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Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Wows Attendees With Dickies Arena Debut

Talley Amusements Midway at the Ft. Worth Stock Show
Photo by Steve Hinz

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Adding a new facility always brings new energy and excitement. The most high-profile addition so far in 2020 happened down in Texas when the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo featured the highly anticipated opening of the brand new Dickies Arena.

“Anytime you move into a new house is really thrilling,” said Matt Brockman, Communications Manager, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “People were anticipating the arena to host the rodeo for a long time.”

Planning for the arena began about 10 years ago, a constant local news story that finally reached the first stage of fruition in in 2017 with a highly publicized groundbreaking ceremony followed by a fanfare-filled ribbon cutting ceremony on October 26. A handful of concerts, sports and other events were hosted by the Dickies Arena, as sort of early house-warming parties for the new home of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Rave Reviews

The early reviews were glowing, welcoming what is tantamount to a brand-new rodeo facility on the circuit. According to the official PRCA website:  “Several bull riders stared in awe while walking around the new, state-of-the-art Dickies Arena… The plush arena, hosted its inaugural PRCA event – the first day of the 2020 Division-1 Xtreme Bulls Tour – to a sellout crowd of 9,300 spectators.”

The arena also caught the eye of Trey Kimzey  (PRCA bull-rider) “This just shows you where rodeo is going in general. There are really no words for this place. It's so spectacular. I came in the hospitality room and I was just so overwhelmed .  The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo has been taken to a whole new level with this arena.”

Even though the arena had been well-received since its opening, the facility had been built specifically for the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo “Holding the first rodeo there was in some respects a baptism by fire. But we were really pleased with the feedback we got about the amenities and fan experience.”

The arena improved sight lines while also increasing the rodeo seating from 5,700 seats to 9,300 (the non-rodeo configuration seating capacity is 14,000). The event changed its rodeo format, streamlining the event to 25 performances, eliminating 11 matinee competitions, which generally sold poorly compared to the evening showcases.

Bells & Whistles

Other new features include: the second-largest, continuous 360-degree screen in North America; a 105' x 26' scoreboard outfitted with 1.2 Million LEDs; 20 video cameras installed throughout the venue, and a Fanzone level where fans can interact with the always fan-friendly rodeo stars.

“We have all the bells and whistles, it's a state-of-the-art arena and fan experience that Rodeo deserves,” he said, adding that the Cowboy Channel broadcasted the Fort Worth Rodeo.

The new arena also further integrated the rodeo with the city of Fort Worth. Brockman pointed out the architectural style matches other structures in the downtown district, such as the Kimble Museum of Art, the National Cowgirl Museum and the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History. “It's an architectural masterpiece, but what makes it unique among a lot of fairs and other stocks shows because we are now part of the cultural district of the city.”

And, what of the classic former home of the rodeo portion of the event, the Will Rogers Coliseum? The historic facility originally constructed in 1936, remained a featured part of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, hosting some events, most notably the popular horse show “Extreme Mustang Makeover (formerly Mustang Magic Celebrity). “We changed format of this stock show and were able to hold it in a larger facility. We maintained the enthusiasm for the people who followed this show.”

The new formats and addition of the Dickies Arena enabled the Fort Worth Stock & Rodeo to enlist into usage what has been called the Fillmore of Fort Worth, the Will Rogers Auditorium, a 2,800-seat, intimate theater that could not previously be utilized during the rodeo. The theater boasts enhanced sight lines and high quality acoustics, bringing a new dimension of entertainment to the event. A handful of shows were presented, including a Mariachi Band Competition, Home Free, the acappella country band and Foreigner, the classic rock ensemble. “We were just sticking our toe in the water presenting these shows,” said Brockman. “It's a new revenue stream for us. We had a great response, Foreigner sold out and we are eager to expand these auditorium shows next year.”

Dream It. Do It.

The introduction of Dickie Arena as the new home for the rodeo was supported by a new tagline: Dream it.  Do it. The advertising budget was increased somewhat, but the real shift was increasing  digital advertising spending by 25 percent. “We spent more money on banner and display ads, and more on paid social media ads, especially Instagram,” he said. “We also spent more on search ads than last year. Our rodeo tickets are in demand, and the scalping community has become more aggressive. People are searching for tickets, that's human behavior, so we were advertising in those searches.”

Radio ads, which used the added tagline “Bigger & Better” featured  Bob Tallman,  a ProRodeo Hall of Fame Announcer known throughout the circuit as the voice of professional rodeo and of course, the long-time announcer for the Fort Worth Rodeo. “People know his voice, they know how he enunciates,” said Brockman. “The ads emphasized how the rodeo is very fan friendly.”

Talley Amusements

For the Talley Amusements midway, the 2020 Fort Worth event “was a great run. We had one day of bad weather,” said Mary Talley, who added that if it “wasn't a record year, it was a near record year.” 

It was the 18th year for Talley Amusements at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo , although her family's relationship with the event goes back generations to the classic Bill Hames Shows that used to play the event. The 2020 Talley midway featured 50-rides, including new for the fair – Downdraft, Sky Liner, and Orbiter. Top grossing rides include such Talley signature items as the Wave Swinger and The 33-meter Lambrink Wheel. 

It was also the third year for the Magic Money system. “We were completely cashless and cashier free. Magic Money is by far the best system on the market.    The customers just reload at our kiosks or on their phones.  We have zero problems and our customers love it," said Talley.  

The Stock Show also sold Talley's commemorative Magic Money collectible arm band, which was designed by the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo organizers. 

The Dickies Arena addition actually added space to the grounds, but the Talley Amusements midway retained the same footprint and location. “Our carnival is so bright and colorful, people easily came over. We had a very good year.”

First times only come around once and Brockman admitted that he was somewhat nervous about the debut of the new arena. But with stellar reviews and an overall attendance of 1,267,500 – more than 53,000 higher than 2019, first time jitters soon dissipated.

“You always go into something like this with a bit of trepidation,” said Brockman. “You always worry how things will go over and you don't want to raise your expectations too much. We had high hopes, but everything went beautifully and those hopes were met and in some respects, even exceeded.”
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