A City of ChampionsSep 01, 2017 ● By Allie Spletter
28 August 2016: Terrell McClain (97)of Dallas Cowboys practices at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys
Frisco is a sports town that has opened its arms to the likes of many premier sports organizations and events. It is growing and flourishing with endless opportunities for fantastic sports exposure. In addition to all the crazy-fast structural and business development, Frisco’s dot on the proverbial map has expanded into a premier location for big-time sporting events and sports championships throughout the year. Football, soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball — Frisco has it all!
In fact, the Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) rebranded and declared Frisco as “Sports City, U.S.A.” in July! This distinction is important, as Frisco is the only city in the U.S. that is home to a professional team in each of the five major sports.
Although the Dallas Cowboys have been around for decades, a partnership formed in 2014 between the Dallas Cowboys organization, the Frisco ISD and the City of Frisco brought the infamous football franchise’s world headquarters to Frisco. The Ford Center at The Star, a 12,000-seat facility, is used for the Dallas Cowboys’ practices and Frisco high school athletic events (football, soccer, lacrosse), as well as concerts, graduations and other large-scale events. The Dallas Cowboys organization has five super bowl rings, the last of which was won in 1996. In addition to their regular season games played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys regularly hold team practices at The Star. The team’s exciting presence has brought much attention and growth to the already booming area, and the partnerships created because of the move have proven to be wonderfully beneficial on multiple levels.
Just across the street from the Dallas Cowboys resides another big professional sports team. Since their arrival to Dallas in 1993, the Dallas Stars have become one of the most successful professional sports teams in the metroplex, producing 12 playoff appearances since making Dallas their home. The franchise’s headquarters and executive offices are here in Frisco at the Dr Pepper StarCenter, and the team holds practice sessions there. These practices are free and open to the public!
Next door to The Dallas Stars’ headquarters and practice facilities, sharing the Dr Pepper Arena building, you can find the Texas Legends, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) G League affiliate team of the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas Mavericks executive Donnie Nelson purchased the Colorado 14ers franchise in 2009 and moved the team to Frisco. Earning the name “Texas Legends,” the team began playing in the 2010-2011 season. In the 2016-2017 season, the team led the league in attendance, set a franchise record for NBA call-ups, doubled the number of community appearances and was the first G League (formerly D League) team to be featured on a national ESPN broadcast special.
Hop across the street from the iconic ice rink of the Dallas Stars and the hardwood court of the Texas Legends to the diamond at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Here, fans can find the Texas Rangers’ Class AA affiliate team, the Frisco RoughRiders. The affiliation between the Texas Rangers and the Frisco RoughRiders was formed in 2002, followed by the inaugural season in 2003. Fans are often able to catch Texas Rangers team members playing in Frisco while they work through injuries to get back to the big leagues. More than 130 former RoughRiders players have gone on to play Major League Baseball (MLB), including all-stars Chris Davis, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Gonzalez, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and C.J. Wilson, as well as Derek Holland, Rougned Odor and Mitch Moreland.
FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn) moved to Frisco in 2005 and was one of the initial 10 teams to play in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996. Since making Frisco its home, FC Dallas has been in three U.S. Open Cup championships and won the Cup in 1997 and 2016. FC Dallas practices and plays at Toyota Stadium and Frisco’s district high school football and soccer teams also play their games there. Toyota Stadium will soon be home to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, bringing even more athletes into our community. In addition to FC Dallas games, the venue hosts men’s and women’s national soccer team games, as well as international soccer games, concerts and events throughout the year.
With the growth and development, as well as the strong professional sports teams residing in the city, it is easy to see why Frisco has become a destination city for sports fans and athletes. The CVB is oftentimes at the center of the action when large-scale, popular events come to Frisco. Josh Dill, the director of sports and events for the CVB, says the city’s strong professional sports presence and excellent facilities are assets that make Frisco the place people want to be in terms of events. Mr. Dill explains, “It all starts with our amazing sports venues and the partners that manage and play in them. We are blessed to have five great professional franchises that bring a level of credibility and professionalism to any event that takes place here. Frisco has continued to develop first-class facilities that attract top-notch events.” The CVB’s executive director, Marla Roe, says, “We are so fortunate to have professional teams and world-class venues in Frisco, and, from a tourism perspective, having the infrastructure in the city really rounds out the destination and makes the city very appealing.” Mr. Dill shares, “We work with event owners to make sure the city and the venue are a great fit, and we try to make sure the event planner has access to as many resources as possible to make their event a success. The event planner typically focuses on everything that happens inside the field of play at their event, while we work to assist with everything outside the lines. Whether it is hotel blocks, volunteers, marketing or just making sure athletes and their families/fans experience all that Frisco has to offer, we try to make it as easy as possible. Our goal is to have everyone who came to Frisco for the event feel like they have won, no matter what the outcome of the competition is.”
Much like the layout and landscape of the city that changes almost daily, so does the eclectic calendar of championship sporting events throughout the year. Frisco plays host to some of the top athletes in the world as they put on spectacular shows of unparalleled athleticism.
