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Most cities want to increase visitors and they need to provide appropriate resources for their growing and diversifying populations. As the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex will be home to about 9 million people in 10 years (by 2027), these imperatives will become more crucial.

Imagine a Museum

September 22, 2017


Newly Released: The BIG 5 for BIG D

Texas Culture and Imagine a Museum present the "The BIG 5 for BIG D" projects that
will improve the capacity of North Texas to serve residents and attract visitors, while
becoming more capable to win bids for major events and corporate relocations

September 22, 2017 - The Metroplex won't host a Super Bowl any time before 2023 and it likely won't have the opportunity to host the Olympics before 2036 or 2040. That doesn't mean there aren't big possibilities to do great things in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, though.

While the Olympics have been hosted in the United States eight times and will return to Los Angeles for the third time in 2028, no Texas city has ever hosted the international games. Of eleven sanctioned World Expositions that have been held in the United States, Texas has hosted only one official expo, San Antonio's HemisFair '68 (even though the Texas Centennial Exposition at Fair Park, not sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions, attracted over six million visitors in 1936).

Texas cities have had slightly more success hosting major national events. The Super Bowl has taken place in Texas four times - three times in Houston and once in the Metroplex. Miami will host its eleventh Super Bowl in 2020 and Los Angeles will host its eighth in 2022. New Orleans has hosted ten so far. Tampa will host its fifth in 2021, making 17 for the state of Florida (Jacksonville hosted one). In the realm of prized international events, Texas does not perform well. Texas leaders need to come to the understanding that those major events by themselves do not make a place interesting or capable to boast of a great quality of life for its citizens. Rather, interesting places with institutions that work toward better quality of life for residents and exciting opportunities for visitors land more prestigious events.

Of course, there are additional considerations, like natural environment and public transportation, that factor into decisions about host sites, but a very big influence is how well the cities fare in the public imagination. Less tangible circumstances, like sense of history, aesthetic architecture, healthy lifestyle, social tranquility, etc. may inspire the selection of a host city or a popular visitor destination. While a place may not win points for economy and government, it can certainly lose points when these things are misguided, polarizing and divisive.

Texas cities need to engage in the kinds of activities that World Class Cities and their visitors care about. There are potential opportunities to present national events and initiatives that will build the kind of recognition for the Metroplex that it takes to win bids for other prominent international events. Some of the potential initiatives have even greater quality of life and economic benefits for Dallas and the surrounding cities than major international sports events, and the positive results will have long-term effects on the connotation of the city's name.

These overarching, prescient projects may also affect how the citizens think about the imminent challenges that are in the back of their minds: Fair Park revitalization, the Trinity River Corridor Project, the 2017 Capital Bond Program (to be voted on in Dallas this November), high-speed rail, and others.

The March 2017 Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions revealed that the top visitor attractions in the nation, ranked by numbers of visitors, are:

1. Transportation Centers and Hubs
2. Amusement Parks and Theme Parks
3. Major Parks and National Parks
4. Cultural and Historical Districts
5. Major Museums
6. Universities
7. Museums, Cultural Centers and Galleries
8. Professional Sports
9. Fairs, Festivals and Music Festivals
10. Outdoor Recreation

While it doesn't have attractions comparable to many of the nation's top cultural and recreational assets - the Smithsonian, Manhattan's Central Park and Grand Central Station, Miami Beach, Chicago's Museum Campus, Seattle's Pike Place market, the Santa Monica Pier, Las Vegas Strip, Golden Gate Bridge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. etc. - the DFW Area has numerous areas where its capacity can increase substantially to rival the most visited cities.

Rather than focus on the usual areas of quality of life and leisure activities that Texas leaders usually expect to dominate their cities' efforts, the report draws from the most visited and visionary kinds of cultural assets in the nation, particularly those that benefit the most visited cities. For example, the report recommends expanding capacity in personal recreation and fitness, like advocacy for a national recreation trail (like the Appalachian National Scenic Trail) and a national historic trail (like the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail), rather than spectator sports, since the professional sports teams in DFW have reached their visitor capacity, short of the possible addition of a second professional baseball team.

Here are the five most timely opportunities to serve residents and visitors to Dallas-Fort Worth, while creating the city of the future. The odds for success are as good or better than efforts to win Olympics bids and land Super Bowls. And their impact will last.

The BIG 5 for BIG D

1. Embrace history by understanding its relevance to the region
A. Lead the commemoration of the oldest written history in the modern boundaries of the U.S.
B. Establish a national historic trail to interpret Indian trade routes and the Spanish incursions.
C. To inspire further interests, build on 500 years of history since Cabeza de Vaca traveled here.

2. Aspire to the future by becoming a leading Supercity
A. Recognize that the Metroplex will grow even larger and needs greater cohesiveness.
B. Set a world-leading example through access, opportunity and social transformation.

3. Make connections for interested travelers and recreationists
A. Open a high speed rail station that connects the city and region, and provides great amenities.
B. Build on the cruise terminal concept with a regional tour bus port at the main rail station.
C. Establish a national hiking trail over the southern Great Plains with DFW as its central hub.

4. Build future institutions as new social and educational spaces
A. Build the nation's most provident and advanced museum covering critical topics of cultures.
B. Inspire others, like a Cabeza de Vaca interpretive center and a network of museums of culture.

5. Write new narratives inspired by digital collections
A. Utilize the network of libraries to build a Supercity of citizen historians, journalists, scientists, and more.
B. Establish avenues to disseminate new collections through museums and historic signage.

While "The BIG 5 for BIG D" projects were primarily conceived to utilize the greatest potential of Dallas and the greater North Texas region, they are equally capable to help overcome some of the major obstacles and challenges the Metroplex faces.

