Cold War Brews in Dallas Over Russian Circus Tent

Houston promoter claims rights to the tent; Dallas threatens fines

A Russian circus tent that has been abandoned in downtown Dallas for weeks is mired in a dispute between the circus, its Houston promoter, the landowner and the city of Dallas.

The tent went up in May for Artania, a touring Russian equestrian circus. The show’s horses are now stabled in Rockwall. But its big top remains on the Industrial Boulevard site, where the show only lasted two weeks.
John Benda, the owner of Fuel City on Industrial Boulevard, leased a parking lot across the street from his business to the circus.

“They seemed to have a good concept, having a circus in downtown Dallas,” said Benda. “A lot of people seemed like they were going to go there. Well, it didn’t happen.”
Benda said the show’s first week was successful, but heavy rain canceled most of the second week, and the show folded. Since then, the tent has been tied up in a court battle between the circus and a Houston promoter, who placed a lien on the valuable tent, Benda said.
“It’s the Russians and the Americans, and it is the Russians’ tent with Americans staking claim to it,” Benda said.

Drivers passing the site wondered what will be done.

“I mean it’s not attractive at all,” said Fuel City customer Joann Crenshaw. “It’s just an ugly tent.”

Beer bottles and other debris left by people who must have visited since the circus ended are inside the tent. Benda said he is having trouble securing the fence that surrounds the tent.

“We have to go over there several times a day,” he said.

A city event permit to hold a circus on the site expired in early July. A fire department permit allowing the temporary structure expires on Tuesday.

After that, the property owner will be given 30 days to remove the tent or face fines, according to Joey Zapata, interim Dallas Code Compliance director.

Benda said a hearing in the court battle is scheduled for Aug. 3.

“The city is concerned about the tent as I am about the tent -- that it doesn’t become a hazard to the citizens of Dallas,” said Benda. "I want to rent the property out and use it for other services, and I can’t, because there’s a tent on it."

Contact Us