FRISCO — Take care of your stadium, and your stadium will take care of you.
That was just one of many life lessons the legendary sports owner Lamar Hunt passed along to his family, who are leading the charge for the more than $39 million worth of renovations at Toyota Stadium.
“We get one shot to really get this right,” Dan Hunt, his son and the president of FC Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News Thursday. “It’s going to feel like a brand-new stadium.”
The elder Hunt was a pioneer in sports with memberships in 13 halls of fame, including the Soccer Hall of Fame in 1982. He built the soccer stadium and 17 tournament-style fields in Frisco in 2005 in a landmark public-private partnership with the city.
Dan Hunt said he wished his father were still alive to see what’s coming not only for soccer but also for the city-owned facility. He has high hopes for FC Dallas, which had its best finish last season, claiming the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and its very first Supporters’ Shield for having the best record in Major League Soccer.
On Thursday, he sprinkled stories about his father in with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of what awaits fans at FC Dallas’ home opener on March 18.
Already in place are the twin 13mm high-definition video boards and a new audio system. The timing fits nicely with Major League Soccer’s plans to offer video replay later this season.
Construction crews are still finishing out the space for the new Winners Club by WinStar World Casino and Resort. The redesign was a last-minute but much-needed add to the renovation project, Hunt said.
Fans won’t recognize what used to be known as the River Club. The once-too-dark space is now light and airy. The bar is moved to the back, away from the field, a VIP concession stand — gyros anyone? — sits on the right with draft beers on tap. The Winners Club will also host social media events and player autograph sessions.
Just like the River Club, the Winners Club will be open to club seat holders and suite members during the first half of the game. But after halftime, it will open its doors to all fans.
“It increases the fan experience in my book by a thousand percent,” Hunt said.
On the next level are four new private suites on the north end, close to the main stage, bringing the total number of suites to 22. At the south end is a larger club suite for fans who want the experience of a luxury suite without the higher price tag.
Elsewhere in the stadium, the concourse will get a fresh coat of paint and new banners. The Budweiser Beer Garden will have a truck offering craft beers and a grill selling turkey legs (the winner in a survey among fans).
Still to come is the reconfigured south end of the stadium, which will include new locker rooms with separate field-level tunnel entrances, more club seats with a patio area and a new team store. Those areas will be done by December and available for the NCAA FCS Championship held annually at Toyota Stadium since the 2010 season.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame will be the final piece of the puzzle. Hunt describes the space as having the high-end finish of AT&T Stadium with the nostalgia of Cooperstown. Impactful and interactive are the key operators, he said.
A great fan experience
The museum will hold its grand opening as part of the Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony. A 2018 date is still in the works.
The renovation is being funded by the city, the Frisco Economic Development Corp., the Frisco Community Development Corp. and Frisco ISD. FC Dallas, in turn, will pay an extra $1 million in rent for the city-owned stadium each year through 2037 to help fund the upgrades. (The price goes up an extra $50,000 a year if the south end renovations minus the Hall of Fame aren’t done by December.)
The team is also funding any costs beyond the $39 million budget. Last year, the project underwent a redesign after bids came in $16 million over budget. Project costs are back in line now, but of course, the final price tag will be over budget, Dan Hunt said.
But that’s to be expected. He and his brother, Clark, who is FC Dallas’ chairman and CEO, are committed to having a quality experience for fans.
“We want this to be the best soccer fan experience in North America,” Dan Hunt said. “This will be the mecca of soccer.”