The cities of Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Allen and Richardson are conducting a regional athletics study to assess their amenities and forecast needs as the North Texas region continues to have high volumes of population growth.

The study, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, is the first of its kind and has allowed the cities to work together to meet the demand for outdoor sports, such as soccer, football, softball and baseball. The study also aims to help the cities adapt their parks and athletic fields to the changing demographics of the region.

The idea of conducting such a study has been suggested for several years, Plano Athletic Superintendent Ed Voss  said. While Plano was fortunate to have planned well enough to take its parks facilities into the 21st Century, younger cities like McKinney and Frisco are striving to expand their facilities with challenges, such as increasing land and construction costs, Voss said.

[polldaddy poll=9400214]

“Some of that land [in Plano] was bought very cheaply,” Voss said. “We were able to build a formula at that time. We used that and it stayed true except for one thing—we grew faster than what folks predicted we would.”

Regional play and changing demographics have increased sports participation rates in Plano, according to the study. For example, Plano’s field users were about 80 percent residents five years ago. Today, roughly half of its athletic field users are nonresidents. This ratio is expected to reverse again as McKinney and Frisco continue to build more fields. For now, teams across North Texas are taking advantage of Plano’s existing amenities.

“Plano has taken on a role as a regional provider of fields for leagues, as well as tournaments,” the study stated. “The city will need to determine if they want to continue in this role in the future.”

Plano fields supply

Plano’s parks serve 15-plus sports organizations, from Plano Youth Soccer to the Dallas Cricket League. Several parks have completed or are undergoing renovations to help the city keep up with current and future demands. High Point Park, one of Plano’s oldest athletic sites, was recently renovated with new lighting and irrigation systems. A similar large-scale project is underway at Carpenter Park.

Plano sportsVoss, who has lived and worked in Plano since 1969, said Plano residents have expressed a need for additional game and practice space for outdoor sports, including cricket, a sport that requires a field sometimes as big as two soccer fields. Plano has no formal soccer or lacrosse fields. Instead, it has what Voss called sports turf fields, which can be used throughout the year for various outdoor sports, including rugby, football and cricket. Plano has eight such fields but it could use more, Voss said.

“The demographics of our community have changed. We never master planned cricket as a sport, it just kind of evolved and happened,” he said. “We’re lucky that Russell Creek Park was built in the manner in which it was [so it can] also accommodate cricket.”

More than a dozen youth and adult sports leagues use city fields, the largest being the YMCA and the Plano Sports Authority. Adult sports also have a large presence in Plano. The Plano International Soccer League, for instance, boasts anywhere between 39 and 44 teams per season, Voss said. These teams also become more regionally based and travel to nearby cities to play their games, as well.

Conversely, Plano hosts regional tournaments that bring added business to the community, Voss said. As a result, the city has reported record-breaking attendance numbers—2 million people each year in the past two years. Leagues must consist of at least 81 percent residents or they are charged the nonresident rate and pay a team user fee. Resident and nonresident leagues must also pay a field reservation fee plus a field lighting fee.

With fee structures that require outside leagues to pay more, this has in turn helped to keep Plano’s tax base low, he said. If the city predominantly served residents, Voss said there would be less of a need for more fields.

Regional Sports NeedsPlano Sports Authority

When the Plano Sports Authority was formed in 1970 to help alleviate pressure for Plano ISD, nobody knew how large its footprint would stretch across the region, said Greg Clapp, vice president of sales and marking for the PSA. What started from a group of parents and volunteers quickly grew to serve Plano through two facilities. The nonprofit organization started expanding to Murphy and McKinney in 2013 and served 104,000 children last year, who participated in 16 types of recreational indoor and outdoor youth sports.

The PSA participated in the regional study to help the cities understand how its service levels compare. With 30,000 soccer players from its four facilities, the PSA partners with Plano, Murphy and McKinney and relies solely on their outdoor field space.

“Plano has more fields per capita than the other [cities] and McKinney has had phenomenal growth in the past two to four years,” Clapp said.

Having opened the McKinney facility in late 2014, Clapp said he does not expect the PSA to break ground on more buildings at the moment, but said that there will certainly be a need for expansions in the future.

“Collin County is growing. With the economic development that has occurred here and the companies that are moving in, we are going to continue to see growth in the area,” Clapp said.

With 16 of Plano’s 64 parks providing 639 acres of field space and talks of adding more to that in the future, the Parks and Recreation Department encourages Plano residents to use neighborhood parks. These parks, while not fitted formally for games, are ideal for weekly practices on a first-come, first- served basis.