Amarillo: New Arena, Expansions Part of Proposed $319M Civic Center Revamp
Featured Illustration (above): Looking east/northeast toward the proposed arena and plaza at the Amarillo Civic Center. Image: Dekker/Perich/Sabatini/Populous
By Edmond Ortiz
Amarillo (Potter County)–Voters may be asked next spring to consider $319 million in renovations to the Amarillo Civic Center as part of the city’s effort to modernize the 51-year-old facility and enhance its ability to hold a wider variety of events.
City officials held an information session Sept. 4 at the civic center about a proposal to expand the center through the addition of a 75,000-square-foot exhibit hall, growing an existing ballroom to 30,000 square feet, and construction of a new 10,100-seat arena and a four-acre central plaza.
The project would also include renovations to the historic Santa Fe Depot, relocation of city hall, and development of an additional parking structure.
Amarillo Civic Center is being eyed for a massive revamp should voters approve a potentially proposed bond issue in May 2020. Image: Google Streets
The entire civic center complex, bound by Southeast Third Avenue, Texas 287/Buchanan Street, and South Johnson Street, would get a facelift.
The new exhibit hall would take up a mix of vacant land and parking space, and be given its own loading dock, catering/pantry section, and surface parking space.
The idea is to give event-goers more contiguous space to hold and enjoy a conference or convention.
Meeting rooms in existing space on the northern side of the complex would be reconfigured to better accommodate the needs of users.
The city envisions modernizing the venue by developing a true back-of-house section with docks for the exhibit hall and new arena, full-service kitchens, state-of-the-art concession areas and technology, and larger loading areas.
Currently, guests coming to the civic center often occupy the same spaces as people setting up for a show or an event.
The new arena will be attached to the southeastern corner of the complex near the existing Cal Farley Coliseum. The arena and new plaza, on the south/southwestern side of the complex, will necessitate relocation of the current city hall building.
The city has yet to decide a new location for its main municipal facility.
A look inside the proposed new arena at Amarillo Civic Center. Image: Dekker/Perich/Sabatini/Populous
The plaza, with native landscaping and seating areas, will be able to fit about 1,700 people for events and act as a hub for other downtown features such as neighboring Hodgetown Stadium and the Embassy Suites Hotel.
The arena will have a steel height of more than 60 feet, higher than that of Farley Coliseum. The dimensions of the new arena, local officials have said, would make the city more competitive in luring major shows and entertainers.
The civic center will also be given a new main entry, near the northwestern edge of the complex, and a new lobby on the southwestern corner. The new lobby will feature a food court, an Internet cafe and exhibit spaces.
Given all of the potential additions, the civic center complex will also be able to attract more youth sports events, particularly tournaments.
A new parking garage will go up along Fourth Street between Fillmore and Pierce streets just west of the complex. The biggest individual construction costs are the main center expansion/renovation, listed with an estimated $117.5 million, and development of the new arena at $155 million.
Expanding and enhancing the civic center has been a priority for local leaders for some years now. The 340,000-square-foot civic center complex, along with the nearby Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, is the main meeting place for more than 300,000 people living and doing business in the Texas panhandle.
The existing Amarillo Civic Center footprint. Image: City of Amarillo
According to local media reports, the city anticipates calling a May 2020 election and floating a $279 million bond to help support the expansion project that officials and business leaders say is needed to meet the demands of an evolving entertainment market.
Amarillo residents voted in 1964 to approve construction of the civic center to the tune of $5.5 million. The complex has since undergone several expansions and renovations, with the last round of improvements taking place in 2003.
The proposed footprint of an expanded and renovated Amarillo Civic Center complex. Image: City of Amarillo
According to renovation advocates, the civic center has been facing an increasingly competitive event market since the 1990’s, mainly because of the facility’s present physical restrictions. Local leaders also lament the small size of Farley Coliseum; it seats 4,870.
If voters were to approve the proposed bond next May, city officials have said the property tax rate would go up 15.1 cents per $100 valuation.
The public is invited to a series of meetings about the proposed civic center project 8:30 a.m. Sept. 14, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19, and 8:30 a.m. Sept. 21. All meetings are in the hospitality room at the civic center.
A view of the proposed arena and plaza at the Amarillo Civic Center. Hodgetown Stadium can be seen in the background. Image: Dekker/Perich/Sabatini/Populous
Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini has an office in Amarillo. The firm has experience designing, among other things, performing arts centers and cultural/recreational facilities such as the Albuquerque Convention Center.
A company with multiple projects and offices worldwide, Populous designed the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center expansion in San Antonio, and oversaw master land planning for Baylor University’s McLane Stadium and venues at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.