Welcome to the WSOTP Stadium Guide, the latest major undertaking on here on Wrong Side of the Pond. With traveling supporters steadily becoming a fixture at MLS matches, there aren’t a lot of great resources for visiting fans to research ahead of their travels. Over the next few seasons, I aim to visit and provide an up close and personal look at each of the 19 (soon to be 20) MLS stadiums to help fill that void. I’ll also take opinion from the locals, as the Supporters who call each stadium home know it far better than I ever will. To see the full list of stadium reviews, click here.
|TOYOTA STADIUM QUICK GUIDE|
|Address||9200 World Cup Way Frisco, TX|
|Home Club||FC Dallas|
|Opened||August 6, 2005|
|Soccer Specific Stadium||Yes|
|GETTING TO THE STADIUM|
|From Out of Town?|
|MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE|
|Parking / Tailgating|
|Tickets / Where to Sit|
|Suites & Special Seating|
|Food & Beer|
|BEHIND THE SCENES|
|The Field of Play / WSOTP Pitch Pass|
|Meeting the Players|
Stop #3 on the WSOTP Stadium Guide Tour brings me to the “Big D” — well, north of Dallas to be exact — to visit FC Dallas and their newly renamed Toyota Stadium. Not to be confused with Chicago’s Toyota Park, which I’ve already visited.
My visit to Dallas was actually the first of two stops I made in Texas during the first weekend of September — the second being Houston a day later — and I was joined for both by my dad. It was the first trip I’ve made just with him since my last club soccer tournament back in high school, so it was great to spend some QT with my namesake. This was also the first of the stadiums I’ve visited on this tour that I’ve not actually been to before, which made things a little bit more exciting.
That said, I was greeted by Dallas’ infamous summer heat, with temperatures in excess of 100º. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how people can live there, let alone play soccer in that type of weather. Luckily, the match we were treated to in Frisco — a come-from-behind FC Dallas 3-1 win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps — didn’t kick off until the cooler evening hours, so I was actually rather comfortable despite the earlier day’s searing temperatures.
Before I get started with the guide, I wanted to give a special thanks to my gracious hosts — FCD’s Director of Public Relations, Leigh Anne Gullet, and Dallas Football Elite president Sean Dorwaldt — for showing me around their respective digs and for helping me to put thins whole thing together.
GETTING TO THE STADIUM
From Out of Town?
The third largest city in Texas by population, Dallas is really spread out. In fact, Toyota Stadium isn’t actually even in Dallas-proper, but rather in neighboring Frisco to the North. And much like Chicago’s similarly named stadium, one of the main complaints is just how far away it is. But actually getting to the city is a snap, and there’s a highway heading to pretty much everywhere… though it will likely have a toll.
Fans flying to a match will most likely be flying into Dallas/Forth Worth International (DFW), which is one of the busiest airports on the planet. DFW is roughly 26 miles southwest of the stadium, and you’ll either need to rent a car or catch a cab to get there. The city is also serviced by the smaller Dallas Love Field (DAL), which features budget carriers closer to downtown. If you’re not a fan of flying, you can also find your way to the city by way of train or bus.
Fans staying over night have a litany of hotel options, including one within walking distance of the stadium (a Comfort Inn), and many just a short drive further. A bonus? Many of the hotels in the area are rather new, as Frisco and neighboring Plano have seen massive development over the last 10 years. But no matter your price point, odds are you’ll be able to find a place to rest your head.
Driving to the Stadium
If you’ve never driven in metropolitan Texas, there are two things you need to be aware of: toll roads and heavy traffic. Oddly enough, the two are connected to one another, as the Texas Department of Transportation built the 90+ miles of toll roads to ease congestion on the free highways. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. And predictably, the only highway the leads to FC Dallas’ stadium in Frisco is one of those toll roads. Also be mindful that NONE of Dallas’ tolls take cash, and you’ll need a tag (EZtags or TxTag) which conveniently do come on most rental cars at the airports. If that’s not enough to scare you off from driving — and really, there aren’t many other options aside from cabbing it — then click here to Google your own directions, or you can follow the ones below:
- From the South: Go North on US-75 until you reach 635 West. Take 635 West and exit the Dallas North Tollway going North. Continue on the Tollway and exit Main St./Cotton Gin Rd. Stadium will be on your right.
- Alternate route #1 from the South: Go North on US-75 to 121 S. Take 121 S to the Dallas North Tollway. Proceed North on the Tollway and exit Main St./Cotton Gin Rd. Stadium will be on your right.
- Alternate route #2 from the South (NO TOLLS): Take Preston (State Hwy 289) North all the way to Main and turn left. The stadium will be on your right after about a mile. Note that this route will likely take a little bit longer than most of the highway routes.
- From the East: Travel West on 635 until you reach the Dallas North Tollway. Take the Tollway North and exit Main St./Cotton Gin Rd. Stadium will be on your right.