The NCAA Division I Football Championship Game
Though Frisco has not always been the home of the NCAA Division I Football Championship game, it came to Frisco in 2011 and will remain here at least until 2020. Previous host cities include Chattanooga, Tenn., and Huntington, W.Va. More than 95,000 fans have flocked to Frisco over the past five years to see their favorite teams battle for the championship.
JD Hamilton, the media coordinator for the NCAA Division I Championship, attributes the event’s success to the commitments of the City of Frisco, the Southland Conference and the Hunt Sports Group. Prior to 2006, the game was known as the NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship. The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is the highest division in college football to hold a playoff tournament sanctioned by the NCAA to determine its champion. Mr. Hamilton explains how teams that participate in the championship are chosen. “There are 123 teams within 13 conferences competing in the NCAA Division I FCS. The championship bracket consists of 24 teams, 10 of which are selected via automatic qualification. At-large selections are based on multiple factors, including overall record, strength of schedule and eligibility and availability of student athletes for the NCAA championship. The championship is conducted via single-elimination format. All preliminary round games (first round, second round, quarterfinals and semifinals) are hosted on campus sites. Sites are selected and announced during the selection show and as teams advance throughout the championship.”
The January 2017 game featured James Madison and Youngstown State Universities. James Madison University earned their second FCS Championship in school history defeating Youngstown State University 28-14.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of the teams that land in the championship game, Mr. Hamilton encourages Frisco residents to attend, if for no other reason than to witness a great game with some of the nation’s premier athletes. “Some of the greatest players to ever play the game played at FCS institutions, including Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens. Frisco is the best host, as it has attractions for the casual fan, as well. The food and entertainment options are phenomenal and the world-class shopping and attractions only make it better,” Mr. Hamilton shares.
The 2018 NCAA Division I National Championship football game will take place on January 6, 2018. Do not miss it!
The New 2018 Frisco Bowl
Frisco can now add the title “ESPN Events Bowl game host” to its continually growing and impressive resume. Formerly known as the Miami Beach Bowl, the newly-created Frisco Bowl is a collegiate-level football game that will take place here in December 2017. Before the creation of the Frisco Bowl, the Miami Beach Bowl called Marlins Park in Miami home from 2014-16. The bowl game consisted of an American Athletic Conference team that faced an opponent from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference or the Sun Belt Conference. Previous winners of the Miami Beach Bowl include Memphis in 2014, followed by Western Kentucky in 2015 and Tulsa in 2016.
Clint Overby, the ESPN vice president of events, admits that Frisco’s “it” factor played a large role in it being selected to host the newly-created event. He shares, “Frisco has so many advantages. It is centrally located and has excellent infrastructure and hospitality venues. It is a natural host city for big events. After reviewing multiple locations and conducting a number of site surveys, Frisco stood apart from other locations because of the number of advantages it enjoys. We are proud of our connection to the city and feel like we have all the ingredients for a successful event. Whether you are a fan or a player, you will have a great experience in Frisco.”
Though this is a new event to Frisco and the College Bowl scene, it is very much anticipated, as it will take place at Toyota Stadium and draw large crowds. The event has tons of potential and will likely be a large-scale, highly-successful event both for Frisco and the teams that earn spots in the bowl game. Mr. Overby admits his excitement for the event, stating, “We want to create a large base of support so we can live up to our mission of celebrating achievements of the teams and players, as well as highlight the positives of Frisco and the area.”
The Frisco Bowl game will take place December 20, 2017, at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup
As the home of one of the nation’s premier men’s professional soccer teams, it is safe to say Frisco is a soccer city. Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas, has played host to countless large and exciting soccer matches, including men’s and women’s national team games, international games and many large-scale tournaments. This past summer, Toyota Stadium was one of 14 stadiums across the country that hosted the 2017 edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The CONCACAF Gold Cup takes place every two years and is the official national team championship of the region, which includes North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Fernando Clavijo, the technical director for FC Dallas and a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and 1994 U.S. Men’s National Soccer team that competed in the FIFA World cup, explains the ins and outs of the tournament, saying, “From that massive region of teams, 16 countries qualify to compete in the tournament, which has been held in the U.S. every other year since 1991. The host cities change every tournament and teams move around the U.S. during the competition.” For instance, the U.S. played its first match in Nashville, Tenn., on July 8, its second in Tampa, Fla., on July 12 and finished the Group Stage with a game in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 15. Though the cities change every tournament, Toyota Stadium has hosted games in the past two CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments in 2015 and 2017.
As a host to Group A of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Frisco and Toyota Stadium welcomed teams from Canada, Honduras, Costa Rica and the French Guiana on July 15, 2017.
The World Olympic Gymnastics Academy Classic
It is not just mainstream sports that are helping Frisco make a name for itself on the world’s sports stage. The World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) Classic is another championship event held in Frisco that helps set it apart. WOGA was opened on February 1, 1994, in Plano, Texas, by co-founders Valeri Liukin, a 1988 Men’s Artistic Olympic Champion from the former Soviet Union, and Yevgeny Marchenko, a five-time World Champion Sports Acrobatic.
