Many residents are still embarrassed about the great Frisco fumble at the goal line of the North Texas Arts Center project. Many more would be if they realized what a massive fumble it was. After leading a four city effort with millions in donations, including a spectacular piece of property, Frisco voted ‘no’ on its future.
See the Collin County Arts story. http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/2014/08/13/13745708/
That was nearly five years ago. Many things have changed. Frisco continues to be the second fastest growing city in the country. Now a new group of citizens is raising the issue again.
In joining the conversation, I have three points I would like to make.
Point One – Timing can be everything
In the early 1990s I lived in Seattle and attended many Mariners ball games in the old King Dome Stadium.
I recall when the Mariners weren’t doing all that well and wanted a new stadium. The King Dome was functional but not very spectacular; it was plain on the inside and downright ugly on the outside. In fact, I used to drive past the King Dome every day and contemplate what could be done to make it less ugly. I imagined all sorts of covering or additions. Finally, I just decided that there was really no way to fix it other than to tear it down and build something better in its place. I thought, ‘That will never happen!’
There was a lot of debate about public funding for the new stadium. Eventually, it was put to a statewide vote. Voters decisively voted it down.
Then a funny thing happened. The mariners started winning ball games. Those were the days of Ken Griffey Jr, and Randy Johnson. As the team won more and more games, public opinion suddenly began to change about the stadium. In a short while, the pervasive sentiment became overwhelming that they should have a new stadium. There was massive pressure on the state legislature to approve a plan that would provide some public funding. Lawmakers found themselves in an odd predicament being pressured to approve a plan that had just been rejected by voters a short time before. After some debate, they did and everyone was happy. Call it fickle if you wish, but that is how it happened.
Kingdome replacement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdome
Safeco Field https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safeco_Field
My point is that timing is everything. In that case, the public sentiment changed due to the excitement of having a winning ball team with some star players.
In our case, here and now, it is the fact that Frisco is booming. This is really different from how things were five years ago when the Collin County Arts Commission failed.
Five years ago, the economy was in a holding pattern at best. Enthusiasm for spending money on anything was weak. The Tea Party had a point. Well, that was then. Today, we have the Cowboys facility and the Six Billion (with a B) dollar mile.
Five billion dollar mile
Development is accelerating all around us. The time is right to ask again about an arts center. This time the answer should be easy. Really, the question should not be ‘If’, but the details of exactly ‘What, Where, and How’.
Point 2 – Appeal to a broader Audience
The Collin County Arts Commission seemed to be only about traditional performing arts, such as symphony and ballet. I think that’s where they missed the boat. Appealing to the wider citizenry means heralding a broader spectrum of genres. Voters need to feel like there would be performances that they would want to attend. Symphonies and ballet are fine but what about jazz, blues, and rock? Many classic rock performers are touring these days, gathering large crowds. The Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie is one example of a great venue for such events.
Point 3 – Make it something unique, something special
Great performers like to play in unique venues. A few years ago, I went to see Leon Russell at Gruene Hall near New Braunfels, in the Texas Hill Country. That old place is really just an old barn that is practically falling down. But people love it. Artists love it.
Frisco has a unique mix of old and new. We have technology companies relocating here and Frisco will soon be the home of a video game history museum. The impact of technology on our culture is huge. Frisco also has a very rich history. Integrating visual art that portrays such a mixture of local history with contemporary tech culture imagery is just one of the ways that this venue might be unique.
My point is that there are other cities with performing arts venues. Let’s make ours special.