Plenty of beer will be poured and toasts made at Montgomery Street’s Ye Olde Bull and Bush pub on Thursday, March 17. After all, it’s not only St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also the 23rd anniversary of the pub owned and operated by Nick Gregory.
“Plenty to celebrate that day,” said Gregory, sitting on the dog-friendly patio of his establishment.
But Gregory expects more than a few guests who are unaware of the anniversary and maybe even a few less-than-concerned about celebrating the man who legend says drove snakes out of Ireland. They will be drawn by the first round of NCAA’s March Madness being played at nearby Dickies Arena.
“I expect we’ll have some people taking in a pint before the game and after,” he said.
For 23 years Gregory has watched the street where his pub is located, 2300 Montgomery St., change, morphing from a bumpy, pockmarked lane that connected Interstate 30 with Camp Bowie Boulevard into a sleek, smoothly-paved modern thoroughfare that brings many locals and tourists alike to the many and varied offerings of Dickies Arena.
Following a slowdown caused by Montgomery Street road improvements and a shutdown created by COVID-19, watching Dickies Arena spring to life brings a smile to Gregory’s face.
“I remember one night after it opened, we got really, really busy,” he said. “Then, I took a two-hour break, walked over and enjoyed The Black Keys, walked back and went back to work. Loved it, just loved it. They were great.”
So, too, is the business he has seen increase as a result of the 14,000-seat multipurpose arena that opened in November 2019.
The arena opened months before the pandemic — in October 2019 — so many events were canceled or rescheduled as the effects of COVID-19 worsened. Now, however, the arena, built with a combination of public and private funding, is taking center stage itself.
“This is what we built this for,” said Dickies Arena general manager Matt Homan. “At first I was probably a little upset that we didn’t get the NCAA game a little sooner, knowing that we opened in ’19. But luck of the draw, I guess, that we got it in ’22. Because we wouldn’t have held it in ’20. Then obviously in ’21, they didn’t have fans in front of it. So, we’re fortunate that we got it in ’22.”
This year the fans of the Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Southern Tigers will see their teams take to the hardwood on Thursday. Aside from the fans at the event and those taking it all in at bars and hotels in the area, plenty of eyeballs will be on Fort Worth.
“We’re going to be in the national and international spotlight with this event,” said Jason Sands, executive director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission. “It’s a great, great win for the city. It’s been a real collaborative effort to secure this event and to make sure the city’s prepared for it. This is just a great branding opportunity for the city and to show we can be a world-class sports destination.”
Sands said Dickies Arena has been a game changer for the city. “It’s opened up opportunities to host events that we never would’ve been able to before,” he said. “Just in the short time that it’s been open, we’ve had Olympic trials, … we’re getting the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) world finals. We’ve got Simone Biles and U.S. gymnastics championships, the NCAA gymnastics championships, the Bass Master classic, just to name a few. All these events are on national television so it’s national exposure for the city of Fort Worth.”
While the March Madness events may be in the spotlight now, Dickies Arena has a full slate from March to May, with AAC basketball championships last week to the NCAA women’s gymnastics title in April to the PBR world finals in May and a Beatle, Paul McCartney, playing his first show in Fort Worth since a bell-bottomed visit in 1976 with Wings.
The shows will demonstrate that the arena is truly a multipurpose event center, said Homan, who delineated the difficulty of scheduling a Beatle between bulls.
“We’ll be doing the PBR World Finals from Friday through Sunday, then we’re going to load them out, load in Paul McCartney, have Paul McCartney on Tuesday May 17, load out Paul McCartney and then load PBR back in for a Thursday through Sunday performance,” he said. “On top of that we’re going to have a sold-out Eric Church and a sold-out New Edition concert in between all that as well.”
Now post-pandemic, Dickies Arena will host about 150 events a year. Dickies Arena was a key part of a plan to help increase sports tourism in Fort Worth, according to Visit Fort Worth officials. Sports tourism more than doubled in 2021, having a $100 million economic impact, according to Visit Fort Worth.
“We’re hitting full stride right now, which is great, and it’s great to see people supporting the venue and wanting to come to Dickies Arena,” said Homan, who came to Dickies Arena from the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia in 2015. “We’re proving ourselves as our own market separate from Dallas and the American Airlines Center, which is great, and which is what we always sought out to prove.”
Financially, this week’s NCAA activity should boost not just Dickies Arena, but also area businesses, Homan said. Visit Fort Worth estimates $6 million in direct spending for the city with the thousands of fans coming into town for the NCAA tournament events. Overall, Visit Fort Worth estimates that from 2018 to 2019, the Fort Worth Sports Commission secured or supported 75 sports events with an estimated economic impact of $83.2 million.
Dickies Arena was conceived and developed by businessman Ed Bass and a public-private partnership between the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, the state and a group of private-sector participants including foundations, individuals and organizations.
The partnership was approved by Fort Worth voters in November 2014, capping taxpayers’ portion at $225 million. The measure passed with 79% of the vote.
Located in the city’s Cultural District and adjacent to the Will Rogers Memorial Center campus, the venue is owned by the City of Fort Worth and managed by a not-for-profit operating entity, Trail Drive Management Corp.
The area will see more hotels in the near future. Bowie House, a four-story, 120-room hotel that broke ground earlier this year, is located not far away on Camp Bowie and Fort Worth’s Crescent Hotel is expected to open in mid-2023. A boutique hotel on Montgomery Street with 21 rooms, Hotel Dryce, opened in April 2021.
All that activity means a lot for businesses like Bull and Bush, said proprietor Gregory.
“We have plenty of regulars, but it’s always tough in business,” he said. “This just really helps us out.”
Jonathan Morris, co-owner of the Hotel Dryce, is a board member for the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com.