FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS, IRVING has established itself as one of the premier locations in the world in which to live, work and play. Although the entire city was smaller than Texas Stadium less than a generation ago, it has grown into a thriving community that is a harmonious mix of small-town tradition and cutting-edge innovation.
Indeed, Irving is no mere annex to Dallas and Fort Worth. It is an area to be reckoned with. It is the only city in Texas that has brought multiple world championships to the Lone Star Stare. Replete with safe, enjoyable neighborhoods in every price range, it is a magnet for new residents from around the country. As Don Hutson, president of the newly relocated Transamerica Insurance Group (TIG) found, “I can look around and within a five-mile radius see a home that every one of my employees would be happy to live in.”
Site of the renowned urban center, Las Colinas, Irving boasts the most lauded and imitated master-planned community in the world. Conceived in 1959, it encompasses 12,000 acres, 900 companies, a workforce of 70,000 and a residential population of 27,000. It is headquarters to such large and diverse corporations as Exxon, TIG Insurance, Kimberly Clark, and the Boy Scouts of America. There are six hotels, more than fifty restaurants catering to all tastes, and lour championship golf courses- all located within this development-including the TPC at Four Seasons, home of the PGAs GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic.
Las Colinas is also home to the Mustang Sculpture Exhibit at Williams Square, the worlds largest equestrian sculpture and one of the biggest tourist draws in all of Texas. These nine larger-than-life bronze Mustangs can be seen “galloping” across a granite stream twenty-four hours a day.
Irving is served by two excellent school districts as well as a community college and a major university. The University of Dallas, a Catholic-run university, is renowned not only for its business school, but also its doctoral liberal arts program. The University is an integral part of the Irving community and can trace its beginnings to a land donation made at the beginning of the development of Las Colinas.
Irving is a mecca for the arts, largely due to the Irving Arcs Center. The Arts Center, which is approaching its fifth anniversary this fall, is home to more than twenty-five different groups from all areas of the arts community. With a $1.8 million dollar annual budget and two theaters, the Center hosts over 300 public events annually.
Great shopping and dining are other areas of strength in Irving. Irving Gold and Silver, for instance, has been a leader in the field of estate jewelry both in America and England for eleven years.
The Mandalay Canal area at Las Colinas features a number of exciting shops and restaurants in a traditional European setting complete with Venetian-style water taxis. These taxis have carried over 640,000 passengers to date, and provide one-way transportation service as well as scenic tours.
The canal is evidence of the painstaking planning that was required in the development of Las Colinas-within blocks of each other, urban excitement, residential solitude, and cultural variety all coexist.
Mandalay Canal is also the site for a number of arts and cultural events, including Canalfest, an annual Mardi-Gras style event benefitting the Mammogram foundation and produced in conjunction with the University of Dallas. Since 1982, Canalfest has been a tradition attracting over 65,000 attendees over a two-day period each year. Canalfest ’95 runs June 2-4 at the Mandalay Canal- The event, themed “A Venetian Celebration,” will emulate the Italian Carnivale di Venezia and has been exhaustively researched for authenticity by consultants from the University of Dallas. A wide variety of work by local artisans will be displayed and area merchants will be carrying Venetian merchandise such as hand-etched glass, mirrors, and lace.
An opening masquerade ball for Canalfest will be held at the Omni Man-dalay Hotel, featuring classical music, costumes, dancing, and the dedication of a commemorative painting by a Texas artist. The Omni Mandalay Hotel was recently named to Conde Nasi Traveler’s prestigious “Gold List” of the 500 best hotels in the world as well as to the list of best mainland hotels in North America.
Main Events International, led by Stephen Millard, is responsible for bringing many special events to the area and is an integral part of staging Canalfest as well as other local events.
A piece of Hollywood resides deep in the Heart ofTexas at the Studios at Las Colinas. It is the home of PBS megabit Barney and Friends as well as the newest PBS children’s program, Wishbone. Known as the highest-quality filming environment between the east and west coasts, the Studios have been used in the filming of such blockbuster films as JFK, Robocop, and Silkwood.
