FC Dallas to call Pizza Hut Park home
Wednesday morning marked a historic accomplishment for soccer, locally and nationally, as the official name for the new stadium in Frisco -- Pizza Hut Park -- was unveiled.
Pizza Hut Park, which is slated to open Aug. 6, is the league's third soccer-specific stadium to be built after Columbus Crew Stadium and The Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.
Pizza Hut becomes the first quick service restaurant to put its name on a stadium, and Pizza Hut Park will be the first large-scale facility of its kind: a major hub for professional and youth soccer in North Texas. Pizza Hut's main offices are just a few minutes south of the new stadium, which adds to the community spirit of the project.
"We believe this facility will be the largest and most comprehensive soccer complex anywhere in the world," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "Not in Manchester United do they have a stadium with 17 fields around it, not in Juventus in Italy, not in Barcelona in Spain.
"This is a unique model that is the result of the vision that the City Council, the Hunt family, and FISD [Frisco Independent School District] had now with Pizza Hut to create the new model for a professional soccer complex."
To get so many different entities on board for a development of this size is an accomplishment unto itself.
"The spirit of cooperation between the City of Frisco, Collin County and the school district is inspiring," said FC Dallas investor/operator Lamar Hunt. "In all my years in professional soccer, football, and basketball, this is absolutely the most creative partnership I've seen.
"Today brings a particular validation to MLS for a different reason, because one of America's best companies has stepped forward and joined their name with this sport for at least the next 20 years."
The 20-year commitment is huge for FC Dallas in terms of revenue; to go from paying rent at the Cotton Bowl to now having the option of selling the naming rights is a huge step for the organization.
"Without a naming rights partner it's not impossible but it's more difficult to be financially viable," said FC Dallas General Manager Greg Elliot. "To find a company that literally was at the top of our list, when we sat down and made a list of companies that was a consumer/demographic fit -- was local which is extremely important to us and a global brand that everybody has heard of -- it's an absolute homerun for us in that regard."
Pizza Hut president Peter Hearl looks at the project as more than just slapping the company name on a building.
"Deeply important to us is that the relationship with FC Dallas and Hunt Sports Group goes beyond park itself," Hearl said. "Not only will we create individual promotions for FC Dallas inside the park, we will also be looking to extend the partnership into the community at large."
The community should benefit greatly from this partnership and the local youth players will have an opportunity to interact with and learn from the FC Dallas players.
"Here we're connecting the dots between the youth and the pros," Garber said. "Little kids can play and aspire to be Carlos Ruiz or Eddie Johnson and being able to have them see those people -- their idols and future icons of the sport -- is a really strategic move on our part."
The forward thinking and vision displayed by Garber and Hunt make this day one to remember. Hunt, as the team owner, has shown great vision in the past with the NFL and his Kansas City Chiefs. He is now extending that legacy and ingenuity into soccer.
"How about the name 'Super Bowl'? Yes, that was Lamar Hunt," Elliott said. "How about the American Football League? That was Lamar Hunt's doing along with other partners; he also had the vision to be a charter investor in MLS and help build the sport over the last decade."
Scott Joiner is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to Major League Soccer or its clubs.