Frisco, Texas, Hosts Innovative Conference USA Tournament

By Matt Swenson, March 22, 2019

The team at Visit Frisco may be rewriting the book on how audiences experience the tipoff to March Madness.

When hosting Conference USA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament in early March, Frisco did anyway with some mainstays—including using a game-changing venue.

Namely, the tournament’s home through 2021 is The Ford Center at the Star, a 510,000-sq.-ft. facility that serves as the Dallas Cowboys world headquarters. “America’s Team” is listed as a co-host for the basketball tournament and the courts—yes, we said courts—are laid out on top of a football field.

While perhaps a little strange to some on the surface, the arrangement allows for an innovative experience. Because of the field’s sheer size, Conference USA is able to hold men’s and women’s games concurrently.

“Frisco is a great destination for our fans,” says Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod. “To be able to have our men’s and women’s tournaments together allows our schools to travel to one place with their bands, spirit squads and fans.”

The facility includes a giant sound curtain to eliminate most of the noise overflow and does not interfere with the players at all.

In many ways, you can argue the arrangement is the perfect embodiment of Title IX—men and women playing on the same level. That’s fitting for the only major conference with a female commissioner.

Frisco, a booming community outside of Dallas, also serves as a great equalizer hosting a conference with schools spread throughout half of the country. No team has a distinct advantage.

Another major perk is the site cuts down on pitfalls when tournaments are held on-campus at a member university. If the host school makes the final, the atmosphere is usually electric. But when the host team is eliminated, attendance drops dramatically.

Ultimately, the event feels grander because it’s all under one giant roof. Even early detractors, including athletic directors, are now proponents of Frisco’s format.

Frisco Scores Big

“We wanted to create a championship feel” says MacLeod. “When people come through our Fanfest in the plaza area of the Ford Center, we have activities, live music and other attractions. It really gives us a ‘wow factor’ for our fans.

“When added to working with a first-class organization in the Dallas Cowboys in a first-class facility, we have been able to provide a championship atmosphere.

That’s not an accident, says Josh Dill, director sports and events at Visit Frisco. “This is a very well thought out and executed event,” says Dill.

Dill points out the men’s Final Four long ago did away with playing on traditional basketball arenas. Large football stadiums are now the standard.

The Conference USA format is a preview of what teams hope to see during NCAA Tournament.

“What better way to prepare for that than to play in a football facility?” asks Dill. “It’s trying to tap into what into what some of these other tournaments could be.”

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