Ford Center at The Star (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
FRISCO, Texas — No offense to Jerry Jones, but maybe he’s spoiled.
Because when Sporting News asked the Cowboys owner whether he considers the extravagant palace that is The Star to be the masterpiece of his Hall of Fame career in football, Jones’ mind dismissively turned to high school football. He’s proud to have manufactured a direct link between pro and amateur sports.
“That’s the biggest thing we’re getting out of it,” Jones said during a recent conference call.
But when a person walks through The Star, the multi-million-dollar world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys, its connection to Frisco, Texas, high schools is the last thing that enters a mind overwhelmed by the size and luxurious nature of the facility. The walls, adorned with an endless enshrinement of Cowboys history, trap occupants in an echo chamber that leaves room for nothing but admiration for the franchise.
The Star, Cowboys headquarters entrance (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
Located about 40 miles northeast of AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play their home games, is the place they now call home. Construction of facility in Frisco, a Dallas suburb, was completed before the 2016 season, but the final group to leave the Cowboys’ former home in Valley Ranch, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, arrived this summer.
As of late July 2017, though, only a portion of a 91-acre development was completed. An adjacent Omni Frisco Hotel, which will be the tallest building in town, was on the verge of business. Surrounding restaurants and shops were still being constructed. Two miles of new roadways and associated civil infrastructure were being created to support The Star, which is part of what’s called the $5 Billion Mile, a group of mixed-use developments along the Dallas North Tollway. Frisco is in Denton and Collin Counties, which are expected to grow to over 2.6 and 3.8 million residents, respectively, by 2050.
So perhaps that’s why Jones, who purchased the Cowboys in 1989, does not consider this his NFL masterpiece after more than 28 years. It’s not yet finished.
Upon approach via the Tollway, the Ford Center, a state-of-the-art, 510,000 square foot indoor athletic facility that’s shared by the Cowboys, the City of Frisco, and Frisco ISD’s eight high schools, stands out amongst widespread construction. The scene becomes increasingly inviting as one approaches the Tostitos Championship Plaza, complete with an open football field, a 2,270 square foot video board and what’s called the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Walk.
The over-the-top experience begins before one even reaches the front door.
Tostitos Championship Plaza (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
The true astonishment begins when one walks through The Star’s entrance and into a massive atrium. In view ahead, through glass windows, are the Cowboys’ outdoor fields. Above is a custom, ceiling-mounted LED light sculpture by renowned artist Leo Villareal. (We’re talking 19,200 lights.)
To the right, behind more glass, is the room where Cowboys press conferences take place. To the left is a security desk, intimidating yet inviting in its glitz.
In plain sight also are the five Vince Lombardi Trophies the Cowboys have earned with their five Super Bowl wins.
We’re told they’re the real things.
Atrium area of The Star (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
More of the standouts inside the mammoth facility:
There’s a wall of helmets representing all 32 NFL teams. Each helmet can be illuminated, so during a game week, the Cowboys’ opponent will be highlighted. If Dallas is playing Atlanta, for example, the Cowboys helmet and the Falcons helmet will the two illuminated on the wall.
There’s a state-of-the-art television studio and control center. In a separate location is an entire studio dedicated to podcast recording.
There are separate walls that monumentalize the top 10 moments in Cowboys history, the Cowboys’ five Super Bowl wins and Cowboys Pro Bowlers, among other tributes. A cluster of manikins displays the evolution of the Cowboys uniform.
There’s a cafeteria run by master chefs. In that cafeteria are commemorative displays of “firsts” — the Cowboys’ first game, for example. One of Tom Landry’s old hats rests in a glass case a few yards away from where Jason Garrett eats his lunch.
The Cowboys’ locker room, weight room and training room, of course, are all as big and fancy as they come. Their main meeting room looks more like a deluxe movie theater.
There’s a brand-new NFL draft war room, which was used for the first time this year. Outside that room is a display case featuring the actual pre-draft evaluations of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
And so on — around each corner is a different nugget of Cowboys glory.
Cowboys by the numbers (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
The idea is for current players to be surrounded by and constantly reminded of the legacy they’re playing to uphold. The same effects are felt by the general public, for which two clichés come to mind while roaming The Star: “everything is bigger in Texas,” and “no expense spared.”
The Ford Center, which houses the Cowboys football operations facilities mentioned above, is a beast in itself even though it’s only a portion of The Star.
In addition to Cowboys practices and high school football games, Ford Center hosts soccer games, marching band competitions, track meets and commencement exercises. Its 12,000-seat capacity will expand to a currently unknown figure when it hosts concerts.
Ford Center at The Star (Cowboys/Jeremiah Jhass and James D. Smith)
The four locker rooms in Ford Center are more lavish than most visiting locker rooms in NFL stadiums. Which brings us back to why Jones made the connection to amateur sports.
Youth football is important to Jones, who played at the high school level in Little Rock, Ark. It was at that level where he learned a valuable life lesson.
“I had the honor of playing in the high school all-star game, and I went as a linebacker and a running back,” Jones said. “When I got to the all-star game I stayed at linebacker, but (my) position on offense was a lineman. So they were just beating the hell out of me. I quit and went home.
“My father came in from traveling and he said, ‘Son, if you lay in this bed, you’ll be a quitter the rest of your life.’ He said, ‘Do you like football?’ And I said, ‘Of course I do.’ And he said, ‘If I were you and they moved me to be the water boy, I believe I’d drown them. I wish you would get up, re-think your decision and go on.’
“That’s tough love, but that was an important time for me because it showed me that the game is not necessarily about how it’s dealt to you, it’s how you respond to it.”
Jones, a man who already has done enough for the NFL to earn his spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, still refuses to quit. Now he hopes his sharing of a new facility will start another trend.
“The point is it tangibly links the two together,” Jones said. “It really is a great example of how professional football can be a big facilitator to the success of amateur sports. You literally can have a quarterback of a high school team walk out there and basically see and maybe get a conversation with Dak Prescott, who’s walking off the field after practice.”
MORE: Stunning photos of The Star
Of course, for a man who’s worth more than $5 billion, looking beyond The Star’s wow factor is easy.
It’s not as easy for anybody else on the planet.
The Star is a modern football castle. It’s as much of a Cowboys museum as it is the Cowboys’ mansion. Even if Jones chooses not to admit it, the place is a football masterpiece.
And it’s not even finished.