FRISCO — Already headquarters for three major league sports franchises — including America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys — plus two minor league organizations, Frisco claims a lock on the professional sports market like no other community in the country.
Now it’s vying to be the champion in another area — sports innovation. And city officials say they’re already way ahead of the competition.
“We’re the No. 1 innovative sports city in the world,” crowed Mayor Maher Maso, who recently hosted a three-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Professional Sports Alliance.
In addition to the Cowboys, the Dallas Stars and FC Dallas also call Frisco home. Joining in the fun are the Frisco RoughRiders, a minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Legends, a D-League team of the Dallas Mavericks.
Frisco is also home base for the nonprofit U.S. Youth Soccer, the largest member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, with more than 3 million players across the country.
And the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy, based in Frisco and Plano, has produced more than 30 national team members. It was also the training base for Olympic all-around champions Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008, and 2016 Olympic team gold and uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian. Last year WOGA owner and co-founder Valeri Liukin, Nastia’s father, was named the new head of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
“One of the great things about sharing Frisco with all of our colleagues here is that it makes all of us try harder,” said RoughRiders CEO Chuck Greenberg, who hit a big league home run last year by adding a lazy river just beyond the right field fence at the minor league ballpark.
Beyond the organizations are a multitude of facilities — from Fieldhouse USA to The PIT to city parks to the Toyota Soccer Center — that cater to youth and recreation leagues on a large scale.
Dallas Stars president Jim Lites said what’s available now in Frisco is no accident. There’s a business purpose behind everything the city does.
“They bring the best people,” Lites said. “They find a way to work with everybody.”
Taking the lead
In 2011 Frisco was named by Men’s Journal as the Best Place to Raise an Athlete.
Now one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities wants to be known as the best place to take care of them. It has set its sights on becoming the America’s premier location for sports medicine and research.
The Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy and Research at The Star is under construction as part of a partnership with the Cowboys. The center will not only provide top-notch care for professional athletes but also make those same physicians, treatments and therapies available to the public.
Frisco ISD already benefits from Baylor Scott & White’s expertise in concussion assessment and treatment. The not-for-profit health care system stationed neuropsychologists on the sidelines at every varsity football game in the district this past season. That relationship is expected to expand in the future.
Baylor Scott & White will also be the first health center in Texas to partner with Fusionetics, an app-based program to help athletes reduce injuries, optimize performance and enhance recovery.
“Kudos to Frisco and the partnerships they have going on here with the Cowboys and everything else to really make Frisco the safest place to compete in sports,” said Dr. Adam Annaccone, director of clinical services at Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy and Research at The Star.
Farther up the Dallas North Tollway, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children is building its north campus that will be anchored by a Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine. Among its specialties for children are orthopedic conditions as well as sports-related concussions. Its mission is to focus on the unique needs of growing athletes.
Another piece of the puzzle comes with Frisco-based Blue Star Sports. The year-old technology company creates digital efficiencies in youth sports, from registration to scheduling to performance.
“No one has that critical mass,” Maso said. “You’re going to have scientists moving here, sports researchers moving here. The Gatorades and Nikes — where are they going to do their R&D?”
Frisco, the mayor said.
But don’t take just Maso’s word for it.
Rick Horrow is in the business of sports. The Harvard Law School graduate has been involved in about 150 public-private partnerships involving sports venues and other urban infrastructure. He has his own radio show that’s broadcast nationally and has co-authored several books.
“Every generation there comes an inspiring public-private partnership that combines vision and best practices,” said Horrow, president of Horrow Sports Ventures. “Texas, the Dallas region and Frisco citizens should be incredibly proud.”
Horrow has been watching Frisco’s moves for some time. But it wasn’t until the mayors’ gathering earlier this month that he got an extensive look at the city’s sports-related offerings.
The group explored recent renovations at Toyota Stadium and what’s to come with the National Soccer Hall of Fame opening next year. The out-of-town visitors then watched as the U.S. Women’s National Team trounce Russia, 4-0, in a friendly match.
Maso, vice chairman of the sports alliance, played tour guide as the group went behind the scenes at The Star, where Cowboys players were running off-season drills and working out in the weight room.
They also learned from a host of experts about everything from partnerships to youth trends to innovation to tourism.
A panel discussion featured Lites; Greenberg; Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones; FC Dallas president Dan Hunt; and Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. All five talked about their positive experiences partnering with and being located in Frisco.
“Sports is no longer just what happens on the field,” said Lee Igel of New York University’s Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media and Business. “It’s big business.”
The mayors also visited Dr Pepper Arena, which serves as the home of the Texas Legends and the Dallas Stars practice ice. And they took in a RoughRiders game at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
On their final day, the group saw the city-owned Fieldhouse USA, which specializes in leagues, events and tournaments. They also got a glimpse of the city’s emergency operations center, often the epicenter for monitoring large events and the traffic that comes with them.
Horrow said that what he witnessed in Frisco combines marvelous vision, first-class partnerships, tenacity in implementation and the ability to sustain and grow.
“Frisco’s process is the next wonder of the public-private partnership facility world,” he said.
Maso, who is leaving office next month because of term limits, believes there is a simple reason why Frisco has been so successful with its ventures, which have made the city stand out in an increasingly crowded sports market.
“They’re not afraid to try new things,” he said.