The WOGA Classic is an annual event that began in 1996 in its Plano facility and was then called “The Plano Classic.” The WOGA Classic attracts top teams from around the world and continues to bring together a magnificent field of competitors, while providing athletes an outstanding opportunity to compete with future Olympic stars. The internationally-renowned meet lasts three days and features approximately 1,500 athletes who compete in different levels of the Junior Olympic program.
Mr. Marchenko says, “Throughout the years, WOGA’s success on a national and international stage brought a lot of attention to the invitational and required a move to a larger facility, so we moved to Allen High School. When Carly Patterson became Olympic Champion in 2004, the interest in WOGA grew astronomically and allowed the opening of our second gym in 2007 in Frisco. After opening our Frisco location, we then moved the competition to Frisco and chose the Dr Pepper Center/Embassy Suites as our location for the WOGA Classic.”
Perhaps the most exciting part of the championship event is the Saturday evening International Elite Session that features Olympic-level athletes. Nine countries, including Belgium, Canada, China, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and the U.S. participated last year, and it is by far the largest and longest-running international invitational gymnastics meet in the U.S. Mr. Marchenko explains, “We are attracting the future stars of gymnastics to this event, as many of the past WOGA Classic competitors, like Simone Biles, have gone on to Olympic stardom. We have an autograph session after the meet where WOGA’s own Olympic Champions Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Madison Kocian, as well as many other gymnastics celebrities meet, greet and sign autographs for fans.”
Mr. Marchenko believes the event brings a great deal of commerce and tourism to Frisco and stands firm on the notion that it is the city’s beauty, hotels, shopping, dining and other attractions that make the city such a great place to visit during the event. He adds, “In February 2019, we are extremely excited to host the WOGA Classic at The Star, and it is sure to attract even more attention and participants than in years past.” The 2018 WOGA Classic will take place February 16-18, 2018.
Major League Lacrosse
August 2017 brought yet another exciting premier sporting event to Frisco in the form of the first ever Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Championship Game in the state of Texas. The MLL formed in 2001 in response to the rapid growth of the sport at the amateur level in the 1990s. It was originally a six-team league and has grown to nine teams, some of which play in traditional lacrosse areas like Baltimore, Md., and Long Island, N.Y., but others are in up-and-coming lacrosse hotbeds like Atlanta, Ga., and Denver, Colo. MLL is currently made up of nine teams, with the Boston Cannons, the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the New York Lizards and the Rochester Rattlers being the original teams that started in 2001.
The Denver Outlaws began playing in 2006 as part of the league’s western expansion, while the Charlotte Hounds and Ohio Machine began playing in 2012 as a part of the league’s expansion initiative to have 16 teams in the next decade. Continuing the expansion, the Florida Launch began play in 2014. The latest expansion team is the Atlanta Blaze, whose inaugural season was in 2016.
Dan Ventresca, the content marketing specialist for the MLL, explains how game locations are determined. He says, “Every team has a designated home stadium for regular season games, but the MLL Championship Game is played at a neutral site. In recent years, the league has used events like the All-Star Game and the Championship Game to test markets that do not currently host an MLL team for possible expansion teams. Atlanta and Denver both hosted MLL events that were successful and led to teams playing there full-time. The league picked Frisco as a host location for the League Championship Game due to the booming youth lacrosse scene in the area.”
A majority of players in the MLL played Division I college lacrosse in the U.S. and were drafted by an MLL team. Unlike other pro sports leagues, MLL players are required to exhaust their NCAA eligibility before they can be drafted into the league. “Some of the top players in our league graduated from the best academic institutions. The reigning league MVP, Tom Schreiber, is a Princeton University graduate,” Mr. Ventresca explains.
Regardless of your familiarity with the sport, Mr. Ventresca says, “I absolutely would recommend this event to anyone, regardless of their interest in the sport or the teams. Lacrosse has all the elements people love about American sports. It is extremely fast-paced and physical and we average about 28 total goals per game, so there is no shortage of action. I would argue that lacrosse has the highest entertainment value of any sport due to the pace and the amount of exciting plays that happen during a game.”
The MLL Championship game’s visit to Frisco gave lacrosse fans in Texas a rare opportunity to meet MLL players and see the best lacrosse in the world. “At the All-Star Game in Sacramento, Calif., this year, the players all commented how exciting it was to play in front of such passionate fans, and I think that stems from the fact that people in Sacramento do not get to see professional lacrosse in person on a regular basis,” Mr. Ventresca says. Though the host city of the event is typically different year to year, Frisco’s participation in this year’s championship game put it on the lacrosse map for years to come!
Frisco’s athletic resume is highly-impressive, with interest in our world-class teams and facilities mounting daily. Mr. Dill shares, “We are always seeking out educational opportunities, case studies and best practices for hosting events from around the world. We travel to events that we plan to host and seek out ways to enhance or put a ‘Frisco-spin’ on them,” he explains. Frisco has become its own champion of sorts in the world of professional sporting events … and this is only the beginning!