One of Irving’s chief benefits is its proximity to what is perhaps the region’s greatest asset: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The world’s third-busiest airport, which is projected to be the busiest by the year 2000, is partially located in Irving and is just minutes away from the Las Colinas Urban Center. The airport generates more than $6.5 billion annually and is responsible for nearly 70,000 local jobs. The impact of travel is especially dominant in Irving, as the hotel/motel industry is the largest private enterprise in the city and contributes $5 million dollars to the local tax base.
Much of Irving’s success in tourism is due to efforts of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Bureau reaches out to business travellers and meeting planners through a comprehensive marketing pro gram. With the highesr hotel occupancy rate in the metroplex, the Irving Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has achieved great success, especially through its marketing of area sport ing events. Although Irving is not one of the larger cities in Texas, it has the fourth largest Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A sporting center, Irving is of course best known as the home ofTexas Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys. It is also the training center and home office for the Dallas Stars professional hockey team and host to national events like the GTE Byron Nelson PGA Golf Classic, the Equestrian Grand Prix and the ESPN/Budweiser Volleyball Tournament.
The Las Colinas Equestrian Center is a full-service facility housing more than 100 horses and hosting nationally recognized Grand Prix events. Unlike other larger facilities, the Equestrian Center hosts middle-sized events. On a daily basis, clients can lease horses and enjoy a cross-country trail. Among the variety of recreational opportunities available in Irving, one of the most attractive is the nationally renowned Four Seasons Resort and Club. A nationally-known golf destination, the club features two 18-hole championship golf courses and a highly trained staff of sports professionals. In the heart of the resort is Nelson Plaza, which features a nine-root bronze statue of legendary golfer Byron Nelson.
One of Irving’s most recognizable landmarks is Texas Stadium. Built in 1971, it encompasses 50,000 cubic feet and has an open air roof which Texans will tell you was designed “so that God can watch his favorite team.” The Stadium, which is the site for numerous concerts and sporting events in addition to the Dallas Cowboys will also host its annual Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 6-7- The celebration is one of the largest Hispanic-based events in the country with attendance in excess of 100,000 and features some of the country’s top Tejano bands.
Artfest, another Irving tradition that takes place at Texas Stadium, will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. A family festival of art, entertainment and amusements is presented by the $00, Inc. and the Dallas Morning News. It draws over 80,000 patrons every Memorial Day Weekend. It is the largest art festival in the Southwest and has expanded to include the “Run for the Arts” that opens the festival.
Country music fans flock to Texas Stadium each April for the annual KSCS Country Fair and Battle of the Bulls, a free event featuring a rodeo and music by some of today’s top country artists.
Although Las Colinas is a remarkable community, there is much more to Irving. The Heritage District of Downtown Irving for instance, boasts seventeen diverse antique shops. The district has been recently refurbished and preserved through the efforts of the Irving Preservation and Development Board and has been named 1995’s only “Texas Main Street City,” making it eligible for state help in these efforts. A walking tour of the town square features historic storefronts and an authentic soda fountain at Big State Drugs. A vital part of the district is Heritage Park, home to the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates the arts and culture that makes up Irving’s past. This year’s Heritage Festival will be held June 17, with a tour of historic homes on June 18.
Dining is also a major attraction in Irving, with a host of restaurants from all tastes and cultures. One of the newest on the scene is La Carina which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and caters as well, serving as one of three approved caterers for the Cowboys Clubs. It serves pasta entrees, sandwiches, salads, “comfort foods” and features live jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings.
The City of Irving has established itself as a major business, travel, and residential center through the efforts of groups like the City of Irving’s Economic Development Department as well as the work of those in the private sector, living’s continued growth will only further the opportunities the region offers in terms of business and leisure.
Irving has distinguished itself as one of the most livable communities in the metro-plex and, whether many realize it or not, provides many visitors with their first impression of Texas. Upon driving through Irving after landing at DFW, many Texas travellers marvel at the beauty and functionality of the city.
What is unfortunate is that some of these visitors who fail to visit Las Colinas, or miss the Studios, or don’t bother to check out the Mustangs at Williams Square or pass by the University of Dallas, or only see the Heritage District from their rental cars never realize that they have travelled through a city that, standing alone, is one of the most vibrant and exciting in the state of Texas, and indeed, in the world.