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Frisco City Council approves Universal theme park permit after multiple delays

A rendering of the Universal Studios park coming to Frisco.
Universal Parks & Resorts
A rendering of the Universal Studios park coming to Frisco.

The theme park aimed at families with young children is coming to North Texas after local officials made a major push.

The permit for the Universal Parks & Resorts Frisco theme park crossed the finish line despite the outrage of some members of the public.

Both the Frisco City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the permit with separate votes at a joint meeting on Tuesday. The council voted 4-2 with one abstention, while the commission’s vote was unanimous.

The vote had been postponed twice in response to complaints from several residents. Concerns included a potential increase in crime, traffic, lower property values and even fears a casino would eventually open at the site.

“The public really influenced this project, probably more than any case I've worked on in 15 years,” Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the park’s proponents pulled out all the stops to persuade those who didn’t want it, with city staff members sharing presentations that lauded the park’s economic benefits and addressed traffic concerns.

Assistant City Manager Ben Brezina said the theme park is estimated to bring in an annual sales tax revenue of about $3 million.

“That goes to pay for all the city services we all enjoy,” Brezina said.

But resident John Pavle said the economic benefits of the park aren’t worth the risk, stressing that the city is already growing fast enough without the park’s help.

“The people of Frisco are being exploited for money,” Pavle said. “This is not going to make Frisco better.”

Several park opponents live in the city’s Cobb Hill neighborhood, which is close to the proposed site for the theme park. A big concern was that the park would exacerbate traffic congestion.

But Joel Fitts, transportation planning manager for Frisco, said the park’s traffic will likely have less of an impact than what is generated by other kinds of development like a mixed-use building. Fitts said Universal is expected to have about 7,600 visitors on weekdays, compared to more than 28,000 at an office park.

City staff said the theme park will operate on 30 of the location’s 97 acres of land. That’s about a quarter of the size of Universal parks in Orlando and Hollywood.

The Frisco park’s normal hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with exceptions for holidays and annual passholders. There will also be parking available on site.

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Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.