“We’re really kind of laying the groundwork this year for the rest of the city,” Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “I think we’ll look back at 2020 [as] being one of Frisco’s most transformative years.”
Frisco’s annual top 10 priorities lists have led to major successes for the city in the past, the mayor said. Past priorities included seeking destination dining, entertainment and hotels well before Frisco Ranch, KidZania and the Omni Frisco opened.
“Frisco is known for being very deliberate and strategic and constantly resetting our plans,” Cheney said. “By taking that long-range outlook every single year, then that’s how you create a well-planned city.”
While some of 2020’s priorities, such as work on Grand Park and the performing arts center, have appeared on previous lists, others, such as making the city a venture capital center and directing staff to find the “next big thing,” are brand new.
Cheney said Frisco has been setting its top 10 priorities for most, if not all, of the years he has been serving on council. He explained the lists serve as an accountability tool for officials.
“These are always new things to get better or expand,” Cheney said. “We want to be very deliberate about saying it to the public so the public can hold us accountable and we [can] hold ourselves accountable.”
To set the priorities, each member of council wrote down 10 priorities for the city on individual index cards. Many of the cards had similar ideas on them, but others caused friendly debate when it came time to whittle the ideas down.
“Going through this process every year really helps us take a step back and look forward,” Cheney said.
He said success is likely to look different for each of the priorities. Some will be crossed off the list at the end of 2020, he said, while others will evolve. Cheney pointed to Frisco’s downtown area as an example of the latter.
“Last year was about getting the plans done for Main Street—for figuring out the master plan,” Cheney said. “Now, we’re going to continue that momentum.”
Priorities’ past successes
While the mayor said last year’s downtown item can be checked off, it is not the only priority from the recent past that has led to significant developments in Frisco.
In 2014, council listed the creation of a skate park as a priority, and items related to the construction and opening of The Star in Frisco appeared on the lists in 2015 and 2016. Those are just a few of the items that have also been successfully checked off.
Visit Frisco Executive Director Marla Roe said she believes her organization has been an asset in helping the city meet its previous priorities.
“A couple years ago, they had a large-scale convention center development [as a priority],” Roe said, “so we went out and contracted with a company to do research on whether the market could bear something like that. And the model of the Omni [Frisco hotel] follows very closely with the kind of the specs that we were given.”
Cheney said a priority can also sometimes lead to a different success. One idea from more than a decade ago was to host a baseball game between Oklahoma University and the University of Texas. That turned into a successful bid for the NCAA Division I Football Championship, or FCS, to be held in Frisco in 2011, he said.
“That led to something way bigger than even what we were talking about that day,” Cheney said.
A few years later, Frisco signed an agreement to partner with the Dallas Cowboys on The Star in Frisco development, which includes the team’s world headquarters. The Star held its grand opening in 2016.
“When we’re having those discussions at the time, we had no idea we’d be talking about the Dallas Cowboys one day—that wasn’t even in our thought process,” Cheney said.
Where the priorities will lead
One city priority that points to the future is the directive for staff to help Dallas secure a spot as a host city for World Cup 2026. The international soccer championship is set to be hosted in North America for the first time since 1994, and 10 U.S. cities will be chosen as host cities.
Dan Hunt, president of FC Dallas and Dallas Host Committee chairman, said he thinks Dallas is in the group of cities most likely to be considered to host games.
“A lot of that has to do with what a great soccer community this whole area is,” Hunt said. “You have two big airports here. You have a lot of great hotels, a lot of great restaurants.”
If Dallas is chosen, Hunt said Toyota Stadium and Frisco could host one or two of the 48 teams that will be eligible for the tournament. He specifically mentioned Germany and Brazil as possibilities because of existing relationships he and his staff have.
“Frisco would greatly benefit from that,” Hunt said. “Retail stores will benefit from that because fans will come, a lot of [the] time, for a minimum of a week or 10 days, and sometimes, fans will come for as long as a month. I just think Frisco is going to be super attractive for fans that want to come stay in sort of a vibrant community.”
The last priority listed by council was pursuit of the “next big thing.”
“That’s just kind of part of [remembering] to always keep dreaming,” Cheney said.
While council threw out some ideas—creating a major music festival or attracting a major sporting event—council members purposefully left it open-ended.
“It’s something that, really, our whole [Visit Frisco] team does every day,” Roe said. “We’re always looking for the next big convention. We’re always looking for the next big leisure event.”
Roe said she took council’s directive more as a goal to find a nationally or internationally televised event.
“For the next big event, we would probably go back and say, ‘We’ve had FCS for 10 years. What other event of that magnitude and scope can we go out and find?’”
Josh Dill, Visit Frisco’s director of sports and events, said one of the “next big things” about which he recently started having conversations could be eight years away.
“The [Texas] Ford Aquatics folks are really interested in hosting a large-caliber sports swimming event [and are] possibly even looking at hosting the Olympic trials here in 2028,” Dill said.
Omaha, Nebraska, has hosted the Olympic trials since 2008, but Dill said a pool could be built at the Ford Center at The Star for the trial.
“I walk into those meetings and go, ‘Maybe this idea is a little bit far-fetched,’” Dill said. “But I think Frisco’s shown that we’ve attacked some things that are far-fetched, and we’ve made them come to reality.”