When Ed Bass talks, Fort Worth listens. And lately he’s been talking up a new $90 million, 12,000-seat coliseum at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. “It’s not a new idea,” he says. “We’ve been talking about it for ten years.” He spoke publicly about his plans last December at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show Rodeo, which presented him with the Charles Goodnight Award (Bass rides in the Grand Entry parade before most of the rodeo’s performances). His idea could transform Cowtown into Ponyville. Bass wants to replace the aging 5,700-capacity Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, where the rodeo is currently held, with a state-of-the-art facility—complete with corporate suites. He believes it would make the complex the most tricked-out equestrian center anywhere and attract the national Arabian horse show, the wealthiest horse show in the world. “People think Fort Worth is a sleepy convention city, but between business from both livestock and equestrian events, it’s huge,” he observes, “and you can’t be involved with the latter without a large disposable income, believe me.” If Bass gets his wish, the arena would be a major addition to Fort Worth’s growing Cultural District. The new facility would be across the street from the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which is now under construction, and the Cattle Raisers Museum, which will begin construction in two years. On top of that, a new modern art museum is now being built and two other museums are undergoing expansions. As for the existing coliseum, it will be refurbished and downsized. Bass has also suggested that the new venue would function as Fort Worth’s new civic arena and even host Texas Christian University’s basketball team.
Not everyone is on Bass’ side, though. Some traditionalists are grumbling that it won’t be the same old rodeo, but given Bass’s determination, momentum is already building. Besides, consider the power of Fort Worth’s first family. In the eighties Ed’s brother Robert headed up the effort to upgrade the Will Rogers Auditorium next to the coliseum. When a bond proposal to make improvements failed, Ed took the lead in building the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall downtown. In other words, the new coliseum isn’t a done deal, but it’s pretty darned close. Any guess as to what its name might be?