Following are some of the perceptions, detractions and problems the projects will address:

1. Dallas and much of DFW is a place with little regard for history, where what little is known is embraced by fanatics who hold on to a racist and hateful past.

2. North Texas is sprawling, disjointed and poorly planned, with a high level of inequality and lack of access to creative opportunity and cultural resources.

3. Travel in DFW is challenging, and there are few options for traveler to and from DFW; its attractions are not well connected and the region lacks outdoor recreation.

4. The capacity of sports to serve local fans and visitors is nearly fully utilized, but there is tremendous potential in cultural and educational attractions.

5. Very few narratives exist in major media to tell the stories of North Texas cities and their diverse people, though there are millions of stories of great interest to be told.

Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions

Texas Culture and Imagine a Museum prepared a Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions, utilizing previous research, new research and surveys of focus groups, to help city and community leaders, influential citizens and philanthropic organizations better understand how the region compares to other national cities in tourism interests and their capacity to serve visitors. The report contains a lengthier set of recommendations.

Beginning in mid September and continuing into October, "The BIG 5 for BIG D" projects and other recommendations will be shared with city and community leaders. The intended outcome is that leaders may be able to utilize the recommendations quickly, as many of them are timely opportunities that will be lost to more visionary cities; and, that they may gain increased support, even a new synergy of activity and sense of imperative, of benefactors and philanthropic organizations.

An additional note about Amazon's relocation

The new Amazon headquarters is expected to cost $5 billion and employ 50,000 people. A location decision for the company’s second headquarters location is expected later in the fall.

The front runner will likely be Chicago, the leader in corporate relocations. But Baltimore, Boston, Columbus, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Washington DC and others will compete, along with Dallas and Fort Worth.

Like bidding for the Olympics or the Super Bowl, a city's case will need to be compelling. Dallas should consider its potential to challenge the front runners by presenting an exciting new vision for the North Texas region as a Supercity.

Texas Culture and Imagine a Museum believe "The BIG 5 for BIG D" is an excellent starting point to demonstrate that the region will be a leader in quality of life, innovation, connectivity, creativity, healthy living, entrepreneurial opportunity, social and community improvement, and visitor interests in the future.

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March 12, 2017


Newly Released: Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions

March 12, 2017 - No sooner had Imagine a Museum released a report to demonstrate how Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) leaders could better serve the region by increasing and better distributing its attractions, when the group learned that a Fort Worth area State Representative and a State Senator introduced legislation to create the Texas State Music Museum in Austin, rather than in their districts or the greater DFW Metroplex.

The bill, titled "Relating to the establishment of the Texas State Music Museum and Texas Music Foundation; authorizing fees," was introduced by Representative Charlie Geren (House Bill, HB 2495), and Senator Kelly Hancock and Senator Kirk Watson (Senate Bill, SB 1147).

For many years Imagine a Museum volunteer Mark Lacy has advocated that Texas cities should better utilize their cultural resources to provide educational activities for residents and unique attractions for visitors, telling DFW and Houston leaders that music is among the important areas to consider.

Lacy said, "It is exciting for Texas, certainly Austin, to get a museum that is decades overdue. But it is sad for cities like Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston that should have been more proactive in doing these things for themselves."

Lacy notes, "DFW should be well represented in the new museum - with Bob Wills, Scott Joplin, Blind Willie Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ornette Coleman, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Stephen Stills, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Albert King, Sly Stone, Usher, Leon Bridges, Townes Van Zandt, John Denver, Dusty Hill, Rocky Erikson, Steve Miller, Meat Loaf, Norah Jones, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, LeAnn Rimes, Edie Brickell, Erykah Badu and many, many more coming from the area - but it is a loss of about a million visitors per year for the Metroplex."

The Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions indicates that the Metroplex is not living up to its potential to provide for its massive population and growing diversity, and attract more visitors to the region. The report shows many of the top visitor attractions and the most visited cities, as well as the areas where DFW has excellent cultural resources and potential to better utilize them for visitor attractions and to improve quality of life. The information is generally corroborated by studies on relative aspects, including the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

In the recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Dallas-Fort Worth ranked 55 out of 189 cities in the Community Well-Being Rankings and 40 out of 48 large cities in "Active Living Environment in U.S. Communities". Imagine a Museum's recent Report on DFW Area Visitor Attractions has a strong correlation and may help DFW move up in the rankings by building on its interests.

In addition to the general idea that the DFW region has much room to improve, the report provides many suggestions, including the Metroplex-wide establishment of a foundation, tentatively titled "Funding Advisory Network of Dallas-Fort Worth (FAN of DFW)", to help implement many of the other recommendations, like the growth of non-profit organizations to produce a stronger community fabric, and expansion of cultural assets to serve 9 million people and make a more cohesive region.

It is possible for the region to set its sights on the top national attractions - mixed-use transportations hubs, major parks and green spaces, cultural districts, major museums, universities, cultural centers and arts industries, professional sports, festivals and innovative recreation opportunities - be work better for local residents and visitors in the future.

The report is offered as a resource for civic leaders, district managers and philanthropic strategists to consider as they seek to increase visitors to DFW communities. It takes the position that the overall goal should be for the Metroplex to be a model supercity and live up to the standards of national and international World Class Cities. The report is available at

Several additional topical areas will be explored on the website in the weeks ahead, including: how increased cultural resources and visitor services may fill employment gaps left by artificial intelligence and automation in the future; educational and quality of life benefits of attractions that serve local citizens and visitors; and, the economic impact of arts and the creative sector.

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