In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Matt Homan, president and general manager of Trail Drive Management Corp., spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about booking acts for Dickies Arena.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Matt Homan: I’m Matt Homan. I’m the president and general manager of Trail Drive Management Corp., which is the not-for-profit operating entity of Dickies Arena.
Marcheta Fornoff: One of your duties in that role is figuring out who is going to be coming to Dickies, right?
Homan: Absolutely. Yeah. So booking is a major priority of mine, and I handle all the booking at Dickies Arena.
Fornoff: Tell me how those conversations start when you are identifying different types of shows you want to have here and you’re making your pitch to Paul McCartney or whomever. What do you say to bring them here to Dickies?
Homan: Well, it starts with relationship building. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 20-plus years and have a lot of relationships with a lot of different promoters, agents, managers throughout the industry. When I moved here (it was) all about establishing what Fort Worth was and what Dickies Arena could be at the time.
American Airlines Center was really the only arena in the Metroplex, so we knew we were coming in against that obstacle. But Fort Worth is growing at a fast capacity. We could see that people from Fort Worth weren’t necessarily going to Dallas to American Airlines Center or other venues on a regular basis. We saw this big void there.
Originally, it was about selling those managers, artists, promoters and agents that this could be something special here. I think since we’ve opened, we’ve been able to prove that Fort Worth is its own market, that it can handle these big events and do all these different things that happen over there in Dallas.
It’s about the market supporting the venue, which is really important to us. And at the end of the day, it comes down to ticket sales. When other artists see Paul McCartney sold out or Eric Church sold out and all these other shows coming in and doing really well, it’s starting to attract those other events.
One of the great things that we’re really proud of this year is that Post Malone is actually going to be playing American Airlines Center and then Dickies Arena within five days of each other. I think that’s a great win for both markets because it shows that you can have a sold out concert there and come over here and do the same thing.
When I first got here, I was explaining it like, some of the bigger markets like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago where they have multiple venues and explaining to agents and managers that the city was that big. We’ve had great success doing that thus far.
Fornoff: It sounds like you’re giving them statistics about the size of the city and that they can support it. Is there anything else you’ve done to help shift that perception?
Homan: It’s getting out there marketing ourselves. It’s the new venue. It’s the cool venue, the intimate venue. We’re just under 14,000 seats, but over 85% of that is in our lower bowl. So artists can have a real intimate feel and great acoustics. That’s been really important on the concert side.
Then you start to look at the family shows, those are kind of the bread and butter events — Disney on Ice and the monster trucks — bringing those events into the market, giving them a new opportunity to play. The other great benefit we have is that American Airlines Center can’t do some of those events on a regular basis because of their commitments to the NHL and the NBA.
Fornoff: Let’s get into more of the sports since you’re talking about it. How are you figuring out the mix between concerts and sporting events? They have very different needs. You’re hauling in dirt for rodeos. Race cars need one thing and then you need platforms and lighting for concerts. So how are you handling that flip?
Homan: It’s something that we always knew we had to do. We had to be able to transition overnight in most cases. We worked very hard and we brought in staffing. Any year, you don’t know who’s going to be touring. I can’t make the Rolling Stones go on tour. I can’t make Paul McCartney go on tour. But these family shows, again what I call our bread and butter, are the staple events that you’re going to have every year. For us, you know, it’s really Cirque du Soleil, Disney on Ice, monster trucks, they’re staple events that we have. And then we try to come in and fill in the rest of the dates with some of these other events.
Concert touring is very unique, but it’s something we go after because it’s great for the facility and gets the usage up. We’ve had recent success with Visit Fort Worth and the sports commission with some of the events we brought in. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament and NCAA Gymnastics finals, those are bids that we put out there sometimes five, six years out. During COVID, we were able to host the USA Wrestling Olympic trials. In coordination with the Sports Commission, we were able to partner with them and bring an event like the Bassmaster Classic into the facility. Again, because we have these open dates, I don’t have a I don’t have a huge concern about booking the arena for a week at a time.
Fornoff: Are there any artists when they’re like, ‘This is going to be my last tour,’ (where) you are immediately reaching for your cell phone trying to (book)?
Homan: Recently, people like George Strait and Garth Brooks are starting to put an end to their touring, which means they’re not going to go out and play 50 cities in 80 days. They’re done with touring, so you’re starting to see these artists come into residencies in Las Vegas where they’ll go play maybe three, five, seven nights there.
And I think that’s the exciting piece because in a scenario like that, we’re at a better vantage than maybe American Airlines Center is because of the NBA and NHL contractual holds that they have. But, it’s also about seeing what the new artists are going to be because Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, they’re not going to be around forever, right? So who’s that next leading artist? That’s why you’re also excited to see Panic! At The Disco, The Killers, Whiskey Myers (here).
Fornoff: I’m curious, are there any people who you’ve been really excited to nab or like who are maybe still on your list of dream guests for this venue?
Homan: There’s one that we’re going to announce next week that I’m really excited about. I can’t (give) details today, but next Thursday, Aug. 11, we’re going to have a big announcement that I’m really proud about.
I’m from the northeast, so I grew up as a big Bruce Springsteen fan. I think that’s an iconic musician I’d love to see play the venue.
But, if you think about this past year, we had Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney play the venue, two of the most iconic guitar players and vocalists of our time.
Fornoff: It sounds like you’re hoping to get Bruce. Are there any other people?
Homan: You look all around because when I got here, like, I didn’t want this to become a country music market. That’s not what we’re trying to establish here. Country music does very well here and we think it will continue to do very well here. We’re proud of that, but you want to bring something for everyone.
And so, there’s different artists coming. You want to bring rock. I’m really excited for Post Malone, it’s our first rap, pop, hip hop, R&B show that we’ll do in the facility.
Fornoff: You also have Mary J. Blige.
Homan: Yeah. Mary J. Blige is coming. We had a sold out New Edition show that brought us Mary J. Blige. Once the promoters see that this is starting to work, it’s going to bring more events to us as well. As long as the market keeps supporting it and we’re not seeing a slowdown in that in any way, shape or form, then we’re going to continue to bring those.
The one that is most intriguing to me is the new edition of what we call K-Pop concerts, Korean pop concerts. We’ve hosted quite a few here, and they’ve sold out and done very well here. We’re seeing a market for that now. Fort Worth, I joke that we’re like the K-Pop capital of the world, but BTS played here at the convention center about five or six years ago and did really well and then all of a sudden Fort Worth became known as a K-Pop market.
Fornoff: Do you have a master list somewhere of like different genres and building blocks?
Homan: We talk with our marketing department every day because what we don’t want is a show to come in and fall on their face. That’s not good for us. It’s not good for the promoter and or the community.
There’s not really a hit list so to speak that you cross off saying, ‘I got Eric Clapton. We move on to who’s next.’ But it is something we’re very conscious about that we want to make sure that there’s a lot of diversity in the programming. One of the things I’ll admit that we struggled with and that we haven’t had that great Latin artist come in and prove that this can be a Latin market as well. That’s something that I want to push for in the next year. That’s probably one of my highest priorities in the next year.
Fornoff: We’ll be watching for that and we’ll be watching for an announcement Thursday. Thank you so much.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter. 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.