The folks who settled the City of Cowboys and Culture had no idea that horses, cattle and professional wranglers would one day draw spectators from around the world, but they do —about a million a year to the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, representing more than 80 foreign countries as well as most U.S. states. And the number keeps growing. They come for other sporting events, too: NASCAR and Indy races, collegiate and professional football and baseball games, and every college sport in between.
To say the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is lengendary is an understatement. Started in 1896, less than 50 years after Fort Worth was established as an outpost on the banks of the Trinity River, it is the oldest continual running livestock show and rodeo in the nation. The Stock Show and Rodeo take place at the end of January through the beginning of February each year, with the rodeo boasting 28 performances in 17 days. In addition, there’s a carnival, a petting zoo and commercial exhibits from across the country. Eighty-five percent of the show’s events take place in the climate-controlled Will Rogers Coliseum, helping reduce the effect of weather on attendance. On average, the modern Stock Show impacts the Fort Worth area by more than $100 million annually. Restaurants are filled with locals and visitors decked in Western wear, and the stands at Will Rogers are filled with spectators whooping and hollering for their favorite cowgirls and cowboys.
But Fort Worth’s Western heritage and sporting events don’t stop there. Each year, fans cheer on their favorites at a number of equestrian competitions, such as: the National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes, Texas Quarter Horse Association Texas Classic, American Paint Horse Association Youth World Championship, American Miniature Horse Association World Championship Show, International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association National Show, Appaloosa Horse Club World Championship Show, American Paint Horse Association Fall World Championship, and the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity and World Finals.
There’s plenty of cheering at the Texas Motor Speedway, too, as race enthusiasts root for their favorites at one of the key tracks on the NASCAR circuit. The 1½-mile tri-oval, opened in 1996 in north Fort Worth, is famous for the cowboy hats it gives race winners. Texas Motor Speedway is home to two NASCAR Sprint Cup races: the Samsung 500 and the AAA Texas 500, as well as two Nationwide Series races, the O’Reilly 300 and the O’Reilly Challenge and the Indy Racing League IndyCar series race, the Bombardier Learjet 550. The track also hosts two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, the Sam’s Town 400 (which takes place on the same weekend as the Indycar Bombardier Learjet 550) and the Chevy Silverado 250. Spectators really went wild when Jeff Burton (1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2000) earned their first Winston Cup wins at the speedway. Earnhardt’s victory was a past record for fewest races to notch a victory in the “modern era” on the Cup circuit, winning in just his 12th start, breaking his father’s 16-start record.
The whole town goes purple for Texas Christian University’s (TCU) game days. Everyone loves the Horned Frogs with competitive sports in men’s and women’s basketball, golf, tennis, track and field, cross country, and swimming and diving. There’s also rifle, soccer, volleyball and equestrian events for women. When it comes to TCU football, it’s, “Go Frogs, Go!” In 2011, TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference.
Just 15 miles east of downtown Fort Worth, NFL football fans can find the legendary Dallas Cowboys and the club’s new iconic stadium, completed in 2009. The $1.1 million stadium was home to Super Bowl XLV, where the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburg Steelers 35-21. The only NFL team to record 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985) — an NFL record that remains unbroken and unchallenged — the Cowboys share the record for most Super Bowl appearances (eight) with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Forbes magazine lists the Cowboys as the highest-valued sports franchise in U.S. history, generating some $269 million in annual revenue.
Just down the road from Fort Worth is Major League Baseball’s American League Texas Rangers. The Rangers placed second in the 2011 World Series, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. The Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Rangers, is a baseball-only facility that serves as the center of a 270-acre complex. The complex includes a children’s learning center, youth baseball park, 12-acre lake, and parks and recreation space on the perimeter.
Whether rooting for their favorite cowboy on horseback, the Horned Frogs, or the NASCAR driver topping 190 mph, fans never get bored when it comes to sports in Fort Worth. There’s plenty to see and plenty of cheering to do.