Dickies Arena: Proponents have promised a world-class venue and big events. Delivered.

Dickies Arena’s debut in 2019 was a long-awaited milestone for Fort Worth, which was greeted by fervent fanfares.

Four years have passed since voters in Fort Worth overwhelmingly approved a proposal to build a global multi-purpose arena where residents could enjoy concerts, sports and other events as a headliner without having to leave town.

The new venue did not disappoint. The result was a beautiful facility by renowned Washington, D.C., architect David M. Schwarz, whose fingerprint in the Dallas-Fort Worth area includes Sundance Square Plaza and other Sundance Square projects, the Sid Richardson Museum, the Cowgirl National Museum and the Hall of Fame. , American Airlines Center and Globe Life Park (now Choctaw Stadium).

With a capacity of up to 14,000 seats for concerts, 13,000 for basketball, 12,200 for family performances and hockey, and up to 9,300 for rodeo performances, the new arena was a welcome arrival for eager fans who quickly began to buy tickets to dizzying events.

Despite all the expectations and enthusiasm, the timing of the $ 540 million debut could not have been worse.

“We have this great place built and opened at the end of 2019 and everyone is really excited,” said Matt Homan, president and general manager of Dickies Arena. “We had some great months and then we had to end because of a pandemic.”

The venue hosted several top events in its opening months, including a rare performance by country music superstar George Strait and the arena’s debut in 2020 as the main venue for rodeo events held as part of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The six-month shutdown forced by the pandemic disrupted the site, which resulted in the postponement or cancellation of many events, but did not undermine the determination or determination of Homan and his staff to make the most of the situation.

The result of this witty spirit has enabled the arena to make a profit every year – even in 2020, when the facility was closed for six months.

“It’s a great source of pride for me that we didn’t have to lay off or lay off any employees,” Homan said.

Several pandemic-related PPP loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration have helped keep these employees on the payroll.

While the venue was closed from March to most of August, Homan and his staff spent time devising ingenious ways to reopen safely when the deadline was released.

Dickies resumed its operations in limited mode in August 2020.

“When we were able to reopen, we had a lot of safety regulations, such as social separation, mask requirements and seat placement,” Homan said. “Although we could have 50 percent capacity, we stayed closer to 35 to 40 percent.”

Events that year included college basketball games, catering events for the Rodeo National Finals at Globe Life Field and Disney on Ice.

For Homan and his staff, these challenges went beyond security considerations for event visitors. To prevent an outbreak of COVID-19, which could limit recovery operations, staff protocols have been established to keep everyone safe, including COVID tests, evidence of vaccination, or negative test results. A scheduled work schedule was also adopted at the office to prevent a virus outbreak among employees.

“All this has kept us going and some of them we are still doing,” Homan said.

Not surprisingly, Homan was able to make his way to success despite the pandemic. When he was offered the job of Dickies Arena President and General Manager in 2015, Homan was general manager of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, one of the five busiest arenas in the country and home to the Philadelphia Flyers National Hockey League and National Basketball. Philadelphia 76ers Association.

At the age of 30, Homan was already an experienced veteran in the arena management industry and achieved his dream job in his hometown of Philadelphia.

However, he was lured to Trail Drive Management Corp., a non-profit corporation that manages Dickies Arena, on the prospect of reaching the ground floor and being able to make major decisions that will affect the operation of the arena once it opens.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo in 2021, but a new impetus continued and more events were planned.

“Texas and Florida are different from many other states and we are proud to have been able to host some of these big events,” Homan said.

Among these events were the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships and the U.S. Olympic Team Wrestling Trials, both in April 2021. Dickies Arena ended the wrestling trials when they were transferred from Penn State University.

With the growing public vaccination, the plan of Dickies concerts, led by artists such as Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Blake Shelton and Parker McCollum, was fulfilled during 2021.

The virus has been increasing regularly, but higher vaccinations and new treatment options have made it possible to continue to attract enthusiastic crowds longing to experience live entertainment.

This year’s program boasts a stellar line-up of concerts, sports, family entertainment, charity balls and social events.

Among the sporting highlights of 2022: the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments of the American Athletic Conference; Bull Riders Professional World Finals, Transplanted from Las Vegas, Nev. NCAA Women’s National University Gymnastics Championships in 2022; and matches Panther City Lacrosse Club.

But for sheer excitement and fan frenzy, nothing in sports can reach the pinnacle of college basketball’s “March frenzy” – and Dickies Arena is right in the center as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins this week. The local venue will play four matches on Thursday (March 17) and two on Saturday (March 19).

Highlights of this year’s concerts include 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 overcome the biggest concert coup in the arena on May 22, the arrival of music legend Paul McCartney on the Got Back Tour on May 17.

Landing McCartney reports that Fort Worth and the Dickies are firmly rooted in the major leagues. Dickies is the only stop in Texas to tour the former Beatle in 13 cities, with other performances mostly on the east and west coasts.

Although McCartney performed a sold-out show at Globe Life Park in 2019, he did not make it to the Fort Worth stage since performing with his group Wings in 1976 at the Tarrant County Convention Center.

“We’re one of the smaller places to get this show,” Homan said. “It’s a big victory for Fort Worth.”

With even more announcements on the horizon, Dickies is in a position to become an even bigger attraction for famous performers, big sporting events and other entertainment.

As the arena prepares to open its doors even further, Homan and his staff continue to shake off the residual challenges of the pandemic, including a shortage of staff that is endemic to the hospitality industry.

Prior to the pandemic, Dickies had more than 1,400 part-time employees, who were then reduced to 700 and recovered to about 900.

“We’d like a stock of 1900,” Homan said.

The pandemic was certainly disruptive, but one positive, Homan said, was a chance for arena staff to improve food and beverage operations and introduce better services during this year’s Stock Show & Rodeo.

“Our food and beverage reset has allowed us to grow by more than $ 4 per person this year,” said Homan. “We’re really happy with where we are now, all around.”

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