McFeely: Small-town Frisco nowhere to be seen

FCS title game host city continues rapid growth, looks markedly different than when Bison first qualified

Post star photo.jpg
The Star entertainment district is a $1.5 billion development in Frisco, Texas, that includes the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, an indoor stadium, a luxury hotel, shopping, restaurants, bars and other amenities. It is a new development in Frisco since North Dakota State's football team first qualified for the FCS title game in January 2012. City of Frisco photo

FRISCO, Texas — Frisco's gonna Frisco.

That's the message the Texas city's mayor, Jeff Cheney, has for thousands of North Dakota State football fans making their nearly annual migration to the north Dallas suburb for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game this week.

Well, the buttoned-up mayor didn't use those exact words. He said something much more mayoral like, "The growth has continued." The meaning is the same. Frisco, the city the Bison and their fans call "Fargo South" for a few days almost every year, is still booming, just like it was in January 2012, the first time NDSU played in the FCS championship game.

Pre Star photo.jpeg
An aerial view from 2015 of the area that became The Star entertainment complex in Frisco, Texas. The Dallas Cowboys headquarters and the indoor stadium are visible under construction in the background center of the photograph. City of Frisco photo


The vast open spaces seen along the Dallas North Tollway from the Plano city limits in the south to Toyota Stadium in the north in 2012 are pretty much filled in as 2020 begins, a transformation Bison fans have been able to mark during their treks to Texas. All those massive construction cranes dotting the landscape each year did their jobs well. They helped build things like The Star entertainment district that includes the Dallas Cowboys world headquarters and two large hospitals like Texas Health Frisco and Medical City Frisco.

There was always something going up, from housing developments to large retail stores to hotels.

"There's been so much that's happened since Bison fans first started coming down," Cheney said. "Like The Star. That's basically popped out of the ground since they started coming."

Indeed, the $1.5 billion complex at the intersection of the tollway and Warren Parkway was an empty field in 2012. The 91 acres now include the Cowboys' practice facilities, a 12,000-seat indoor stadium, bars, restaurants, a luxury hotel, a health club, shopping, high-end condominiums and apartments. The land has gone from nothing to the city's top destination and one of the Dallas area's busiest tourist attractions.

The Star is the epitome of how Bison fans know Frisco. From what once felt like a fringe suburb with a small farm-town flavor is now glitzy and bustling.

The biggest structure visible from Toyota Stadium in 2012 might have been the grain elevator on the edge of Frisco's original downtown. Now the space between the stadium and elevator has been filled with hotels and apartments.

And, the mayor says, "The old downtown rail district has really started to explode. It's sort of the new eclectic area of town, sort of a different feel."

The numbers are astounding.


Frisco's population at the end of 2011, when the Bison beat Georgia Southern and advanced to their first FCS title game, was about 123,000. Today it is nearly 193,000.

Sales tax collections in Frisco in 2012 equaled $24.5 million. They were $43.4 million in 2018.

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Most of these major projects have been built in Frisco, Texas, since January 2012, when North Dakota State's football team first qualified for the FCS championship game. The Bison have been back almost every year since and their fans have seen Frisco grow. City of Frisco photo

Property tax collected by the city in 2012 was $67 million. It was $120 million in 2018.

Assessed property values in Frisco shot from about $15 billion in 2011 to nearly $30 billion in 2018.

Public school enrollment at the end of 2011-12 school year was 40,000. It's now 60,000. Since 2012, Frisco's school district has opened 12 elementary schools, five middle schools and four high schools.

Frisco was considered the fastest-growing city in the country in the 2010s. There's little room for grain elevators anymore. Bison fans have watched Frisco sprout up right before their very (sometimes Bud Light-addled) eyes.


The growth spurt isn't finished yet. Not even close.

Cheney said four hotels were built in Frisco since last January, when NDSU beat Eastern Washington for its seventh national championship in eight years. The best new attraction for Bison fans with children, Cheney said, is KidZania at the Stonebriar Centre shopping mall. It's dubbed as an 85,000-square-foot interactive education and entertainment center. The Frisco location is the first in the United States.

If NDSU continues to make the championship game when it's in Frisco — the NCAA and the city have an agreement through 2025 — there will be more major changes, mostly north of Toyota Stadium where the city's last vast tracts of undeveloped land are located.

The Professional Golfers Association of America announced in 2018 it will move its headquarters from Florida to Frisco. It plans a 660-acre development northwest of the stadium that will include an 18-hole golf course fit to host major championships, an 18-hole recreational golf course, a 9-hole short course, a luxury resort, housing, retail shopping and dining. It is currently under construction.

The University of North Texas will build a 100-acre Frisco campus, with construction slated to begin no later than spring of 2022. And Keurig Dr Pepper will move its corporate headquarters to a parcel of land near The Star, giving Frisco its first Fortune 500 company.

"There'll be new things every single year for Bison fans to experience," Cheney said.

Now it's up to the team to keep qualifying for the championship game, if only to allow its fans a chance to see Frisco continue to boom.


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An aerial view of Toyota Stadium from 2005, shortly after it opened with the Dallas North Tollway in the background to the west. It has been the site of the FCS championship game since 2010. City of Frisco photo

Toyota Stadium 2005.jpg
An aerial view of Toyota Stadium from 2005, shortly after it opened with the Dallas North Tollway in the background to the west. It has been the site of the FCS championship game since 2010. City of Frisco photo

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