Lamar Hunt realized that Frisco would be growing rapidly when he decided to build the stadium in the Dallas suburb. During the Hall of Fame presentation, Clark Hunt stated that Frisco has doubled in size since FC Dallas arrived. But did you know that FC Dallas is one of only two MLS team that is located in a county that has a Republican majority (the other being Salt Lake, where the margin is much thinner)?
According to Experian Media Services and the Wall Street Journal, soccer fans are overwhelmingly liberal. Almost twice as many liberals watched the World Cup than conservatives. Of the top 20 states with the highest percentage of youth soccer participation, 17 voted for Obama in 2012. Is it possible that Uncle Lamar was right about the explosion in growth of Frisco, but that the Frisco demographic does not align with the soccer demographic?
It pains me to see the stadium half-empty when this team is playing electrifying soccer. The age-old complaint, especially on weeknights, is that the stadium is too far from Dallas. And we're about to have more weeknight games this year because of our entry into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Hunt Sports Group has doubled down on Frisco with the construction of the Hall of Fame, so it is obvious that FC Dallas will not be leaving Frisco any time soon. FC Dallas is stuck with an MLS 2.0 stadium in that it is "soccer specific" unlike MLS 1.0 stadiums, but in a suburb instead of downtown like MLS 3.0 stadiums. There's nothing the marketing department can do to move the stadium, but it could acknowledge that the distance from Dallas is a valid complaint and take steps to alleviate the hassle of the commute. Instead, the problem has been worsened with paid parking. Who wants to drive in traffic from Dallas, pay tolls, and then pay for parking?
I applaud the attempt at FCD Express and was disappointed that it didn't work out. Apparently, a similar program called Pub to Pitch is still going for the Fire's MLS 2.0 stadium in Bridgeview. I don't know why FCD Express failed, but is it possible that our fans would prefer to not ride in a bus or van with a bunch of sweaty, drunken guys? I know that I hated riding in a cramped 15-passenger van during my old work commute.
I would wager that our fans would prefer to utilize a rideshare service. What if we reached out to Uber and Lyft to see if they would sponsor a night where their services were free or heavily reduced? We should also contact NTTA to see if they would sponsor weeknight games and validate tolls. Even if NTTA did not waive the fees, could the club offer an incentive for weeknight games to pay tolls and offer free parking?
In a Reddit thread entitled "What is your favorite MLS venue beside your team's?" one user perfectly summed up the thoughts of many millennials:
"When I sleep at night I dream of going to a home game where I can take an easy train ride, have a beer at a few bars around the stadium, then walk across the street and enjoy a unique stadium with the perfect architecture for atmosphere." - Redditor /u/howard_handupme
For this to become a reality in Frisco, we first need a DART station on Main Street. A DART station might be the single most important factor that would affect attendance. Frisco has been in discussion with DART about a rail extension for years, but the mayor does not want to pay DART's 1-cent sales tax. What kind of pull do the Hunts have in Frisco politics? If Collin County does not harbor the soccer-loving millennials that FC Dallas should covet, then it needs to find a way to import them.
The other issue is the "unique stadium with the perfect architecture for atmosphere." Fans have been clamoring for a stadium roof since it was called Pizza Hut Park. Not only does a Sporting Park-type roof protect fans from the elements, it helps to reverberate sound that enhances the atmosphere. It is upsetting that FC Dallas has prioritized the peripheral Hall of Fame over needed stadium improvements like the roof and an audio-visual overhaul that would boost the gameday experience for every fan.
While Collin County has expanded rapidly since FC Dallas arrived, the demographics are not ideal for a soccer hotbed. Therefore, FC Dallas needs to find a way to bring fans to the stadium. Until a DART station is built in Frisco, FC Dallas should partner with a rideshare service and ease the pain of navigating the tollway. Needed stadium improvements that benefit every fan like a roof and an audio-visual upgrade should be prioritized over optional additions.