FORT WORTH, Texas — The project to expand the Fort Worth Convention Center has reached a new milestone.

On Tuesday, members of the city council gave the green light to a team of architects tasked with designing the first phase of the expansion.

Mike Crum, director of the city’s public events department, told WFAA it was an important step in moving a years-long project forward.

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The city has selected Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates Inc. (Tvs Design), a global architectural design firm and Fort Worth-based firm Bennett Partners to design and construct the first phase of the expansion.

"The two together will produce the type of Convention Center that this community needs in the future," Crum said. 

Crum shared his vision for the expansion.

"It's a bigger building, a modern building,” Crum said. “It’s a building that says you’re in Fort Worth, Texas.”

Michael Bennett, principal at Bennett Partners, told WFAA he’s looking forward to designing the expansion of a place he frequented growing up in Fort Worth.

“They [Tvs Design] bring the world class knowledge of world class convention centers, and we bring deep local roots,” Bennett said.

Bennett hopes his deep roots in Fort Worth will help him blend Cowtown culture with a modern twist.

“We really hope that this convention center can be forward looking and not just look into the past,” Bennett said. “We hope that it’s really reflective of what people expect when they come to Fort Worth. It also needs to be a place that looks forward, because Fort Worth is more than just its cowboy past. We’re a lot more than that.”

The first phase includes: new world-class food and beverage facilities, demolition of the annex and the realignment of Commerce Street for a future convention hotel and rebuilding the center’s loading docks.

This phase is expected to begin construction in mid-2023 and be completed in 2026.

The city-owned convention center’s expansion, which has been in the works for a decade, was about to begin with funding from hotel occupancy taxes. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a three-year delay. 

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After the pause, the Fort Worth City Council approved $52 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the first phase of planned expansion.

The second phase of the project will include demolishing the 1968 arena and creating roughly 97,000 square feet of net new exhibit hall space, 48,000 square feet of flexible meeting rooms, a new 50,000-square-foot ballroom (doubling the size of the current ballroom), as well as renovations to the current facility, which was expanded in 2003. 

The second phase will be funded when hospitality taxes recover, according to city leaders.

The entire expansion is expected to double the number of conventions and meetings the city can host. It’s anticipated to bring a major boost to the city's hospitality industry which brings in $26 billion in economic revenue per year.

“It’s a huge impact on our community," Crum said.