The 665 acres of raw land, south of Highway 380 and a mile west of the Dallas North Tollway, has become the forbidden fruit for some of the area’s most avid golfers. Night after night, they find a way around the construction fencing and locked gates and strike golf balls until the wee hours of the morning.
Every morning, Jimmy Terry, PGA’s senior golf director, and the course maintenance crew return to find golf balls on the dirt-and- grass fairways that will eventually form the East and West public golf courses of the PGA’s new megaplex golf facility. It’s still nearly a year from opening.
“People think they’re getting away with something, but we know what’s going on,” he says. “We have cameras.”
A Texas native who spent several years in Florida, Terry expertly pilots his two-person gator tractor on this Monday morning in early March across the large facility. Though the facility is not complete, he envisions and describes a field of dreams that will inspire generations to come and kick-start economic prosperity for Frisco and the surrounding region.
The vast majority of the facility is open to the general public, including the three miles of walking and biking trails that encircle the complex. But they’re still working to finish several courses and plan to host a grand opening in June 2022.
On this Monday morning, Terry is taking Local Profile on a tour of the facility to showcase why it’s considered “Frisco’s Field of Dreams,” a kind of “if you build it, they will come” situation. But they didn’t just build this place for amateur and professional golfers: They want to attract non-golfers in hopes of spurring interest in a sport that desperately needs it. Most of the audience who enjoys golf (63%) are over age 55 and white (87%), according to an April 2017 MarketWatch report.
“This is not a place just for golf,” Terry says.“This is a place of golf.”
Of course, neither Terry nor anyone else can see this as he steers his motorized gator in between potholes and mud puddles from a recent rainstorm that empties into Panther Creek, which crisscrosses the facility at several places. But he can visualize it and translates his vision to those with him as he points to the nearby land rising and falling with uncertain precision and springtime wildflower-covered vistas.
It’s a similar vision that Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney saw when he attended the 2017 PGA Championship outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.“Walking away from that event I knew this is something we had to pursue for Frisco,” he says.“I knew we had to do it.”
They did so by offering land the city already owned and a $90 million tax abatement, which means PGA doesn’t pay property tax for 20 years. It’s something Cheney says they do all the time to entice businesses to the area. In the PGA Frisco case, the mayor says they looked at it as if they were partnering with a brand, similar to what they did with the Cowboys at the Star in Frisco, which he claims has been paying “excellent returns.”
They gave a similar deal to the Omni Hotel & Resort. The resort will offer 500 rooms and a 127,000-square-foot convention center, multiple pools, and private villas, not to mention fine dining, tennis, and other events that all overlook the golf courses. Dallas-based Omni CEO Robert Rowling and Dallas’ Stillwater Capital helped fund the project. Developer Jonas Woods is leading the project.
The city of Frisco also negotiated a deal for Frisco golfers to pay a reduced fee to play golf at the new facility. Cheney wagers the hike and bike trail around the facility will be popular with many Frisco residents.
Frisco officials estimate a $2.5 billion economic impact from the PGA Frisco project over the next 20 years, according to a spokesman.
“I don’t know why somebody would invest $500 million in a resort hotel in the middle of a pandemic or move their headquarters from Florida to Texas,” he adds.“But we’re certainly glad they did.”
PGA Executive Director Seth Waugh calls the Frisco facility “The Silicon Valley of golf.” PGA Frisco golf architect Gil Hanse refers to it as “The American St Andrews” in a nod to the Scottish birthplace of the game.
Frisco ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Waldrip says it will be an inspiration for student golfers. Of course, this inspiration did require Frisco ISD to contribute financially to the project. The school district joined with the city and the city’s economic and community development boards to come up with $35 million of the $520 million investment, according to a November 2020 report by Community Impact.
In return, the school district received exclusive space—about 200 x 150 yards—at a world-class golf facility for its golf teams and PE students to perfect their golfing skills and play occasional tournaments. They’ll also have access to professional golfers. It’s something not available to students anywhere else in Texas.
There’s also some benefit to the PGA. The newest Frisco high school, Panther Creek, which opens in fall 2022, is being built across the street from the Frisco practice facility and PGA headquarters, and could possibly serve as close-in parking for PGA Championship sponsors and fans during large golf tournaments. “Our students will get to see how they can prepare, practice and compete here at the highest level,” Waldrip says. “I can’t imagine what an inspiration that might be.”
From his golf cart, Terry passes the 250-yard practice range that the PGA plans to use exclusively for Frisco ISD golfers. “Just imagine you have some of the best golf teachers in the country next door,” he says. “They happen to come over to see your students or offer some tips, it would be a huge benefit to kids.”
This article originally appeared in our 2021 November/December issue of Local Profile magazine.