This Calls for a CelebrationSep 01, 2018 ● By Dru Bickham
The NSHOF called Oneonta, N.Y., its home from 1979-2010, and was recognized by the U.S. Soccer Federation in 1983. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is considered, by many, to be the highest award of honor in American soccer. After the Oneonta facility closed, the Hall of Fame had nowhere to go, until the Hunt family in Frisco began making plans and preparations to resurrect the exhibit and move it to Texas. Lamar Hunt was an instrumental advocate of the sport itself and of the North American Soccer League in years past, and has had tournaments and trophies named after him for his support and passion. He was also inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992, and awarded the Medal of Honor, of which there are only three winners. Because of Mr. Hunt and his family, Frisco seemed an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame’s new premises, and the whole project has been a collaborative effort of the City of Frisco, the U.S. Soccer Federation and Frisco ISD.
This amazing new facility will be the first of its kind, integrated into the stadium itself and folded into game days for FC Dallas fans. As part of a multi-million dollar revamp to Toyota Stadium, it inhabits the south end of the stadium and involves two parts: the NSHOF Experience and the NSHOF Club.
The HOF Experience will utilize some of the most cutting-edge technology to offer visitors a one-of-a-kind sports experience. Along with virtual reality, gesture technology, giant digital touch screens and create-your-own interactive activities, the HOF Experience will be using facial recognition technology in ways it never has been in this sort of space. By taking pictures of visitors and asking them a few key questions when they enter the venue, each person will have a specially-curated visual, audio and interactive experience based on their specific soccer interests and level of fandom. This facial recognition process will ensure that no two visitors will experience the same exhibit.
“I have done everything I can to eliminate the word ‘museum’ from our vocabulary when talking about this project,” says the executive director of the NSHOF, Djorn Buchholz. “After spending time really diving into this project, I took a good look at what we have been designing and it is not your typical museum. Instead, we are calling it ‘the most personalized experience in sports,’ because we truly believe it will be.” Mr. Buchholz shared that he was excited to be able to work with NEC Corporation of America to change the public’s perspective on facial recognition. “Right now, people think negatively when it comes to facial recognition. We have an opportunity to change that narrative and show people that this technology can do some pretty amazing things.”
The exhibit boasts more than 400 soccer artifacts and memorabilia, including all three Women’s World Cup trophies —all there to help tell the history of the game and inspire young players to continue loving the game the way they do. “Soccer is in my blood, and it always has been,” says Mr. Buchholz. “So, to be able to re-establish a home for the people who inspired me to play the sport, watch it and later make it a career … you cannot put a price on that. I am humbled and honored to be able to be a part of this.”
The passion of Mr. Buchholz and everyone else involved in this project has allowed it to become the forward-thinking, groundbreaking addition to the stadium it will be. Frisco shows an immense dedication and passion for sports, and that is seen in every major, minor and professional league team it hosts. That is seen in how Frisco has been voted the Best Place to Raise an Athlete and how we keep striving to offer more athletic opportunities as years pass and the city grows.
“It is amazing how passionate this city is about sports,” Mr. Buchholz admits. “They are really pushing the envelope on trying to get as many sport entities and experiences here as possible. I do not think you find that a lot, but Frisco has really hung its hat on sports, and been really innovative.” The NSHOF could not have selected a more enthusiastic or capable place to call its home.
In addition to the Experience, which will be open to the public through the purchase of tickets, there will be the NSHOF Club -- an exclusive way to experience game day and all the assets the venue has to offer. A massive event space with room for around 600 people, the Club will host events relevant to the HOF and can also be rented out to parties on “dark days” at the stadium. Also, within the stadium itself, about 3,000 bench seats have been removed and replaced with individual seats, all of which are up for grabs as season ticket seats for any FC Dallas fan who wishes to purchase them. With the purchase of these season tickets comes a year-long pass to the NSHOF!
This all opens next month, on the weekend of October 20-21. The exciting grand opening events start on Friday (Oct. 20) with an induction ceremony in the evening. The show will then be stolen by none other than Imagine Dragons, a popular band, that will give a concert in Toyota Stadium. The Revivalists will open the concert. Events continue Saturday (Oct. 21) with a soccer game. FC Dallas will play Sporting Kansas City. Tickets for this jam-packed weekend start at $79 per person, for access to all the weekend’s events, and can be purchased at nationalsoccerhof.com.
The amount of effort that has gone into bringing this amazing exhibit to Frisco will not go unappreciated by locals, who, if anything, will be thrilled to see their stadium elevated to a new level of impressive. “I think sports in general promote a sense of community,” says Mr. Buchholz when discussing the fundamental goal of this project. “I think they can bring together thousands of people, all rooting for one thing. And that is pretty amazing … that sense of community that can be curated within a stadium … within a city. I feel lucky to be a part of that through this project.”