An Economic Touchdown

According to analysts, the sports market in North America is projected to reach $73.5 billion this year. It is uncertain what portion of that market the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex comprises, but consider the following: the Dallas Cowboys alone is the most valuable sports franchise in the world, ranking at a staggering valuation of $5 billion. The Dallas Mavericks currently sit at $2.25 billion. According to Forbes, every NFL, NBA and MLB franchise is worth at least $1 billion. Assuming the Texas Rangers is valued at exactly $1 billion, these three teams alone hold an aggregated value of $8.25 billion. 

Granted, the valuations of these teams do not exactly reflect the revenue the sports market has in circulation (otherwise, the market would be well over $90 billion), but they are indicative of two things: the sports market is exceptionally lucrative, and Dallas/Fort Worth is one of its largest load-bearing economic pillars. 

FRISCO, TX – APRIL 13: FC Dallas v LA Galaxy at FC Dallas Stadium on April 13, 2013 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts)

As such, it is almost universally understood how economically vital sports are to, say, the city of Arlington, but the role sports play in many aspects of Frisco’s thriving economy is often overlooked. Sports City USA is host to Major Soccer League franchise FC Dallas and to practice stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Stars. The Frisco RoughRiders call the city home, as well as NBA G League team the Texas Legends, which has made Comerica Center its stomping grounds, and the Dallas Rattlers and Texas Revolution at The Ford Center at The Star.

So, just how integral has the sports industry been to the economic expansion of Frisco? In that vein, how has it impacted the local hospitality industry? To what extent have other sectors of the local economy benefited from these spillover effects? And how much influence does the sports industry have over the city’s public life?

To obtain data of the revenue generated by Frisco’s sporting events at large would be rather difficult, as the underbellies of high school sports and other overlooked segments are owed consideration, but some existing data puts a sliver of the economic impact into perspective. According to representatives of Visit Frisco, 45 events in calendar year 2018 had an economic impact that was calculated at approximately $20 million (more than $444,000 per event). Not an insignificant sum by any means, but to call Frisco “a $20 million sports market” would be underselling it. While the games themselves provide tremendous economic value to Frisco, it is important to note that the sports market does not exist in a vacuum.

Josh Dill, Director of Sports and Events for Visit Frisco, placed a special emphasis on the tourism aspect of the local sports economy. “The economic vitality is due to sports tourism, not exactly sports in Frisco – that is the differentiator I give,” he says. “The economic impact that happens around FC Dallas home games, around RoughRiders home games … we do not track those individual things. We track big events that we help bring in.”

In short, obtaining a nominal figure of the size of Frisco’s sports economy would be an arduous task, but deciphering how integral the sports industry has been to the economic expansion of Frisco is due to more things than you might think. 

The success of the local hospitality industry, for example, has been heavily integrated with that of the local sports industry, and noticeably so. Standing in conjunction with The Star is the Omni Frisco Hotel. Within vicinity of Toyota Stadium are locations for Comfort Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn & Suites. Hotel Indigo, Hyatt House and Embassy Suites are each within walking distance of the Comerica Center. 

For home games, potential customer bases are easy to identify. Looking beyond the handful of fans who would purchase a hotel room for such an occasion, away teams traveling with a party of approximately two dozen people are especially a secured demographic. Even then, a handful of home games that only take place a few months out of the year would not be enough to keep such businesses afloat, especially during offseason. 

So, how have local sports franchises revitalized the hospitality industry? Why would the Dallas-based Omni Hotel company greenlight the $252 million construction of the Omni Frisco Hotel if games only provide a sparse and intermittent stream of customers? The answer is simple – these facilities are used for far more than just athletic events. “Participants of corporate meetings and conventions and day trippers who come in from a 75-mile radius are probably 85 percent of our leisure visitors,” says Marla Roe, Visit Frisco’s Executive Director. “You kind of take the whole pie – groups and meetings really fill the weekdays, and our sports-related business can fill the weekends, along with leisure visitors.”

The Star has especially found enormous success in this circuit due to the size of both the stadium and the capacity of the Omni Frisco Hotel. The Dallas Cowboys brand is also a huge selling point in this regard. How cool would it be if an industry convention was hosted at the headquarters and the practice stadium of America’s Team?

These facilities attract tourism in even more capacities, and entertainment plays an integral role in this. In 2017, The Star tapped James Taylor as its inaugural performer. Toyota Stadium has had a-list musicians such as Metallica, Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons on its stage. Comerica Center has been host to the likes of Eric Church, The B-52’s and Mac Miller. Between these facilities, destination music festivals such as Ozzfest and Edgefest were previously hosted, and annual engagements such as Off the Rails Country Music Festival and the hip-hop centric Unruly Citizens are currently in place. 

28 August 2016: Terrell McClain (97)
of Dallas Cowboys practices at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Suffice it to say, what makes the sports industry such an important fixture in Frisco is not as much the sporting events themselves as it is the utility the arenas provide for a variety of functions. 

The extent of this economic stimulus is even more profound when one considers the spillover effect that other local businesses benefit substantially from, and the increase in property value that, in effect, increases property tax revenue. The location of Dr Pepper Ballpark is of substantial benefit to nearby sports bars. The existence of Toyota Stadium is of profound importance to The British Lion. On the grounds of The Star are a variety of tenants that collectively form a vibrant nightlife and culinary arts scene. 

The revenue streams provided by these athletic facilities are nearly endless, and beneath the veneer of home games is a nexus that the local sports industry has with the hospitality industry, the service industry and the entertainment industry. As such, Frisco’s sports industry has a value far greater than just $20 million, and the value it provides to the city of Frisco is far more than just monetary. Sports teams have been at the cutting-edge of Frisco’s economic expansion, and thanks to their presence, jobs have been created. Thanks to sales and property tax revenue, schools, infrastructure and public services have been continually funded. 

Never underestimate the power of a couple dozen people throwing a ball around in the middle of a field. 

Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based arts and entertainment writer, journalist and music critic.

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