Designing The Star Districtin Frisco Texas
More than a stadium, The Star in Frisco, Texas, is a first-of-its-kind complex that effectively reimagined how master planning can leverage mixed-use opportunities while catering to the demands of modern entertainment.
At O’Brien Architects, we turned what could have been just another stadium into a revolutionary project that encompasses the heartbeat of a national fanbase and forms the backbone for the local community. This is the process we undertook to make that happen.
The Star District
Blue Star Land, L.P. and Lincoln Property Company
Master Planning and Retail
Parrish Ruiz de Velasco
Size: 91 Acres
How O’Brien Made The Team
The Star was initially in the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, Lincoln Property Company, along with Gensler, who had already been hired to design the Ford Center at The Star. When this ownership group came together to hold a design competition to choose the master planner for the balance of the project, they saw presentations from some of the largest architecture firms in the world. But after a standout presentation that highlighted practicality by focusing on astounding but achievable visuals, we were honored to have claimed the prize, allowing us to lead and collaborate with firms like Gensler and Perkins & Will.
“They wanted the best and brightest ideas because this project represents a living legacy,” recalls Sean, CEO of O’Brien Architects. “They knew if they worked with us that it was going to be our most important project, and that we would pour all of our resources and skill into it.”
As with every project our firm takes on, Sean says the connection our team made with the Cowboys’ team was paramount to winning the bid. “They’re a family just like us and they wanted a trusted advisor that would support their vision and guide them through new perspectives.”
The core of our project revolved around the Dallas Cowboys. The Star needed to accommodate the team’s corporate headquarters and practice fields, but that took up only a fraction of the ninety-one acres that would eventually become Frisco’s premiere destination.
Our team carefully planned an entertainment district with restaurants and shops to cover the rest of the land. With the addition of an event center and hotel, the vision of The Star became more diverse, capable of accommodating concerts, conferences, and everything in between.
Our plan also included a medical center and leased office space, giving Frisco the chance to directly leverage The Star’s impact on the local economy. Other facilities were added to the plan, each new piece thoughtfully incorporating groundbreaking designs while efficiently utilizing every acre.
The goal was not to simply maximize capacity, but also to create an experiential destination of the Dallas Cowboy’s brand that would be immortalized as a timeless showcase of attentive planning. By blending creativity with the marketable adjacencies, we hoped to leverage the right metrics while captivating the developers—and every visitor to follow.
Balancing Exceptional and Practical
When dealing with a project of such massive scale, it can be easy to get swept away in dreaming up the spectacular and exceptional, but Sean says it was our team’s ability to constrain the project within the realm of reality that helped us win the bid and create something both feasible and unforgettable.
With football in mind, one key point of focus was choosing the best type of turf for the outdoor training fields. By conducting multiple solar studies, we were able to determine the best orientation and location for buildings.
Once the main designs were taken care of, the focus shifted to meeting the financial goals while surpassing each stakeholder’s expectations about the project.
“We had so many innovative ideas, but we knew we needed to think about the practicalities of things like occupancy and leasing,” Sean explains. Out of all of the challenges, designing a space-saving parking solution was one of the most difficult.
To make the most of the land that was available, two large parking structures were a must, but our team wanted to leverage this necessity by designing retail space alongside it. This created some aesthetic challenges that required creative solutions.
With each parking garage being sixty feet tall and the retail around it being only half that, our team had to make it cohesive. The retail was designed to sit on the main street, meaning it would have endless attention. Additionally, with the beautiful Ford Center at The Star towering over it, there were scaling challenges to contend with.
To solve these challenges, our team invested a great deal of time into studying the dimensions and mass of the center’s design. We were able to focus on proportions that would please the eye and create a seamless landscape all the way down the street.
“By utilizing different stopping points, like the sculptures, it creates a cadence as you go towards the field,” explains Sean. One of the most recognizable sculptures is the Ring of Honor, which was designed in ten-yard increments so it could be carried right onto the field.
Paying close attention to such small details when working on such a massive scale takes teamwork. To bring this vision to life, our O’Brien Architects worked closely with the city planner and more than thirty civil engineers, brokers, and developers to coordinate the timely execution of the project.
Years later, The Star is still enjoying endless fanfare and solidifying itself as an iconic landmark in Frisco, Texas.
A Vision of Generational Impact and Inspiration
The Star District has also ushered in a new standard in mixed-use. “This project offers so much to the Cowboys and to Frisco, but the biggest win is its legacy—that’s going to last forever.”
It is a perfect example of what’s possible when talented teams come together with the community to focus not on density or quantity, but rather on designing timeless experiences.
Creating exceptional experiences starts with a trusted advisor who maximizes every opportunity to create memorable moments. Our team at O'Brien embraces a collaborative design approach that is open, interactive, and imaginative. To us, realizing your vision takes more than a process and result. It takes a team to guide the journey and form relationships along the way. Let's build your brand together.
Lucy BillingsleyBillingsley Company
"Sean O’Brien and team have the creativity, alacrity and flexibility to be great design partners. They listen closely and then bring all the historical architectural smarts and a fresh eye to creating places where you’d like to be. They first think through making the public realm inviting and then enrich that with great architecture."