The Cowboys, The Star and Frisco ISD

An exclusive interview with Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones

At the official groundbreaking ceremony for The Star, Stephen Jones (second from the left) is flanked by Frisco ISD students and FISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Lyon (far right).

Frisco ISD

At the official groundbreaking ceremony for The Star, Stephen Jones (second from the left) is flanked by Frisco ISD students and FISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Lyon (far right).

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The new Dallas Cowboys’ training facility will be home to the first four Frisco ISD games of the 2016 year on Saturday as the quadrupleheader marks the grand opening of The Star, the projected $1.5 billion project in Frisco.

Named The Ford Center at The Star, the new facility will be the new home for the team’s global headquarters and practices, moving from Valley Ranch in Irving. Frisco ISD  schools will be able to use the stadium for sporting events such as football and soccer, and will also be able to host other events such as graduation at the multi-purpose facility.

The location of The Star is no accident, as the Cowboys organization has been eyeing the growth of Frisco, as the city boasted a 6.3 percent growth rate in the past year.

Frisco is one of the highest growing communities in the country and we decided as we were going through the process to get somewhere, that it would be more than just your typical practice facility,” Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones said. “We wanted to do what we’re currently doing at The Star, with the increased development, office our headquarters, have other people that office there, some retail, and entertainment district, hopefully have a hotel, and do somethings that were cutting edge. Frisco is one of the top growing communities in the nation and we had done business in Frisco. We developed Starwood there. [We’ve] done a lot of business, as you go on that Tollway and it really felt like when it was all said and done and were able to pick a spot that we felt like that would be the best opportunity.”

Stephen Jones and other dignitaries at the official groundbreaking for The Star. The partnership between the Dallas Cowboys, the City of Frisco and the Frisco ISD is unique in the sports world.

Frisco ISD
Stephen Jones and other dignitaries at the official groundbreaking for The Star. The partnership between the Dallas Cowboys, the City of Frisco and the Frisco ISD is unique in the sports world.

The idea of sharing a facility with high schools is not one many professional teams would entertain, but that seems to be the opposite in Frisco. Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, is also shared with FISD for sporting events. For Jones, the prospect of high schoolers being on the same field as professionals has a far lasting impact not only on the athletes, but on the community.

“We felt like as we went forward the grassroots, the high schools, and the young people are our future, especially kids playing football,” Jones said. “We think sharing a facility, with the kids rubbing backs with Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, all that is just a huge plus in terms of what that not only does for football and North Texas, and obviously Frisco, is a big deal. Hopefully that rubs off on the community and hopefully rubs off on other communities and for young people and young people playing football are apart of what we’re about going forward.”

Community is a key part of the Cowboys’ plan in Frisco. Jones states that the importance of community cannot be overstated, and that working with Frisco is a major part of the success that will come with the facility.

“I think it’s the most [important aspect],” Jones said. “I think every NFL team will tell you that they gotta be apart, intertwine in the community. We’re going to have people that will be avid fans and I think what the Cowboys have done in North Texas has been great. We have a great fan following and we think the best fans in the world.”

The move from Valley Ranch, which has been home to the team’s practice facility since 1985, is more than just a normal change for the team. An emotional connection has been made with the city of Irving and Valley Ranch, which has been a staple of Cowboys’ football along with the names of  Aikman, Smith, and Irvin. Jones mentions the team leaving Texas Stadium for AT&T Stadium in 2009 as another situation of the team moving to more updated and modern facilities.

“It’s no different than leaving Texas Stadium for AT&T Stadium,” Jones said. “It was bittersweet when it happened, we certainly had great memories, lots of championship, and memories at Texas Stadium, but at the same time, it’s in the past, and we gotta move forward and we felt like when you’re apart of the ‘Boys, you don’t really own them, you run with the ball a little bit and hopefully gives the fans something special. Obviously we feel like AT&T Stadium is a better place and so many great things have happened at Texas Stadium and we feel the same way about Valley Ranch. There’s been so many great memories there, great players developed, great players drafted, and Hall of Famers. We’ve been there for over 25 years and have had great experiences, but we also don’t want to live in the past. The future is obviously AT&T Stadium and The Star, and we always will have good memories at the previous places.”

With Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to his left and Charlotte Jones Anderson to his right, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys, Stephen Jones addresses talks to the audience about The Star.

James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys
With Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to his left and Charlotte Jones Anderson to his right, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys, Stephen Jones addresses talks to the audience about The Star.

Jones hopes that players are impacted one way or another, whether it’s playing football, or participating in other avenues of the sport, including coaching,

“Most people though have things that changes their lives,” Jones said. “Hopefully they’ll look at a player, and what it takes to be a player like a Witten, Tony, Dez, and Tyron Smith and motivate them to go to work and chase their passion and their goals. If not a player, it could be rubbing shoulders with Jason Garrett and wanting to be a coach one day; it could be rubbing shoulders with Jerry Jones and wanting to become an entrepreneur. [We hope it] gives a young person the passion to chase their dream.”

The new facility will not all be about sports, even if it’s owned by a sporting team. Opportunities will arise for many groups across campuses, not just football players.

“Well first off, it’s a lot more than football players,” Jones said. “It’s soccer players, it’s cheerleaders, it’s band members, high school kids that are fans will hopefully will experience The Star. To answer your question more directly, we are coming up with programs with Dr. Lyon and within the school district to give opportunities to young people like journalists, to have options, opportunities, internships, and things of that nature to mix and interact with the Cowboys.”

Along with local high school events, the Cowboys have been in talks to potentially host national events, such as the NFL Draft in the future. After being hosted at Radio City Music Hall from 2006 to 2015, the Draft has bounced to Chicago, and is looking to move again, where this year, Philadelphia has risen as a favorite to host the draft.

“It’s certainly an idea, but it’s certainly in the early stages,” Jones said.  “We don’t have a lot of details yet, but it’s certainly something we want to pursue in terms of having the draft come to North Texas, whether it’s a combination of Arlington and AT&T Stadium and The Star and Frisco. However it may work out, we just feel like our fans deserve to be the host for the draft.”  

After all the success the Cowboys have had in other suburbs, Jones thinks that the relationship between Frisco and the team could go even further than any other city has had before.

“I’d like to hope that our fans feel like that the communities that have supported us in North Texas, such as Irving and Arlington, have a relationship with the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “I hope we can take that a step further in Frisco.”