News Article | 12/29/2007

Dallas’ Victory Park to host New Year’s Eve bash

Is it possible?

Could Dallas, the city without a cultural epicenter, finally have a perennial “it” place to be on New Year’s Eve?

That’s what organizers of the first “Big D NYE” celebration at Victory Park hope. And if presale event packages and reservation bookings are any indication, it very well could be.

“I think we’re decentralized as a city on big holidays like this,” said Wade Randolph Hampton, a marketing director for N9NE Group, which owns several venues at Victory Park. “We don’t have an automatic place to go. This is a chance to centralize it. That’s the intent.”

The 75-acre complex that once was a desolate field with a few smokestacks a decade ago has been transformed into an array of restaurants, shops, current and future hotels and the American Airlines Center. Look up and find massive high-definition screens all over the plaza and a Times Square-esque news ticker wrapping around the WFAA-TV (Channel 8) studio.

But Big D NYE at Victory Park is not trying to copy the Big Apple, said Ken Reese, executive vice president of Hillwood, the building force behind Victory Park.

“First of all, there’s only one Times Square. To try to duplicate that is a fool’s bargain,” he said. “Whether it’s coming out for a movie on Monday nights or this New Year’s Eve celebration, it’s amazing how flexible the video technology [at Victory Park] can be. It was always about having a space that was infinitely flexible. That was the goal.”

The collision of activities Monday night at Victory Park includes a Dallas Stars game, prix fixe dining, indoor and outdoor concerts ranging from country to funk, and a midnight fireworks display from atop American Airlines Center.

Mr. Hampton expects revelers to go through “a ton” of bubbly. Well over 1,200 bottles of champagne have been ordered for N9NE Group’s three major Victory Park venues: N9NE Steakhouse, Nove Italiano and Ghostbar.

“We’ve had to find out ways to store it,” Mr. Hampton said. “There’s a possibility we’d have to keep some in a refrigerated truck.”

New Year’s Eve night at Victory Park is being marketed as “Your Ultimate New Year’s Eve Destination.”

But can it stand the test of time when others haven’t?

On Dec. 31, 1999, Entertainment Collaborative put on Dallas 2000, a massive celebration in the heart of downtown Dallas. Tens of thousands of partygoers snatched free tickets to the event, which was a huge success perked by the relighting of the Pegasus neon lights on top of the Magnolia building and buzz of a possible Y2K bug.

Organizers attempted the same feat the following year at Dallas 2001 but charged admission to defray costs. The attempt at a unified Dallas tradition soon died off, possibly because of the required tickets and possibly because it just didn’t seem as exciting as ringing in the millennium on the streets of downtown.

Many of the events at Victory Park will be free, and the open feel of the plaza might add to its appeal.

But planners of this year’s festivities at Victory Park say it’s too early to declare it the big event tradition for years to come.

“We won’t know how successful the property-wide push will be until Monday night,” Mr. Hampton said.

Mr. Reese of Hillwood said 3,000 to 5,000 attendees would be “a great showing.”

Some Victory Park visitors say they worry it’ll be too crowded in the main gathering area – the AT&T Plaza – outside American Airlines Center.

“They’re going to need something bigger than this. It’s too skinny,” said Tonya Gardner, who said she will probably go to a friend’s party Monday night.

Sammy Bennett, who visited Victory Park on Wednesday, didn’t know about Big D NYE but said: “I’ll probably be out here. I think it’s really, really nice. It adds a better atmosphere for Dallas.”

Those who attend will have a variety of events to choose from.

While the Stars battle the Nashville Predators on ice, bands will perform in the House of Blues, featured artists at Ghostbar will make their entrance via helicopter, musicians will play to the crowds in the plaza, and partygoers will be featured on the enormous screens throughout. Channel 8 will be broadcasting the festivities live.

“The hope and the whole concept behind the whole plaza and video screens is to create a heart of the city,” Mr. Reese said. “It’ll be an energetic place to be on New Year’s.”