for the National Finals Rodeo at Globe Life Field, and Disney on Ice.
For Homan and his staff, the challenges went beyond safety considerations for spectators. To avoid a COVID-19 outbreak that could have curtailed recovery operations, personnel protocols have been put in place to ensure everyone’s safety, including COVID tests, proof of vaccination, or negative test results. A staggered work schedule in the office has also been adopted to avoid a staff-wide virus outbreak.
“Doing all of that is what kept us going and we’re still doing some of that,” Homan said.
It’s no surprise that Homan was able to navigate the path to success despite the pandemic. When offered the position of president and general manager of Dickies Arena in 2015, Homan was general manager of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, one of the five busiest arenas in the country and home of the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League and National Basketball. Philadelphia 76ers Association.
By then in his thirties, Homan was already an accomplished veteran in the arena management industry and had landed his dream job in his hometown of Philadelphia.
But he was drawn to Trail Drive Management Corp., the non-profit company that runs Dickies Arena, by the prospect of going downstairs and being able to make critical decisions that would impact the operations of the arena once opened.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, but the new momentum continued and more events were planned.
“Texas and Florida are different from most other states and we’re proud to have been able to host some of these great events,” Homan said.
Among those events were the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships and the U.S. Olympic Team Wrestling Trials, both in April 2021. Dickies Arena landed the wrestling trials when they transferred from Penn State University.
With public vaccination rates rising, the Dickies concert schedule has also filled in 2021, headlined by artists such as Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Blake Shelton and Parker McCollum .
There have been periodic spikes in the virus, but higher vaccination rates and new treatment options have ensured it continues to draw enthusiastic crowds eager to experience live performances.
This year’s program features a stellar lineup of concerts, sports, family entertainment, charity balls and community events.
Among the sporting highlights in 2022: the American Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments; Professional Bull Riders World Finals, transplanted from Las Vegas, Nevada; the 2022 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics National Championships; and Panther City Lacrosse Club games.
But for the sheer excitement and frenzy of fans, nothing in sport can top college basketball’s “March Madness” – and Dickies Arena is right in the thick of it as the men’s basketball tournament in the NCAA kicks off this week. The local venue will host four games on Thursday (March 17) and two on Saturday (March 19).
Highlights from this year’s concerts include performances by New Edition, Eric Church, Steely Dan with Snarky Puppy, Rod Stewart with Cheap Trick, The Killers, Keith Urban and Chris Stapleton.
None of these acts, of course, can top the arena’s biggest concert hit of 22, the May 17 arrival of music legend Paul McCartney’s Got Back Tour.
Landing McCartney sends the message that Fort Worth and Dickies are firmly in the big leagues. Dickies is the only Texas leg of the former Beatle’s 13-city tour, with other performances primarily on the east and west coasts.
Although McCartney performed a sold-out show at Globe Life Park in 2019, he hasn’t performed in Fort Worth since performing with his band, Wings, in 1976 at the Tarrant County Convention Center.
“We’re one of the smaller venues to get this show,” Homan said. “This is a big win for Fort Worth.”
With even more event announcements on the horizon, Dickies is well positioned to attract even more big name artists, major sporting events and other entertainment.
As the arena prepares to open its doors even wider, Homan and his staff continue to shed residual challenges from the pandemic, including staff shortages, which are endemic to the hospitality industry.
Before the pandemic, Dickies had a part-time staff of more than 1,400, which then fell to 700 and recovered to around 900.
“We would like to have a pool of 1,900,” Homan said.
The pandemic has been disruptive, sure, but one of the benefits, Homan said, was the ability for arena staff to improve their catering operations and provide better service at the Stock Show & Rodeo in This year.
“Our food and beverage reset has allowed us to grow more than $4 per person this year,” Homan said. “We’re really happy with where we are right now, all around.”