A 30-minute drive north from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport will take you to Frisco, Texas. The suburb looks and feels like a new development — gleaming business buildings mixed with cranes and job sites. Driving down Cowboys Way, you come to The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ eye-popping mixed-use development that is all about the history and the future of “America’s Team.” It’s the ultimate brand extension — on point and on message.
I took in the complex during a swift, 24-hour visit last month, and left there thinking that with so much emphasis on brands being authentic to successfully connect with today’s sports fans, one should look no further than this 91-acre project to see how it can be done.
Since it opened in 2016, this facility — on which the Jones family and the city of Frisco could spend more than $2 billion by the time it’s fully developed — has allowed everyone to experience what it means to be part of the Cowboys. I immediately noticed it when checking into the Omni Hotel, a 16-floor, 300-room luxury venue that is filled with team history, imagery and memorabilia. In the lobby, I browsed through the Charlotte Jones Collection boutique with luxury items like the Peter Millar dress shirts with the Cowboys star on them, and appreciated the fact that the shop felt true to the vision and style of Charlotte, Jerry Jones’ daughter. A tour of the team’s headquarters across from the Omni showcased everything you’d expect: state-of-the-art training facilities, two practice fields that mirror AT&T Stadium and are reflected in the glass of the gleaming office buildings, dining for players and staff, and walls lined with newspaper clippings of the team’s greatest moments.
Floor-to-ceiling windows allow visitors to view the practice fields and weight room and experience life as a Cowboy, and while thrilling for fans, it has to be an unwelcome distraction for players and coaches. In the offices, Jones and his family — Charlotte and sons Stephen and Jerry Jr. — have offices adjacent to each other that overlook the practice fields. In addition, the organization has enticed some of its top corporate partners, like Bank of America, to commit to office space that comes with the perk of watching practice outside your window.
That afternoon, I slogged through a workout at the Cowboys Fit gym, which was brimming with energy as people took spin and cardio classes or worked out with their trainers. The gym, developed in connection with 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, is so successful that the Cowboys plan to replicate it in other areas within the Dallas marketplace.
After getting ready in my room adorned with Cowboys art pieces, I walked outside to see the mass of activity on the airy and open Tostitos Championship Plaza, which features a 50-yard Cowboys replica field. Fathers threw footballs to their sons and daughters, while young boys lined up three-on-three football games. People were grazing outside the main Ford Center facility, waiting to watch a local high school football game, as the complex is used by a number of high schools in the district. The 12,000-seat facility is admirably simple in that it isn’t overly commercial. It has a single video board on one side but has a clean, open bowl with great sight lines and wide concourses. I can only imagine what it would feel like during a big game on a rocking Friday night.
Every area of the complex brings with it the touches — some surprisingly subtle — of the team’s top corporate sponsors, and sidewalks are dotted with numbers, records and anecdotes of the team’s greatest players. That evening, I headed up to the vaunted Cowboys Club, the premium establishment talked about with a mix of intrigue and mystery. The private club has a reported 800 members who have paid top dollar for exclusive access that allows them to mingle with players, coaches and even the Joneses themselves, or to watch the Cowboys practice during the day. Having a glass of red wine while watching “Thursday Night Football” on one of the 21 huge screens that populate the spacious area on the top floor of the six-story facility, it was easy to see the appeal and comfort. There’s the VIP vibe — photos and phone calls are not permitted — but it’s also dotted with cool conversation pieces, like the Sports Illustrated covers that feature the Cowboys. Members’ initial initiation fee for the club was $4,500 and the monthly dues are $350.
Only few sports organizations could do this type of development, and there’s more to come, including a high-end, 17-story Star House apartment complex and a possible second office tower.
I knew The Star would be bold and audacious — that fits Jerry Jones. The architectural critics can debate if The Star works from a functional and programmatic standpoint. What impressed me was how the facility connected people to the Cowboys brand in a clean, classy, historical yet modern way. In today’s experience economy, every touch and thought was given to allow fans to experience the Cowboys in a manner they couldn’t before: up close and behind the scenes.
It’s part museum, part lifestyle oasis, part community town square. But it’s all about the Dallas Cowboys.
Abraham Madkour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.