Schnepf: Bison fans see new sights in Frisco
FRISCO, Texas — For the last three years, North Dakota State football fans have invaded this town still known as the fastest-growing city in America. And each year, Bison fans see something new here.
What sticks out this year is a sign that is posted alongside a major thoroughfare just north of Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark — where more than 10,000 Bison fans are expected for a Friday night pep fest, and just south of Frisco’s Toyota Stadium — where probably 90 percent of its seats will be filled with Bison fans for Saturday’s FCS championship game.
The sign reads: Future home of the Cowboys World Headquarters and Training Facility. That’s the Dallas Cowboys, one of the NFL’s premier organizations, which plays their games just south of here in Arlington.
It’s just another sign that Frisco has become one of the hot spots for sports. A few years ago, Men’s Journal magazine named Frisco the best place to raise an athlete. It’s also a great place to be a fan.
Before welcoming NDSU’s football team to Frisco’s Westin Stonebriar Hotel on Wednesday, Frisco mayor Maher Maso was touting that his city has a presence for every major professional sports team.
The Frisco Roughridgers, a Class AA affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, play in Dr Pepper Ballpark. The Texas Legends, an NBA Developmental League team and affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, play in Dr Pepper Arena. It’s the same facility where the Dallas Stars of the NHL practice. And FC Dallas of Major League Soccer play on the same Toyota Stadium field where the Bison will be shooting for their third straight national championship Saturday.
“I think we have it covered when it comes to sports,” said Maso, who has seen Frisco’s population and infatuation with sports explode simultaneously ever since he moved here in 1992.
Since then, Frisco’s population skyrocketed from 6,000 to nearly 140,000 residents. To accommodate all those families, the number of schools has grown from five to 56 in the last 15 years — with five more scheduled to be built this fall.
And to also accommodate all those families, Frisco city officials have made a conscious decision to make sports a priority.
“We value the venues and the organizations and the events that add to the quality of life to our families,” Maso said. “There’s a passion for sports, and you can see it.”
And by the fall of 2016 if you are driving on the Dallas North Tollway, you will see more of it when the $115 million Dallas Cowboys headquarters and practice indoor stadium is completed. The 12,000-seat indoor stadium, along with two outdoor training fields, will be shared with sports teams from all those Frisco schools.
Maso traveled around the country looking at enclosed facilities — including a trip to look at the Fargodome. The 25-year deal ends a four-decade relationship between the Cowboys and the suburb of Irving.
“We won three world championships (in Irving) … we hope to replicate that here,” is what Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones was quoted as saying earlier this year when the deal was announced.
The move certainly doesn’t guarantee the Cowboys ending a three-year string of missing the playoffs, but Maso chimed in: “We like to think that Frisco is successful, so the Cowboys will be too. This is going to be a great partnership.”
The partnership Frisco has had with the NCAA has certainly been a fruitful one. Frisco recently announced it will host the NCAA Division II men’s basketball Elite Eight Tournament in 2016 at Dr Pepper Arena. And for the last four years, it has hosted the FCS championship and has the contract to host it through 2016.
“This event is a huge deal for us,” said Maso, who said this title game has more than a $3 million impact on his city. “The NCAA wanted to grow this game, and we wanted to grow this game, and I think we have. Of course, North Dakota State being here is a huge help with that.”
Yes, it has. When Frisco hosted its first FCS championship in 2010, only 13,027 fans showed up to watch Eastern Washington beat Delaware. In the last two years, more than 20,000 fans filled up Toyota Stadium (once known as Pizza Hut Park and FC Dallas Stadium). Expect another sellout crowd Saturday. And expect even more Bison fans making this even more of a sports town.
“It is a huge sports town and they are very proud of that … I think they brag about that,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “I think that is one of the reasons they really step it up for this event. And I can’t see it leaving here anytime in the near future.”
As far as the future of Frisco, expect more changes and more growth. Maso, who says his city is only 50 percent built out, is even trying to attract some Fargo businesses to join the growth.
“Let’s just say you have some quality organizations up there that we would love to see have a presence here,” Maso said, refusing to name the businesses. “Nobody is leaving Fargo by the way. One of the organizations we are talking about expands. They are not leaving Fargo. That is their home.”
And in the last three years, Fargo has become somewhat of a home for Maso.
“When I travel around the country, I tell people where I am from and they say ‘Frisco? Where’s that?’” Maso said. “Well in Fargo, everybody knows where Frisco is.”
And they have come to learn what a sports town it truly is.
Schnepf is the sports editor of The Fargo of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service.