By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Before it shut down in 1992, the Bronco Bowl Auditorium was the premier mid-sized concert venue in town, having hosted the likes of U2, Peter Tosh, R.E.M., the Black Crowes, Public Enemy, and hundreds of other acts over more than two decades. The New Bohemians played their farewell show at the place in 1991, and Garrison Keillor broadcast his nationally syndicated radio show from the arena several years ago, informing his audience at the time that the Bronco Bowl was "the tackiest place that we've ever done a show from."
Once completed, the arena will boast significant changes from its original structure: The stage, which once jutted out into the legendary "Golden Horseshoe" seats, has been trimmed back; the old seats have been gutted; sight lines, already the best in any concert venue in town, have been improved; several concession stands have been added; and the wretched old bathrooms have been enlarged and upscaled considerably.
As it stands now, Clarke doesn't expect to book any bands into the arena until at least the middle of January, though there will likely be a couple of "dress rehearsals" featuring local bands before then.
It has been 35 years since the 180,000-square foot Bronco Bowl opened. Jayne Mansfield walked through the front door and ushered in an era of extravagance that made the then-73-lane bowling alley the toast of a nation. But the place--which once offered everything from a barber shop to an archery range--began a slow decline in 1984, when Lamar Hunt told The New York Times that the place "wasn't all that well thought out," and that he and his brothers made a mistake by opening it in the first place.
Danny Gibbs, though, is more confident. As he walks through the Bronco Bowl, stepping closer to an opening date that still seems a bit optimistic, he shows off the place as though everything is in order, up and running. After all, when you call the Bronco Bowl's main number, there's already a hold message in place advertising "entertainment as big as Texas," "fabulous food" in the sports bar and grill, "liquid refreshments to soothe the senses" in the Canyon Club, and the 38 bowling lanes--all as though the place were already open.
"We don't want people to have an excuse to go somewhere else to have a good time," he says, selling a blur that's yet to take shape. "We want them to come here--and stay here.