Jan. 2, 1997 — The moving van has been unloaded and is pulling away from our new home in a community in Frisco called “Starwood.” We are the fifth family to move in and only a few more homes are under construction. My wife, Sandy, is wondering where in the heck we just moved to and why we picked Frisco. We look out our family room window onto a pasture behind us with 13 heads of cattle looking back over the barbed wire fence. You get to our house by driving up a two-lane road that will become the southbound lanes of the frontage roads of the future Dallas North Tollway.
Nineteen years later, our home is now by an area referred to as the “$5 Billion Mile,” and all around us is Wade Park, The Gate, Frisco Station and The Star, the new home for the Dallas Cowboys. How in the world did this all happen and where does Frisco go from here?
With so many new people moving to Frisco since 1997 (about 127,000 new residents), many may not know the history of how we got to be one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and all that has led up to the $5 Billion Mile. Here we go!
Frisco has had a history of mayors and councils working with a great city staff to develop long-term plans that have guided the city through the past 25 years of unprecedented growth. It was my honor to stand on the City Council stage recently with Mayor Bob Warren (1990-1996) and Mayor Kathy Seei (1996-2002), along with Mayor Maher Maso (who will have served from 2008-2017). These mayors and the City Council members, serving over the past 25 years and partnering with the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Community Development Corporation (CDC), the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Frisco ISD and Collin College, have helped build the foundation and set the stage for what is yet to come.
The citizens of Frisco, who have voted to pass major bond elections in 2002 and 2006, as well as more recent city and school bond elections, enabled the city and the school district to build the infrastructure and services needed to support a city that has grown from 6,138 people in 1990 to more than 154,000 people to date.
The catalyst that started the growth was Stonebriar Centre, which opened in August of 2000, with about 1.6 million square feet of retail space that led to the infusion of millions of more square feet of retail. There are now more than 4.5 million square feet in a one-square-mile area in Frisco, known as the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, the key investment tool that allowed us to grow so rapidly. The mall took almost 12 years of negotiating before General Growth Properties finally awarded it to Frisco.
With all the retail and residential growth, Frisco needed a quality and unique office park, which was developed by Craig Hall, the visionary, CEO and founder of Hall Financial Group, and former Frisco STYLE Person of the Year. With three major office buildings on the ground by 2000, Mr. Hall added three more in 2001, and his 162-acre Hall Office Park began to add a new building almost every year up to 2009. Now, 16 office buildings and more than 100 pieces of art and water features make this Frisco’s first and most impactful office complex, leading us into the next decade.
With businesses moving to Frisco at a tremendous pace, the Westin Stonebrair Hotel and Golf Club opened in late 2000, giving small town Frisco a five-star hotel and resort sitting next to Stonebriar Country Club, which opened in 1988. This would be the start of many hotels opening in Frisco, with the Hampton Inn and Suites opening in 2003 and the Embassy Suites Frisco Hotel and Convention Center opening in April of 2005. Frisco is now home to more than 13 hotels, motels and extended stay facilities.
Building for the Future
Frisco had developed a Comprehensive Plan in 1982 and 1991, but the Comprehensive Plan developed in 2000 by the city and a citizen committee began to offer a development guide. The plan was updated in 2006, with a goal to update regularly. The most recent plan was completed in 2015. For the city to grow, infrastructure improvements were essential and city buildings and services had to be in place. Thanks to the citizens of Frisco approving $197.5 million in bonds in 2002, key municipal buildings, essential roads, parks and recreation facilities would change the face of the city for companies, sports teams and citizens considering Frisco. All the bonds were overwhelmingly approved from 65-92 percent, indicating our citizens had a vision for Frisco’s future. Included were bonds for $74.5 million in roads/streets, a new City Hall and Frisco Public Library building, fire stations (including a new central station), police headquarters, the Heritage Center, the Senior Center (phase two), hiking and biking trails, parks, a new recreation and aquatic center and arts district. Over the next four to six years, there were more groundbreakings and grand openings than ever in the city’s history. The new Senior Center opened in January of 2004, and groundbreakings for the new City Hall and Frisco Public Library, Police Department, Fire Department, Frisco Athletic Center and Heritage Center all occurred the same year. A new public works building opened in March of 2005. The Frisco city manager and staff did an unbelievable job managing all of these projects, which were all, at one time, in various stages of construction.
In 2006, Frisco citizens again approved $198 million in bonds for more fire stations and state-of-the-art equipment, improvements to the Police Department, a public communications system and another $100 million in roads. Bonds were approved for Heritage Park, the Senior Center addition, a branch library, a cultural arts center, the City Hall and Frisco Public Library parking garage, refurnishing of the municipal court, additional parks and trails as well as funds to begin the acquisition of land and development for Grand Park. From 2002 to 2008, more than $230 million in roads and improvements would be built.
The opening of the new George A. Purefoy Municipal Center, including City Hall and the Frisco Public Library, in September of 2006, was in the heart of Frisco Square. Another major event in April of 2004 was the opening of the Dallas North Tollway over State Highway 121 into Frisco, which would open the floodgates to more development to the north.
A Destination City
Frisco’s goal was to become a destination city. A key to making that happen centered around opportunities to work with people like Tom Hicks, Southwest Sports Group and Mandalay Entertainment to bring a Double-A baseball team to Frisco. Much work was done by the mayor, council, city manager and the EDC prior to the opening of Dr Pepper Ballpark in April of 2003. It is hard to believe all the things that happened in 2003-2005 to make Frisco the sports city it has become. In August of 2003, Dr Pepper Arena opened as the home of the Dallas Stars Corporate Headquarters, practice and conditioning center and the Texas Tornado, Junior A hockey team. The arena would be enlarged in 2009, and it is now home to our Texas Legends D-League basketball team. The CVB would start in 2003, and had shopping venues, sports teams and hotels to market. In April of 2003, Frisco announced plans to build a major league soccer stadium, partnering with Hunt Sports Group, the FISD and Collin County. Two years later, Pizza Hut Park (now Toyota Stadium) opened as a soccer/entertainment center. Lamar Hunt and his sons, Clark and Dan, where ecstatic when, in the first year, the MLS Cup was awarded to FC Dallas and the City of Frisco, bringing national and international exposure to the city. The MLS Cup returned in 2006, further expanding our exposure and reputation as a progressive and dynamic city.
Onward and Upward
Planning, vision, implementation and hard work over the past 25 years has positioned the city for continued movement toward being one of the most unique cities in the country. It has been an unbelievable experience to watch over the past 19 years we have lived in Frisco. The dream continues when, in October of this year, the Ford Center at The Star will open and the world’s most famous sports organization, the Dallas Cowboys, will move to Frisco. At the same time, all of the Frisco high schools will kick off Friday Night Lights, playing in the new indoor stadium. Frisco Station will begin to unfold around The Star and Wade Park, and The Gate will begin to develop. The city is still only 68 percent developed, according to the city website. Who would have thought, when the city was founded back in 1902, that a small farming and railroad town would be where it is today?