The city of McKinney has recently made efforts to up its game when it comes to attracting sporting events and teams.
In March, the NCAA announced it would be returning to McKinney to hold the Division II National Football Championship over the next three years. A state high school lacrosse tournament will be held in the city in May. After that comes the first home game for Dallas City FC, a semiprofessional soccer team that recently decided to call McKinney home.
City officials say attracting these teams and events is a great opportunity for the city and its residents. These sporting events not only bring visitors and drive economic benefit to McKinney, but they also provide more entertainment options and introduce higher-level sports to local players.
“It’s about exposing our youth to the next tier of sports,” said Michael Kowski, director of the McKinney Parks and Recreation Department. “So these teams coming in allows that gateway for them to transition up to a higher level.”
The city is also working to improve existing sports complexes, build new athletic fields and provide opportunities for other sports.
“We may be out in the fringes of [the Dallas-Fort Worth area]… but we have the land to grow, and it’s why [teams and events are]coming out this way,” McKinney Assistant City Manager Jose Madrigal said. “… We’ll continue to capitalize on it as we can.”
The 2018 NCAA Division II National Football Championship was held at the McKinney ISD Stadium and Community Event Center in December. This event brought more than 4,300 fans to the city, which resulted in a regional economic benefit of nearly $316,000, according to Visit McKinney, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
The NCAA announcing it will return to McKinney proves the stadium’s worth, MISD Athletic Director Shawn Pratt said.
When the stadium was first pitched as a bond proposition in 2015, pursuing NCAA games as well as other non-sporting events was a top priority, Pratt said. Not only do these types of events bring visitors to the city, but they also attract other types of events, he said.
“[The NCAA] was just very, very impressed with the hospitality, the kindness of our city and their experience here at the stadium,” Pratt said. “And that’s traveled. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me.”
The McKinney Lacrosse Club won a bid to host the 2019 Texas High School Lacrosse State Championship at MISD’s Ron Poe Stadium on May 11-12. The MLC is a nonprofit with competitive lacrosse teams for students in grades 1-12.
The lacrosse tournament will include the top eight high school teams in Texas, and is estimated to draw more than 10,000 fans, MLC President Owen Lancaster said.
Lancaster said after a four-year decrease in club participation, numbers are back on the rise. He said it is likely due to major developments moving to the area as well as exposure from a professional lacrosse team recently moving to Frisco.
“Having the Dallas Rattlers come to Frisco has helped people be exposed to lacrosse, and also to be totally honest, it’s helped that we’ve had Toyota move here,” Lancaster said. “That’s helped with families moving here from California, and from places where lacrosse is more prevalent.”
In addition to the Rattlers, Frisco is home to six other professional sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, the Dallas Stars and FC Dallas. In 2017, Frisco rebranded itself as Sports City U.S.A.
Now McKinney is also starting to draw the attention of sports teams. In December, DCFC—a semiprofessional European-style soccer team—approached the city to establish its home turf in McKinney. The team previously played at various locations around Dallas.
DCFC owner Jacob Tuygun said McKinney—unlike Dallas, Frisco and Plano—has more land and athletic facilities to accommodate his growing team.
“McKinney is a small town and a growing town,” Tuygun said. “I want to be in McKinney because it’s something growing, because there is more land … and [it is]also a family-oriented place.”
Improving existing facilities
Last summer, the city issued a request for partnerships with sports teams.
“We are trying to find support from teams that can help us improve some of the fields,” Kowski said. “We are taking a very specific approach on how to do that, not just a cosmetic fix, but a long-term, sustainable enhancement to our complexes.”
DCFC and Solar Soccer Club—a competitive soccer club—have both signed agreements with the city to use the McKinney Soccer Complex at Craig Ranch. In exchange for designated fields and playing time, the clubs are responsible for the upkeep and renovations of their areas.
DCFC began renovating two fields in March. These fields will be turned into turfed soccer fields, and a third field is planned to eventually be converted into a professional soccer stadium, Tuygun said.
In an effort to fund additional improvements to other complexes, the city is looking to McKinney voters for help. A $91 million bond proposition for parks and recreation will be on the May 4 ballot. If approved by voters, $10 million to $15 million would fund improvements to existing sports complexes.
Another $30 million from the bond proposal would be set aside for future land acquisitions and park development, Kowski said.
The city will continue discussing partnerships with other teams and tap into momentum that builds as these sporting events take place and existing facilities are improved.
“It’s kind of the niche that we seem to have found that we are going to capitalize the best that we can,” Madrigal said.