Change is Good

If you were born and raised in the great state of Texas, two topics have probably always been major conversation points: high school football and cowboys. Here in Frisco, “cowboys” does not mean chaps and hats, but helmets and stars! Season after season, we have all celebrated when the Dallas Cowboys won and cried when they lost.

Frisco residents have witnessed the city rapidly transform from a small, tight-knit community into a not-so-small, world-class city. Through all of the necessary transitions, Frisco has maintained its commitment to the education and support of the Frisco ISD and the success of the children in our city. The FISD’s mission is simple: know every student by name and need. In order to succeed in that mission, they are committed to personalized learning, providing opportunities, maintaining a commitment to small schools (which creates an environment for building meaningful relationships), being open to unique partnerships and providing state-of-the-art facilities. “We have a philosophy of building smaller schools with one thing in mind – to provide opportunities for students to be successful,” said Dr. Jeremy Lyon, FISD superintendent of schools.

In addition to the current list of heavy-hitter partnerships working with the FISD, including the City of Frisco, Dr Pepper Ballpark, Toyota Stadium and Dr Pepper Arena, you can now add The Star to the list of partners committed to propelling FISD students into a future full of opportunity and success. The Star is the Dallas Cowboys’ state-of-the-art facility that will serve as the team’s training location and corporate headquarters. Located at the northwest corner of the Dallas North Tollway and Warren Parkway, the mixed-use development is perfectly positioned for easy access to the stadium, retail space, restaurants and a luxury hotel, all of which will be constructed on the 91-acre tract.

Employment impact is estimated at 4,500 jobs at full development, with tax revenues of $1.6 billion. “The synergy surrounding this project is incredible,” said Frisco Mayor Maher Maso. “Since announcing our public-private partnership, development around this project has evolved into what we are calling Frisco’s ‘$5 Billion Mile.’ The multi-use event center itself will be an unbelievable venue that will host many public events and create unbelievable opportunities for our students, athletically and academically. The spin-off from this project is also impacting the development surrounding the event center with such additional development translating into more tourism and job creation. It all adds up to greater quality of life for our residents, businesses and visitors. We have no doubt the best is yet to come.”

Today, with more than 50,000 enrolled students, the FISD is currently the nineteenth largest school district in the state. Very soon, it will be the only school district in Texas to boast an indoor stadium. The multi-purpose, 12,000-seat, indoor stadium/event center and two outdoor fields will be used by the Dallas Cowboys, the City of Frisco and the FISD. The FISD will host football and soccer games and other athletic, academic, fine arts and entertainment events and competitions. “This is another example of how great things happen when people come together to collaborate and partner for the good of the community,” said Renée Ehmke, the FISD school board president. “The economic impact of this project will be phenomenal, but the varied experiences provided to our students due to this partnership will be unparalleled. We could not be more excited.”

The FISD will contribute $30 million to the project, or $1.2 million annually for 25 years. The money will come from an existing revenue stream generated by a Tax Increment Financing District. The City of Frisco will contribute $30 million, as will the Frisco Economic Development Corporation (FEDC). The Frisco Community Development Corporation (FCDC) will pitch in $25 million. No increase in property or sales tax rates for the FISD, City of Frisco, FEDC or FCDC is projected.

This opportunity could not have come at a better time. With the opening of its eighth high school in 2015, the FISD had been looking into the need for a third stadium. The district’s high schools currently play football on Thursday and Friday nights at Memorial Stadium and Toyota Stadium. To build a stand-alone facility similar to Memorial Stadium would cost $27-30 million. The partnership with the City of Frisco and the Dallas Cowboys will allow the FISD to enjoy a much better facility at the same cost. “We will pay only direct event costs, but will not incur ongoing maintenance and operation costs, resulting in savings of $250-300,000 annually,” said Dr. Lyon. “This public-private partnership better meets the needs of all of our programs with an ultimate savings to the taxpayers.”

Mayor Maso said, “Since the day it was announced, this project has created a buzz that is drawing new business here. A growing business community translates into a thriving city, which benefits us all and helps keep our taxes low. But, equally important is the source of pride our residents, students and visitors will share when they gather here for sports, entertainment and special events. We could not be more excited for a 2016 grand opening!”

The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, added, “This is a wonderful partnership, and we are collectively committed to a vision that will help build this community from an economic perspective, as well as through the development of the school district and its students. We know firsthand how world-class facilities can elevate and benefit all of the parties involved.”

Dr. Lyon said, “The spirit of our partnership with the City of Frisco and the Dallas Cowboys continues to gain momentum as we envision more and more opportunities for students to participate in programs and activities at the facility. The Dallas Cowboys organization, beginning with Mr. Jones, has consistently supported enhancing opportunities for student programming as we put the pieces of the project together. Our excitement is not just about the incredible performance experience that will be afforded to students, but the unique learning opportunities as well. The construction team has done a remarkable job keeping the project on schedule. Our partnership with the City and the Cowboys continues to grow and thrive. We have something here that will serve as a model of a public-private partnership benefiting all partners. The Star in Frisco and surrounding developments will provide our students, families and fans with a performance and entertainment experience unlike any other in Texas or the nation.”

In less than five years, the projected population of students enrolled in the FISD will be around 70,000. The average SAT score in Frisco is 1609, while the average score in the U.S. is 1497. Exposing these young minds that are so eager to learn is a responsibility that the leaders of our city and schools do not take lightly. The groundwork is being planted now in order to give our children the best chances to succeed in life. Leaders are not thinking about “today,” but always looking toward the future of Frisco in everything they do. Audie Adkins, the community outreach liaison for the FISD, said, “It has been the tremendous partnerships between the FISD, the City of Frisco and the Frisco Chamber that have helped pave the way for the tremendous development and growth of Frisco.”

As construction reaches the halfway point of completion, excitement in the community continues to escalate. Now, we anxiously wait for what will be a big step for high school football here in Texas.