By Jeff Taylor, Dunaway Associates Principal/Engagement Manager
When it opens in fall of 2019, the $500 million Dickies Arena will be the crown jewel of the Fort Worth Cultural District. The 14,000-seat arena, built through a private-public partnership, will host the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, as well as various collegiate sports tournaments and championships, concerts, and a variety of other special events.
Dunaway has worked for more than a decade to help bring the arena project to fruition, and I have had the privilege to serve as project manager for the Dunaway team. Our firm initially was engaged in 2008 for civil engineering design and topographical survey of the entire facility for the parcel just south of Harley Avenue. Dunaway Associates has continued to work on multiple improvement projects on the Will Rogers campus, and as development continued we also performed a crucial role in facilitating open communication between the many different stakeholders, construction companies and the City of Fort Worth.
Transforming The Will Rogers Memorial Center
Dickies Arena is just one piece of the 145-acre Will Rogers Memorial Center. Dunaway has completed 12 projects at the center. While Dickies Arena will be a major attraction to the the Will Rogers Memorial Center, the current arena continues hosting various shows for the annual stock show and rodeo and other premier events. I have heard it said that the current arena will hold the memories of our fathers and grandfathers, while this new state-of-the-art facility will be enjoyed by us, our kids and their children.
Our firm worked closely for many years with the project owner and other stakeholders to design a campus master plan. We understood from the beginning just how important this project is to the owner and to the City of Fort Worth and its residents. We wanted to help design a facility that everyone would enjoy as we worked closely with all the various architectural and engineering firms.
It’s never easy converting an older industrial area into to an incredible new facility that will house 14,000 people plus parking for thousands of cars. There’s roughly 25 acres of development at the site, and upgrading key infrastructure such as water, sewer and electrical utilities proved to be just a few of the biggest challenges we faced and overcame.
The project required relocating existing sewer lines that ran under the proposed arena floor. We also were involved with coordinating the overall water and sewer demands of the facility from its public restrooms and the kitchens of various eateries and restaurants at the arena to facilitate public infrastructure improvements to serve the development. We had to determine how large those kitchens would be, as well as other infrastructure demands, and translate all that information to the City of Fort Worth and their engineers to ensure everyone worked together to reroute sewer, water and storm drainage to accommodate the facility’s overall impact. We also completed a large traffic study to help the arena team and the city understand the traffic requirements of the site and how to design and improve nearby roadways.
Using Natural Terrain To Our Advantage
The arena site has a pretty good slope from west to east, and the design team incorporated this grade into the building’s final design. Dickies Arena is positioned dramatically on the axis of Gendy and Montgomery streets. When patrons enter the building at Montgomery on the west side of the arena and traverse the facility to the east, they enter at the concourse level and go down into the stadium bowl to the event area. The dramatic drop in grade also allows all the trucks, vendors and suppliers, as well as horses and cattle, to enter the facility at its event level.
Since the east side of the concourse level gains about 23 feet in height, we were able to design a support building within the facility to house animals and livestock for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. This 200,000-square-foot underground multipurpose facility will serve as a warm-up area for both animals and athletes.
Using the slope to our advantage allowed us to provide easy access for patrons and vendors. It was a practical solution to optimize the flow of people and goods moving through Dickies Arena. Once construction kicked off and teams got heavily involved in vertical building at Dickies Arena, our teams met regularly with various parties, including owner/design team and architectural/contractor meetings to ensure everyone was on the same page with budget, scheduling, submittals, RFIs in the field, as well as to resolve issues that arose and overcome any potential roadblocks.
Dunaway engineered a 30-acre parking lot that included spaces for vehicles and 78 spaces for recreational vehicles and motor homes. Our firm also designed a great deal of storm drainage, and designed a new street, Trail Drive, to provide increased access into the facility. Dunaway worked closely with stakeholders and Austin Bridge and Road to enhance Trail Drive, and we also worked with Fort Worth Botanical Gardens to the east to install a 2,100-linear foot retaining wall that reaches 32 feet high along the eastern property line of the botanical gardens.
Dunaway: The Common Denominator
The entire arena project required unprecedented coordination to ensure smooth construction operations – which certainly was no easy task considering the dozens of stakeholders, designers, contractors and hundreds of construction workers involved in the arena project.
Dunaway was the “common denominator” on the campus – we have had a little piece of nearly every project were the glue that held it all together. It was a monumental task for a campus that encompasses more than 100 acres and has been around since 1936. Our expertise in understanding the larger vision for the project, coordinating and working with the City of Fort Worth, knowing city codes, zoning issues, and making sure we had boots on the ground, was crucial to the project’s success. The team at Dunaway Associates had the know-how, relationships and expertise to make it all happen. It’s one of the most memorable projects our firm has ever been involved with, and our core values of honesty, integrity, technical excellence and responsiveness were instrumental in bringing this crown jewel to the Fort Worth Cultural District.