The day after Valentine’s day, Geneva Polster’s husband made an impulse buy.
The Academy of Country Music Awards would be coming to Frisco in a few months, and he had bought tickets.
They were more into country music from the 1990s and didn’t really know any of the new artists. At the time, her husband said he could always resell the tickets later on as the event got closer.
Then she found out that Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks would be hosting the show.
“You’re not selling our tickets,” Polster told her husband. “We are going.’”
So on Thursday, May 11, the Polsters left their Frisco home at about 4 p.m. They parked at The Star 17 minutes later, got some appetizers at Mi Cocina and shopped at Dolly Parton’s nearby pop-up store.
At around 5:45 p.m. they walked into The Ford Center at The Star. The venue had been transformed from a football field and Dallas Cowboys' training facility that also plays host to high school graduations and local sporting events into an epicenter for country music swathed in dark backdrops, illuminated with gold and blue lighting and enhanced with two performance stages.
Then, at 7 p.m., they sat back to watch Frisco history unfold.
‘The epitome of what this was designed for’
“Welcome to our house.”
With four words, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott set the stage for a music-filled evening in the heart of Sports City, USA.
From the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Frisco, ACM nominee Kane Brown sang an ode to being buried in Georgia. Lainey Wilson dazzled with a spark-filled performance of “Grease.” Ed Sheeran and Luke Combs drew cheers with a duet performance of “Life Goes On.” The War and Treaty captured the audience with a gripping performance of “Blank Page.”
From a fiery stage, Dolly Parton urged for a better world and called for listeners to “rise above” “make a stand” and “lend a hand” in a chilling premiere of her new single, “World on Fire.”
For one evening, a globally-spanning show celebrating the arts and music found a home in Frisco, particularly in the Ford Center at The Star. And it wasn’t happenstance.
“This is like the epitome of what this was designed for,” said Scott Armstrong, principal with architecture, design and planning firm Gensler about the Ford Center.
Even from the design phase, the venue was always considered a multi-use event center, said Armstrong, who served as project architect.
“That’s how we described it or talked about it as a project,” he said. “I mean, from the very get-go, it was always thought to be a very flexible, very adaptable type of facility that could do all sorts of stuff.”
For a space designed specifically for flexibility, Armstrong said considerations went into multiple aspects of the venue including the dome structure itself, which is designed to support a variety of uses. Work was done with structural engineers that focused on the structure’s rigging capabilities. The setup lends itself to having pyrotechnic capabilities and smoke control. There were even considerations for loading capabilities and satellite hookups. The venue can seat about 12,000 with an additional 10,000 on the floor, equating to a 22,000 seated facility, Armstrong said.
A lot of work also went into venue acoustics, Armstrong said, including considerations for rigging of sound-absorbent materials.
For Polster, walking into the venue felt like an optical illusion — it felt bigger, said, and the sound quality was amazing.
“I could not believe it, and I was so excited,” Polster said. “And then I kept thinking, ‘Okay, we can have more concerts here hopefully.’”
For Armstrong, who lives in Frisco, the venue’s ability to host the Academy of Country Music Awards is the pinnacle of expectations for the facility.
“That’s, I guess, the best part, is just seeing this totally maximized to its full potential is huge,” he said.
Since opening in 2016, the venue at The Star has hosted an array of events including gymnastics competitions, basketball championships, high school football games, marching band performances and now, the ACM Awards.
Looking back at all the center has hosted, Armstrong gives credit to the Dallas Cowboys organization.
“They are a very forward-thinking organization, and they’re always thinking, ‘Well what can we do next? What’s the next big thing we can try to do?” he said.
He also gives kudos to the city of Frisco, which is a partner in the public-private partnership that resulted in the Ford Center at The Star.
“They have that kind of can-do Texas spirit of, ‘Let’s make it happen. We can’t say no. Let’s figure out the yes,’” he said.
‘Historic for Frisco’
When Polster gets in her car these days, the radio is tuned to the country station on Sirius XM — she’s listening to the country artists she saw live just days before.
“Never heard of Jelly Roll. Now I’m a fan. Never heard of Lainey Wilson. Now I’m a fan,” she said. “It’s opened our eyes to other artists that are popular now.”
A Frisco resident of 23 years, Polster has witnessed the milestones that have brought Frisco to its current identity. And she continues to see the story of her home unfold — Polster notes that the brand-new PGA Frisco site is slated to host its first major championship just days later.
“It’s historic for Frisco, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of all the great things that are happening here,” she said. “I can’t even describe the emotion that I have knowing that this is the place I call home now.”
- Photos by Audrey Henvey | Star Local Media
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