Dickies Arena: The Fort Worth workwear maker wins the right to put its name on Fort Worth's new arena

Dickies Williamson-Dickie Fort Worth arena
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Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co., maker of Dickies workwear, signed on to a naming rights deal for the new multipurpose arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Ed Bass, the financier who’s led a private campaign to raise more than half the money to build the $450 million arena, to be called Dickies Arena, announced the deal Tuesday at a ground-breaking named “Let the Dirt Fly.”

“It has such as a long identity,” Bass told reporters after the announcement, citing the company’s Fort Worth heritage, lengthy history, and longtime sponsorship of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Reinforcing Fort Worth leaders’ view that the arena, designed to host anything from rodeo to basketball games and concerts, will occupy a unique niche in the market when it opens in November 2019, the NCAA announced after the ground-breaking that it would bring men’s Division I basketball games to the arena in March 2022. The arena will be one of the hosts for the first and second round playoff games.

The NCAA also announced the arena will host women’s gymnastics championships in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

At the groundbreaking announcement, Bass pointed toward the impending NCAA announcements as a strong indication of where the arena is headed in bookings.

Mayor Betsy Price said the arena “will give us a competitive advantage to bid on sporting events, family events, obviously the rodeo, and concerts.” The Stock Show’s rodeo will move to the new arena in 2020.

Philip Williamson, grandson of the Dickies founder and CEO of the company, said the privately owned company is a strong fit to hold the naming rights on the arena.

“We’re practical, we’re buttoned-up, we’re hardworking, just like Fort Worth,” he said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed Tuesday. “It is a long-term agreement,” Matt Homan, the arena’s general manager who ran the process, said in an interview. He and Williamson said it’s possible terms could be disclosed later.

Homan said the arena group looked at some number of candidates for the naming rights. “We’ve been talking to a lot of people, but we found there were a lot of synergies with a Fort Worth company,” he said.

The arena will be owned by the City of Fort Worth and managed by a private-sector,  not-for-profit organization. It will be financially self-sufficient, with no public money used to fund operations or maintenance expenditures, Bass and city leaders have stressed.

The arena will be able to be easily configured for various kinds of events, Bass said. For basketball, it will seat 13,400. Lower-bowl seating and suites will have “virtual identical” positioning to the same seating at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, he said. “This is not a baby arena,” Bass said. “This is the real thing.”

For concerts, the arena will seat 12,500-14,000 and should be competitive with American Airlines Center, “unencumbered” by the need to schedule around Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games, Bass said.

In agreeing to cover at least half the cost, the private sector fundraisers – foundations, individuals and and other entities organized by Bass and the Event Facilities Fort Worth nonprofit organization he leads – committed to cover any overages, capping the public cost at $225 million. “The private sector will pick up any additional cost,” Bass reiterated Tuesday.

Fort Worth voters agreed to new taxes on user parking, livestock pens and admissions that will pay for 15 percent of the arena, and an additional 35 percent is projected to come from incremental growth in hotel and mixed-beverage taxes in a radius around the arena.

The groundbreaking is the result of an unusual partnership between Event Facilities, the Stock Show and city that’s pumped millions of dollars into Will Rogers, aiming to make it a premiere exhibition center for animal shows, including the nation’s top equestrian center.

The arena, they believe, takes that mission further and fills a big lack of venues on the Metroplex’s west side for concerts, basketball and hockey games, ice shows and graduations.

Unlike other North Texas arenas and stadiums, there is no developer or franchise owner involved in the project, so revenue from the multipurpose arena will be directed to operations, maintenance and capital expenditures only. Surpluses will go into a reserve fund for maintenance and improvements, Bass said. “It will generate some surpluses,” he said.