New Dickies Arena Is Designed for an Extensive Range of Audio

Fort Worth’s 14,000-seat venue will host events from rodeos to rim shots (basketball and music)

Dickies Arena, which opened on Oct. 26 in Fort Worth, was designed to be a truly multi-use venue. The 14,000-seater features AV systems designed by consultant WJHW, an L-Acoustics PA system installed by integrator Electro-Acoustics, and a 56-ft.-wide by 35-ft.-high Mitsubishi centerhung videoboard from ANC Sports. These allow it to accommodate an extremely wide variety of events.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is the main tenant but only one of the vast variety of events the new Dickies Arena is designed to host.

Already on the schedule are the Hot Wheels Monster Truck event this month, the NCAA Men’s Basketball first and second rounds (scheduled for 2022), the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships and American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championships (both next year), and concerts by Twenty-One Pilots, the Black Keys, and George Strait (all in the venue’s first two months of operation).

But Dickies Arena — a public-private partnership between the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, the State of Texas, and a group of private-sector participants — is also designed, to a large extent, around its anchor client: the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, which runs each year in January and February.

Sound System To Satisfy the Rodeo
“This is intended to be a truly multipurpose venue,” explains Dickies Arena Assistant GM Bill Shaw, “but we also built it around our main tenant, which does 25 performances in 23 days starting every January, so we wanted them to be especially happy with the venue.”

The decision process around the venue’s sound system, for instance, illustrates that.

“We brought [the tenant] in while we were under construction and did a virtual walk-through,” he explains. “Right away, they told us that, based on the sound system originally specified, they’d need to bring in supplemental sound equipment. That was very disappointing to hear from our main client.” The comment ultimately led to the installation of a L-Acoustics system that Shaw describes as “a significantly increased investment.”

Other ways that Dickies Arena accommodates livestock-based sports events is with a substantially larger floorplan. At 250 ft. long by 125 ft. wide, the arena floor far larger than the typical 94- x 50-ft. basketball arena and even the conventional 200- x 85-ft. hockey rink. The larger floor area mimics that of the nearby Will Rogers Memorial Center, which had hosted the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo since 1944.

“The size of the floor was important to them; it was the starting point for us for design,” Shaw explains. “It also helps us with events such as gymnastics.”

Complementing that are retractable seating stands, from Irwin Seating, which allow up to 3,000 seats to be pulled out for concerts and other events and pushed back for rodeos and convention-type occasions. That, in turn, requires the sound system to be refocused each time seating is reconfigured, to keep the sound on the seats and away from reflective surfaces. That’s accomplished by raising or lowering the rigging ring that the speaker hangs are attached to.

Other facets serving the flexibility of the venue include placing VIP seating areas and event PA and broadcast announcers on a platform atop the bucking chutes — which hold the bulls that some consider the true stars of the show at rodeos — opposite the timed-event chutes used for such events as calf roping.

All these design aspects were communicated to key national broadcasters, including ESPN and CBS Sports; the latter’s KRLD-AM is the CBS Radio affiliate for the rodeo broadcast. In addition, Shaw says, both fiber and triax cabling have been installed throughout the venue to accommodate both national and high school broadcasters, and SMPTE connections have been run from the venue control room, used by CBS Sports when necessary, to the production-truck docks.

“We won the NCAA Men’s Basketball events early on,” Shaw notes. “That caused us to gear up from the beginning for national broadcasters.”

AV Gear in the House
The venue’s AV is substantial, reflecting its multi-role mission and underscoring the kind of firepower even midsize venues need to be competitive.

The centerhung main videoboard  comprises four 6-mm Mitsubishi displays measuring 25.2 ft. high x 37.8 ft. wide and wrapping into four 6-mm corner displays. It’s on a network that includes two 10.08- x 35.28-ft. 4-mm boards placed inside the center videoboard on the east and west sides and combining live video and replays for lower bowl seats and premium guests. A 360-degree, 16-mm fascia ribbon board wraps the upper bowl; a second set of 233.49- x 2.5-ft. fascia displays runs along the sidelines. And four courtside tables featuring 4-mm displays are used to create the courtside scoring-table LED.

Hanging from its own motorized truss encircling the interior of the venue are eight L-Acoustics K2 long-/mid-throw speakers atop four Kara short-throw boxes; four of these arrays are backed with two KS28 cardioid-configured subwoofers. Six ARCS A15 systems are paired with two AS Wide speakers to cover the floor area beneath the centerhung videoboard. The system is powered by 38 LA-12A amplified controllers and eight LA-4X amplified controllers, managed via an L-Acoustics P1 processor.

Dickies Arena is located in the middle of Fort Worth’s growing cultural district, which already has the Bass Performance Hall and the Kimbell Art Museum. “So the new arena also had to meet that world-class criteria,” says Chris Jordan, president/chief steward, Electro-Acoustics.

It also had to be as ecumenical in the range of sports it can host as in the genres of music that will be performed there.

“We had to think about everything from basketball and hockey to rodeo and WWE wrestling, which is not something that most arenas have to consider,” says Shaw. Ball and stick sports, he notes, “aren’t the only games in town.”