Frisco welcomes Bison: Mayor hopes city hosts title game permanently
FRISCO, Texas - An open grass field separates FC Dallas Stadium from two large metal grain bins, remnants of Frisco's past. Two decades ago, the Dallas suburb had a small-town North Dakota vibe. The city's mayor since 2008, Maher Maso, moved to F...
FRISCO, Texas - An open grass field separates FC Dallas Stadium from two large metal grain bins, remnants of Frisco's past.
Two decades ago, the Dallas suburb had a small-town North Dakota vibe.
The city's mayor since 2008, Maher Maso, moved to Frisco in 1992. The population was around 6,500 at the time.
"It was basically a farm. We had one flashing yellow light and I had to go do my shopping in nearby cities for food," Maso said Wednesday, standing on the well-manicured FC Dallas Stadium field.
North Dakota State plays Sam Houston State at noon Saturday in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game here. Frisco is hosting the event for the second consecutive season and is also slated to host next season's championship game.
"We want to make it a bowl-like experience even though this is not a bowl game," Maso said. "The unique difference is this is a true championship, and we're going to know who the true champion is on Saturday."
In the past two decades, Frisco has grown rapidly - about as fast as tickets evaporated for the championship game, which has been sold out for several weeks. The stadium, which opened in 2005, holds 21,000 fans.
Maso said when he was elected to the city council in 2000, the population was 32,000. Frisco has grown to 124,000 and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States over the past decade.
Maso said Frisco is projected to grow to a population of 300,000 in the next 15 to 25 years. In 2002, the city had one high school. Now it has six.
"Just about every building you see out here was built in the last five or six years," Maso said.
There are plenty of restaurants and shops surrounding the stadium, including an unlikely offering across the street. A handful of people skated on an outdoor ice rink Wednesday afternoon, despite temperatures that were in the 50s for most of the day.
"It's really weird because where else are you going to outdoor skate in Texas?" said Spencer Miller, who works at the small outdoor rink.
A University of Arkansas junior on semester break, Miller said the rink has been open since Thanksgiving.
"People are shocked to see an outdoor rink out here," Miller said. "It sells itself."
Signs that a championship game was a few days away were visible Wednesday. A few restaurants had Bison and Bearkats logos painted on their windows. Championship game banners hung from numerous street lights throughout the city.
Maso has been impressed with NDSU's fervent following for the title game, despite the distance many had to travel from North Dakota to Frisco.
"I didn't know my job being the mayor was also being a ticket broker," Maso said with a laugh. "I've gotten so many calls from Bison fans that live in the area that just waited too long."
Men's Journal recently named Frisco the best place to raise an athlete, with sports offerings ranging from minor league baseball and hockey to a gymnastics training center, to name a few.
Football, however, will be the big game in town Saturday.
The Bison arrived at their team hotel early Wednesday afternoon and received an enthusiastic welcome.
Some staff from the hotel wore yellow Bison T-shirts, while others waved green pom-poms as the team and coaches entered the lobby. The school song also played over an outdoor sound system.
Maso was also part of the greeting party.
"We want them to remember this game, and we want it to be a really good experience for them," Maso said.
The mayor plans to mingle with fans during Saturday's tailgating outside a stadium that's main tenant is a Major League Soccer team and has hosted large concert events from performers like Jimmy Buffett. Area high school teams also play at the stadium, which Maher hopes continues to be the FCS title game host beyond next season.
"My personal goal is to make sure this game stays here permanently," Maso said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513. Peterson's blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com.