The Great Frisco Caper, as my bosses titled my cover story in February’s issue, began with a rather mundane observation on my end a rather long time ago: Damn, Frisco has a lot of sports.
Just about all the sports, in fact, between involvement with all five of the country’s largest pro sports leagues plus everything from the PGA to college sports to esports and more. That makes Frisco the most powerful sports suburb in America, which would matter anywhere but is especially important here. North Texas is a fractured place, and that extends to sports, which I believe to be our greatest cultural unifier. Here, however, they can be divisive.
Consider the turf war that ensues whenever a major sporting event arrives at AT&T Stadium. Arlington says it’s their event because of where the stadium is located. Fort Worth’s claim is that the accommodations often are in Cowtown. And Dallas says it’s ours because, well, they aren’t the Arlington or Fort Worth Cowboys, now are they?
Yet the teams and leagues themselves have managed to find common ground in one place: Frisco. And everyone coexists so well—and so profitably—that this shows no signs of slowing down.
That alone was a story. Then I began reporting it. And once I sat down with Todd Fouche, deputy superintendent for business and operations at the Frisco Independent School District, the story became far more interesting.
Fouche was the one who clued me in on the power of one four-letter acronym: TIRZ. It stands for Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, and it is effectively a way to juice real estate investment by luring in partners to help fund development in exchange for a share of the eventual property tax revenue. There are about a couple hundred throughout the state, but only a fraction of those involve a school district. Frisco ISD is one of them, which makes the district a party to billion-dollar sports deals on a regular basis. This is not normal.
Then again, nothing about Frisco is, right? It is also not normal for cities to mushroom from 6,000 people to more than 200,000 in three decades, not normal for it to generate its own gravitational and cultural pull north of the Sam Rayburn Tollway, and definitely not normal for all of that to happen under the stewardship of the same man—George Purefoy, Frisco’s first and, until he retires in June, only city manager—since 1987.
The story of how Frisco became a sports superpower, then, is in some ways a microcosm of Frisco itself: unprecedented, audacious, and almost ludicrously successful.
If you like sports, you’ll enjoy this story. Same goes for those of you interested in real estate. Or municipalities. Or education. Or human beings adept at navigating a set of laws to maximum benefit, thereby forcing the state government to change them (which is where the caper element of this comes in). And especially if you’re a Frisco resident inclined to take a victory lap for how swimmingly this has all gone.
And with that, I’ll leave you to it. The story is online today.