McFeely: Frisco’s latest attraction is impressive, but painful if you’re a Vikings fan

FRISCO, Texas — A heads-up to any North Dakota State football fans who might also cheer for the Minnesota Vikings: If you are in Frisco this week and plan on taking a tour of The Star, the world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys just down the road from Toyota Stadium, be prepared to have salt poured in an old wound.
While the $1.5 billion facility, new since the last time the Bison played for a national title two years ago, is rightly a shrine to the long and successful history of the Cowboys, there is one feature that can only be described as a twist of the knife to Vikings fans.
Hanging above a four-story staircase in the middle of the facility are dozens of frame-by-frame still photos depicting the infamous Hail Mary catch by Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson in the 1975 National Football League playoffs.
The 50-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Roger Staubach to Pearson at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, is one of the greatest Cowboys moments and one of the most well-known in NFL history. For Vikings fans, it remains one of the most painful chapters in a painful team history.
As you descend the staircase, you walk through the play — from Staubach waiting for the shotgun snap to Pearson, getting separation from defensive back Nate Wright to Pearson celebrating in the end zone after scoring a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a miraculous 17-14 victory that ended a promising Vikings season.
“I don’t know who thought of this,” said Cowboys head groundskeeper Chris Morrow, who was giving a behind-the-scenes tour for a small group of Fargoans. “But it’s pretty good. It’s pretty darned good.”
No, it’s genius. Much like the rest of The Star, which has become one of Frisco’s top tourist attractions since opening 18 months ago. Built on 91 acres, The Star includes high-tech practice facilities for the Cowboys including three practice fields, a 12,000-seat indoor stadium, a dining area run by master chefs, a massive weight room, a locker room and training room as fancy as they come, a meeting room that could double as a commercial movie theater, coaches offices, administrative offices and probably a dozen other amenities. As you approach the main entrance there is a 40-yard mini-field on which kids can play games. It is overshadowed by a 2,300-square foot video board that loops Cowboys highlights. Push through the glass doors into The Star’s atrium and you’ll be blown away by an LED sculpture that includes some 19,000 lights.
Everywhere you turn inside the facility, there is another reminder of Cowboys’ history — from Super Bowl trophies to walls serving as monuments to great players like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and so on.
“They didn’t cut any corners, no expenses spared,” said Richard McDonald, who helped design parts of the facility. “Just the details are amazing.”
McDonald is the North Dakota connection to The Star. A 1986 Bismarck St. Mary’s graduate, he got his landscape architecture degree from NDSU in 1992 and has been putting fields into sports facilities ever since. He’s overseen installation of playing surfaces into Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Coors Field in Denver, Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and many others.
McDonald’s main job at The Star was putting in a grass outdoor field, an artificial surface outdoor field and the artificial surface at the indoor stadium. It was a home game for McDonald — his home and business are located in McKinney, a neighboring suburb.
The Star was paid for by the Cowboys, the city of Frisco and Frisco’s school district. The indoor stadium is used regularly by high school football and soccer teams, marching bands and track teams. It has hosted concerts and high school commencements.
Surrounding the practice facility are shopping and restaurants, a high-end 16-story Omni hotel and apartment buildings. Next to the Cowboys administrative offices is commercial office space, where Frisco mayor Jeff Cheney rents space for his business.
“It has been a huge hit,” said Marla Roe, a spokesperson for the Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I can’t say it’s our biggest attraction, but it’s up there. People will want to see it when they are in town.”
That is true. Just be aware that if you’re a Vikings fan, you’re going to need some thick skin.