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The Rising Tide of Economic Development in Downtown Arlington

“A rising tide lifts all boats” may be a well-worn expression, but for two reasons it comes to mind this week. First, this Saturday, The University of Texas at Arlington is celebrating the 10th anniversary of College Park Center. Second, the Arlington Economic Development Corporation has recently approved its city-wide Economic Development Strategic Plan, which strongly suggests that the light of ongoing prosperity in Downtown Arlington will shine most brightly if colored in orange and blue.

Ten years ago, when the College Park Center first opened its doors, “game changer” was another expression frequently used to describe the occasion. And a game changer it was. Today’s College Park Center attracts hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors annually to UTA volleyball and basketball and WNBA Dallas Wings games; year-round events including UTA commencement and AISD graduation ceremonies, concerts, conferences, and summer camps; and UTA Maverick Speakers Series headliners. 

The Center anchors the 20-acre College Park District, the first-of-its-kind mixed-use development for UTA and in Downtown Arlington. With its residential, retail, green space and parking, the District threw open the doors for both students and visitors to the University’s eastern edge.

“The College Park District was made possible by a unique partnership between UT Arlington, the City of Arlington, First Baptist Church-Arlington, Downtown Arlington, and individual donors and supporters,” said Maggie Campbell, President and CEO of Downtown Arlington Management Corporation. “That partnership was truly an eye-opener to potential investors, and the District still stands as a powerful example of what win-win looks like in terms of long-term economic development strategy in Downtown Arlington.”

As a riser of tides, College Park District – and the Levitt Pavilion – marked a new era of transformational projects in Downtown, including the revitalization of Abram Street, 101 Center, and Urban Union. In turn, these developments have attracted some of Downtown’s most popular restaurants, retail and entertainment destinations including Inclusion Coffee, Legal Draft Beer Co., Cane Rosso, Rita’s Frozen Custard, Lone Star Axe Throwing, Wildfire and Lace, and many others.

Approved by the Arlington Economic Development Corporation in January 2022, the new Arlington Economic Development Strategic Plan is now looking to throw open more doors between UT Arlington and Downtown. The Strategic Plan encourages “partnerships that will continue to support the growth of the Downtown District and the College Park District to create a more uptown feel, attractive to students and recent graduates.” 

Broadly speaking, the Plan’s approach includes placemaking, amenities, programming, connectivity, and community-building. In sum, “a focus on creating better linkages and attracting missing services, including professional services, residential offerings, shopping, and lodging, will be key to creating a vibrant center for employment, housing, and nightlife...”

Creative public-private partnerships will be the key to opening these doors, but so will a Maverick mindset similar to the one that made College Park Center and District realities. When asked to reflect on the significance of College Park Center, Jim Spaniolo, UT Arlington President from 2004-13, said:

“Opening College Park Center was living the Dream, a dream that was thought to be impossible for many years,” Spaniolo said. “So many individuals worked tirelessly with great energy, creativity in a collaborative spirit to make College Park Center a reality. Maverick Magic! I will be forever grateful."

College Park Center 10th Anniversary    

During the UTA Maverick men’s and women’s basketball games on February 5, the University of Texas at Arlington will be commemorating the 10th anniversary of the College Park Center. As a special token of appreciation to our readers, we are giving away free tickets to the game! Guests of Downtown Arlington can use the promo code DOWNTOWN to claim up to 10 complimentary tickets for the game at

More of the Story     

On February 1, 2012, when College Park Center opened for the first time, a New York Times article heralded the arena as “not just as a new era for the University’s sports programs, but for the University as well.” Check out our sidebar story for emotional first-hand recollections of the opening of College Park Center from current and former UTA Maverick students, faculty, staff and alumni.

About the University of Texas at Arlington    

In 2021, the University of Texas at Arlington became just the fourth institution in the state to achieve designation as a Texas Tier One university, an attribution of excellence in academics and research that brings with it access to the state’s National Research University Fund. In addition, the University ranks No. 1 nationally in the Military Times annual “Best for Vets: Colleges” list, is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution and has approximately 250,000 alumni making an impact across Texas and beyond.

About Downtown Arlington     

Designated by the State of Texas as the Arlington Cultural District, Downtown Arlington is where creativity, authenticity, and hometown pride thrive and drive what's next. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to UT Arlington, a Tier One public research university, plus prolific visual and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate.