News Article | 1/17/2008

What a difference an arena makes

As we are now in the midst of another election season, I reflect on one local vote that took place a decade ago and changed the course of downtown Dallas. Ten years ago today, the citizens of Dallas voted to allow the city to participate in a public-private partnership and build a new sports arena. After a great deal of debate, this close victory turned a once-vacant brown field into a vibrant part of the downtown area.

At that time, people questioned whether this would indeed be a turning point for our city – and if the promised development around the arena would come at all. Those questions have been answered enthusiastically. The citizens of Dallas should be proud of what they accomplished, together with private developers. This was an enormously complex project in scope and size, and it took a public-private partnership to jumpstart the development.

And what a partnership it has been. Thanks to the support of voters, then-City Manager John Ware and the Dallas City Council, along with the vision of Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks, this project has become a reality. At that time, the integrity of many, including Mr. Perot and Mr. Hicks, were questioned. These individuals have kept their word, turning an environmental hazard and visual eyesore into a world-renowned sports and entertainment venue, the American Airlines Center, designed by David Schwarz and an award-winning development.

Without the critical vote 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have the surrounding development at Victory Park, nor the entertainment, dining, residential, office and retail options. We also would not have had a venue to host special events – such as the New Year’s Eve celebration, the NHL All-Star game and the NBA Finals – and the Katy Trail that bring in people from outside the city.

AAC and Victory Park have spurred additional development and created a halo effect to the adjacent community. For example, the House of Blues has created a linkage with the West End. Thanks to the added economic development and tax dollars the arena vote has created, we have additional revenue for our schools, Parkland Hospital and our city and county government.

If the vote had failed, we could still be looking at the former railroad yard and power plant and playing games at Reunion.

Equally important, we have created thousands of jobs related to the construction of AAC and the surrounding buildings, in addition to the number of permanent jobs that have been created. All of these jobs, temporary and permanent, have resulted in an increase in the local tax base and higher tax appraisals for the area, which will be critically important in the future. I’m proud to also say that the amount of money spent on the construction of AAC surpassed the city’s goal for minority contractors.

Perhaps most amazing of all things about Victory Park is that there is still two-thirds of the project to be developed. These include exciting new projects, such as the recently announced $155 million new Dallas Museum of Nature and Science building.

I sincerely hope that you are as proud of what we accomplished working together in building a new and vibrant urban center for our great city. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the arena election, I invite you to experience firsthand the sights, sounds and excitement of all that Victory Park has to offer. It is so much more than just a promise delivered, and the best is yet to come.

Ron Kirk is a partner at Vinson & Elkins, LLP, and was mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2001. His e-mail address is [email protected].