The world's largest honky-tonk hasn't necessarily been the world's greatest concert venue, but some renovations coming to Billy Bob's Texas are aiming to improve the concert-going experience.
The Fort Worth venue revealed July 5 that they're embarking on two major upgrade projects to the showroom:
- Removing the two thick columns in front of the Main Stage that obstruct views.
- Raising stage-left to the level of the rest of the ceiling, for consistency.
"This, along with our digital ticketing improvements, will revolutionize the way we sell tickets, process our guests to their seats, and book shows," said Billy Bob's Texas general manager Marty Travis at a press conference. "These renovations will be an equally improved experience for the artists, as well as our guests."
He said the improvements are in response to guest feedback.
"We send surveys to all of our online ticket buyers after every show, and our two biggest and most consistent survey complaints are: sound and vision, sound and vision, sound and vision," he said. "So I said, 'We're gonna help beat our biggest problems — they're right in front of us."
He said the renovations will help sound travel better and improve views for 30 to 40 percent of the seats in the building.
The upgrades to the 41-year-old venue come just a few months before the opening of Tannahill's Tavern & Music Hall, the new, nearby Stockyards concert venue from Tim Love and Live Nation, set to open in October.
Billy Bob's will stay open during the estimated three weeks of construction, but concerts will not take place on the Main Stage.
For the next two weekends, all shows will be performed on the Honky Tonk Stage, officials say.
The first two shows back on the Main Stage will be Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen's two-night "Hold My Beer and Watch This" tour stop, July 22-23. The final night of July will feature Fort Worth native (and fan-favorite) Josh Weathers.
In the press conference, Rogers said he'd "heard rumors for years" about the planned venue upgrades and is glad they're finally happening.
"This place, to me, is a dream come true to play," the Cleburne native said. "I get my family, I get my friends, the people I grew up around, and the people who love me the most come to see me play at Billy Bob's more than any other venue in the United States."
The building dates to 1910, when it served as an open-air stock pen to house cattle, a release notes. A roof was added in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial project, and during World War II, it became a hub to build airplane parts to help with war efforts. In the 1950s and 60s, the building became Clark’s Department Store, "which quickly became famous because all the employees stocking product wore roller skates to make their way around the massive facility," they say.
It opened as Billy Bob's Texas on April 1, 1981.