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Volume 21 No. 47

Opinion

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 amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

Less than a year ago we wrote passionately about the upcoming vote for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games by presenting an impressive list of global markets seeking to host the Games. We suggested this was a positive sign after the 2024/2028 Paris/Los Angeles outcome when many cities dropped out because the “locals” didn’t want to assume the financial risks associated with hosting the world’s largest sporting event.

Well, it’s looking like we were wrong. The IOC still has some changing to do. 

Whoa, hold up, cowboy. Why so quick to change your tune?

Well, of the seven impressive cities that initially stepped up to bid to host the 2026 Winter Games — Calgary; Stockholm; Graz, Austria; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Erzurum, Turkey; and a three-city bid from Italy — only a few remain. Four of the seven have already withdrawn:

1. Sion withdrew following a majority “no” public vote in June. That was a shame, because the mountain city in the IOC’s home country was viewed as a leading candidate.

2. Graz, a stunning location, withdrew in July when the government backed out. 

3. Sapporo, a large city (pop. 2 million) known widely as a winter destination, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 but got out in September citing concerns about finances. 

4. Erzurum, a high-altitude city, withdrew its bid last month due to lack of sufficient transportation, telecommunications and airports.

Another early entrant from Italy has changed its slate but remains in the race:

5. Originally a three-city bid that included Milan, Cortina d’Ampezzo and Turin, the latter city retired from the bid in September reportedly after demands from Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala that his city either go it alone or be the focal point of the bid. 

That means two remain, but each has challenges:

6. As of press time for this column, Calgary’s bid was still alive after federal and provincial governments agreed on a funding proposal that would make more public dollars available to pay for the event. The Calgary 2026 bid corporation revealed that the original $3 billion (Canadian) price tag had been reduced to a total of $2.875 million. An announcement on the same day of that agreement by the chair of the city’s Olympic assessment committee recommended the city end its pursuit of the Games owing to uncertainty about funding. The bid was set for a council vote late last Wednesday to decide if it should proceed to a public plebiscite scheduled for Nov. 13.

7. Stockholm is still officially part of the process, although the government and the Swedish Olympic Committee have yet to finalize a partnership. History suggests Scandinavian cities withdraw when tax implications are fully explained to their citizens.

Seeing a healthy list of seven quickly whittled to two-and-a-half — and recognizing that Calgary could bow out altogether — suddenly suggests the IOC still hasn’t addressed enough of the major negatives for modern populations. Those realities include construction of little needed infrastructure (to build the most modern ski jumps or bobsled tracks), forcing the erection of new hotels, requiring state-of-the-art dormitories or future high-end condos for visiting athletes, mandating civic improvements (to highways, air pollution, controlling stray animals) and, the big daddy of them all, instituting tax increases on the local, regional and national populations to pay for everything.

How to solve this problem? Well, here are a few ideas the IOC has undoubtedly reviewed over the years but may now need to embrace:

1. Reduce competition days, events and venues. Does the world really need to see multiple versions of bobsled, luge and skeleton? Do we need so many speedskating distances? Said another way, as International Federations (IFs) place pressure on the IOC to promote their disciplines, they also demand more events and variations of their existing events. But the cost doesn’t go to the IOC. Rather, it passes through to the host city. If the IOC can reduce overhead expenses, they might not lose cities the way they currently do.

2. Consider four fixed, rotating cities for the Winter Games so that once a city’s infrastructure is formally constructed, said village is assured of multiple uses during the next 20 years. Golf and tennis use this approach (think Grand Slams and majors) exceptionally well. Place one in Europe, North America, Asia and South America to start and go from there.

3. Entice bidding cities to take multiple Games so the amortization of costs can be spread over a longer period. If a city knows it will host in 2026 and again in 2038, it could get two bites of the Olympic apple. It could also convince real estate speculators to get in on the ground floor and allows for a multiyear city branding plan.

4. Find cities (Beijing, Denver and Vancouver come to mind) capable of hosting both the Summer and Winter Games. This is a big ask but Beijing, which hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008 and will host the Winter Olympics in 2022, is about to prove that feasibility.

5. Eliminate the city bidding process. Instead, create a National Olympic Committee (NOC) approach to the problem. Rotate continents and make the NOCs find the city. 

Are these the only possible solutions? Certainly not. 

But the current system makes the IOC (and entire Olympic movement) look less confident. Blended with flat TV ratings and lower interest from younger generations, new options are needed. As we (and others) have written, take a page from the book of the Winter Classic, the Final Four and international leagues like cricket’s IPL or Big Bash.

Change is never easy. But it’s also unavoidable.

 

Rick Burton is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University and SU’s faculty athletic representative to the ACC and NCAA. Norm O’Reilly is Director of the International Institute for Sport Business & Leadership at the University of Guelph and Partner Consultant at T1. Their recent book, “20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student Athletes Who Won’t Go Pro,” was published by Ohio University Press in 2018.