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By Jeff Wing
June 28, 2016
In the American tradition of (mostly rural) communities whose cultures revolve around the fortunes of their high school football teams (a phenomenon famously described in the book, film, and later TV series Friday Night Lights) Texas looms large. In some towns this adoration of high school football has resulted in the funding and construction of multi-million dollar stadium complexes for adored high school teams. Now Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is seeing to the construction of a huge new sports park that may be the world’s penultimate high school football field.
Jones’ dream complex, officially called the Ford Center at The Star (or simply ‘The Star’ to excited locals), is set to open this August in the affluent Texas town of Frisco (pop. ~110,000, about 30 miles from Dallas). Opening day will be anchored by what is being called a “quadrupleheader” on that first Saturday of the football season, a necessary procedural flourish if all 8 high school varsity football teams in the Frisco Independent School District are to share in the opening day glory of this unprecedented megaproject. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys will also be seasonally using the stadium as its brand new training facility, and the stadium will be designed to accommodate large-scale City of Frisco occasions as well, making it a sort of civic multi-purpose room the size of a Space Shuttle hangar.
Price tag for this jaw-dropping new shrine to h.s. football? $255 million. The cost will be shared between the Frisco School District ($30 million), the City of Frisco ($60 million), and a collective of Jones’ corporate interests (the remaining $165). The much-anticipated 12,000 seat domed stadium is but the centerpiece of a sprawling $1 billion sports village that, from the air, could be confused with the Acropolis complex of ancient Rome. Included in the ‘Star’ sports park will be two outdoor practice fields, a sprawling retail shopping experience, a skyline-filling 16-story Omni hotel and convention center, and a number of Cowboys-related office buildings, all radially surrounding a large, centrally located and beautifully landscaped roundabout.
The hotel/convention center is taking up the City of Frisco’s $60 million portion of the price tag, and that portion of the complex is expected to open in summer 2017. Last but not least, Baylor Scott & White Health, a statewide health care chain, will have a beautiful new sports medicine facility and top-notch public use fitness center on the grounds which, (just incidentally), will double as the part-time rehearsal studio of a little dance troupe that calls itself The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Which should make the Baylor Scott & White Health facility one of the more diligently attended gyms on Earth when the globally admired cheer squad is practicing. Look for rumpled gym attendees who have clearly never set foot in a workout room before.
The celebrated stadium itself, Jones’ gift to the Friday Night Lights football culture that is as much a part of Texas as the Alamo, will have everything one doesn’t expect at a high school football game. In place of bleachers there will be seats with backs, and the space above the playing area will have an illuminated “video ribbon” for advertising and crowd-pleasing visuals. The plaza leading to the main stadium entrance will have a short turf field where kids can dreamily throw a pigskin under their own bright lights and video boards.The “wow factor” is so integral to the design spirit of Jones’ showpiece complex, even the Cowboys’ rehab facilities will include a swimming pool with an underwater view for athletic trainers.
Like the most successful public spaces, the sprawling village was designed to be a friendly and energizing gathering place for area residents and visitors alike, and no expense was spared in that pursuit. This is what thrills Charlotte Jones Anderson, the billionaire owners’ daughter and Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer of the Dallas Cowboys organization.
"It's actually not smart business to be in the high-rent district if you're running a football team, unless you can build a community around it. And that's what we've done."
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