Frisco’s City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission approved the request to build a Universal Kids Frisco theme park during a March 7 meeting.
“We want what’s going to make Frisco great,” Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jon Kendall said.
The council’s 4-2 vote followed a unanimous vote from the planning and zoning commission. Council members Brian Livingston and Laura Rummel were against it, with Rummel stating she wished to table the decision further.
The specific-use permit sought after by Universal Resorts since its original Jan. 11 announcement will turn 97.4 acres of land in the Frisco Fields development into a regional theme park designed for children ages 3-11 set to open by June 2026, according to meeting documents.
Only 30 acres would be used for the park itself, leaving the remaining more than 60 acres available for any future expansion or developments from Universal.
Since the first public discussions about the theme park, Universal representative John McReynolds, Universal Parks and Resorts’ senior vice president of external affairs, has emphasized the company’s desire to be a good neighbor to Frisco residents.
“We’re very proud of what we bring before you,” McReynolds said. “We think it is the right fit, ... something that I think the city of Frisco can be proud of.”
Landscape buffers for sound and immersion, building height restrictions, screened-in fences, limited hours of operations and more designs have all been agreed to by Universal representatives, according to meeting documents.
Universal is estimated to bring $3 million in revenue from city sales and property taxes to Frisco annually in its first 10 years, according to a meeting presentation.
“That [money] goes directly to the general fund,” Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “That goes to pay for police and fire; that goes to pay for the library; it goes to pay for all the city services.”
Out of the more than 50 residents and local business owners at the March 7 meeting, several who chose to speak had also attended the previous meetings and public hearings, stating their specific concerns regarding traffic and crime had still not been resolved.
“This conversation with the public will not end tonight,” Cheney said. “It will continue consistently from now until the date it opens.”
Police Chief David Shilson stated at the meeting that while there is always a potential for crime, the theme park should not lead to a direct increase in crime.
“This particular development does not cause me concern for our community,” Shilson said.
Further meetings with Universal to discuss park security will be necessary, but the process is no different to past large-scale developments and sudden traffic increases, such as the upcoming PGA tournament, Shilson said.
A traffic comparison between the estimated Universal Kids traffic and familiar Frisco destinations estimated Universal would see no more than 8,000 cars traveling in and out every day while H-E-B had more than 10,000, according to meeting documents.
The traffic comparison and analysis was also published online in February by Frisco civil engineers. A designated theme park information website for residents was also created by the city to organize the plans and proposals in one place.
While multiple residents were upset with the decision to move forward with the development, the time City Council spent speaking directly to local residents should not be ignored, some Cobb Hill residents said.
Cobb Hill, a residential area directly across from the theme park, was heavily involved with discussions about Universal. City Council, planning and zoning members, and Universal representatives had made multiple trips to the neighborhood to discuss concerns face-to-face with its residents.
“I think I’ve spent 12 [hours] out there,” Cheney said.
The plan for Universal Kids Frisco is unique, making it a “big ask” for the city, said Steve Cone, commissioner and Cobb Hill resident. In the end, the decisions made by the planning and zoning commission are not about him, Cone said.
“I will vote against my personal desires in favor of this project,” Cone said.
McReynolds also stated at the meeting Universal would be installing and paying for several additions to the area to help with the change, including a wall around Cobb Hill to deter unwanted guests from using the neighborhood for parking. While McReynolds’ statements acted as a verbal agreement, the promise is not in writing.
“If you do not keep your word to the citizens here in Cobb Hill, we will remember,” Council Member Angela Pelham said.
The collaboration between Universal and city staff, as well as Frisco residents, has transformed Universal Kids Frisco into a better project than when it started, Cheney said.
“We cannot be a city that is in decline,” Pelham said.