- From the West: Travel East on 635 until you reach the Dallas North Tollway. Take the Tollway North and exit Main St./Cotton Gin Rd. Stadium will be on your right.
- From the North: Travel South (from US 35E or US-75) to HWY 380. From US-35, take HWY 380 East to the Dallas North Tollway. From US-75, take HWY 380 West to the Dallas North Tollway. Proceed South on the Tollway and exit Main St./Cotton Gin Rd. Stadium will be on your left. SOURCE
Public Transportation Options
Dallas has public transportation in the form of busses and light rail, but unfortunately, none of them reach far enough North to access Frisco. The closest anything will get you is a bus ride dropping you off 5 and half miles away from the stadium.
Luckily, the newly established FCD Express is there to fill the void. This new program, started by the club and endorsed by the supporters groups, runs two separate routes to ferry fans from various bars around greater Dallas: a Blue Route and a Red Route, with future routes to be added in the future. For just $25 dollars you can catch a ride to and from the game and land a ticket to the Budweiser Beer Garden. Stand-alone round-trip bus tickets are also available for $10. Return bus trips depart the stadium 20 minutes after the final whistle.
- The Blue Route: The first stop departs from British Beverage Company near downtown two hours before kickoff, and then proceeds to World of Beer near SMU an hour and a half before kickoff.
- The Red Route: Departing from the Londoner in Addison an hour and a half before the match, it then stops at The Ginger Man in Plano where it leaves an hour before kickoff.
For further information on FCD Express, click here.
MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE
Parking and Tailgating
There’s a plethora of parking available at Toyota Stadium, and unlike most MLS stadiums, much of it is free. Only parking in the Gold and Platinum lots costs anything, but those lots are only available to those who purchased premium/reserved seating. However the Red and Blue lots are completely free, though on a first-come-first-serve basis. RV parking is allowed within the free lots too, though you’re not to take up any more than four marked spaces. And though the lots technically open 2.5 hours before each match, I found that you could park in the Red and Blue lots as early as 5 hours before hand. Not that anyone’s aiming to spend five hours in the scorching Texas heat, but suffice to say, there’s ample time for tailgating. Oh, and one more things: not that this should surprise you, but golf carts or ATV’s are not allowed in the lots.
When it comes tailgating, you’re allowed to do so in any of the lots so long as you don’t take up any extra spaces. However, many of the supporters groups have designated areas where they normally set up camp before matches. For example, the Dallas Beer Guardians tailgate together in the Blue Lot on the southeastern side of the stadium in the grassy area just below the lot. However other SG’s, such as the Dallas Football Elite, have pre-match parties at local pubs… (check out information on this below)
Dallas has a litany of soccer pubs, one of which is literally right next to the stadium. As mentioned above, four bars — British Beverage Co., World of Beer, Londoner Addison and The Ginger Man Addison – offer bus service to and from FC Dallas Stadium. But the Londoner Frisco, just on the West side of the Red Lots, is actually the home base prior to matches for supporters group Dallas Football Elite. According to Sean Dorwaldt, president of the DFE:
If you show up at the Londoner wearing the DFE main color of blue, you can partake in our pre-match festivities upstairs. We have a different local brewery sponsor every one of our pre-matches at the Londoner. Since we are upstairs this gives our group a good spot to meet up and drink either for free or at a low discounted price. 30 minutes prior to kickoff all the fans and supporters go to the stadium.
Tickets / Where to Sit
As is the case in most MLS stadiums, tickets for FC Dallas games (available through the club website) are fairly affordable. Single game tickets run anywhere from $18 on the Budweiser Beer Garden on the stage, and up to $300 for midfield River Club seats. However, decent seats can be had for as lows $24 in the southern end corners. Season ticket rates will run you anywhere from $300-$5850, depending on where you want to sit. See the stadium seating chart. Will Call, along with walk up ticket sales, is located on the East side of the stadium.
A lot of fans have also given me feedback saying that you can snare tickets way below face value on sites like StubHub, so you might want to give that a try too if you’re on a budget.
Supporters’ Groups Seating
The home supporters take up residence in three areas of the stadium, and which you choose may be down to how you want to support. The largest of them are the Beer Guardians and the Inferno – taking up residence on the Budweiser Beer Garden on the North end stage — and are known for their constant singing, drum banging and other craziness. The other is more of an English-style supporters section in the Dallas Football Elite, who sit in Section 103 and are better known for heckling the opposing team whose bench is situated right in front of them. Smaller groups also exist in Section 101 (Red Shamrock) and a growing Panamanian support that sit in Section 117.
Traveling in to support your team from out-of-town? Visiting fans are normally placed in the opposite side of the stadium, in Sections 112 and 113 in the Southwest corner.
Suites & Special Seating
FC Dallas Stadium offers 17 luxury suites, all of which are situated on the Western stand above sections 102-110, all of which have access to the River Club (more on this in a moment) as well as their own private concourse. Most are corporately-leased on a yearly basis, though some are available on a per game basis. Each suite can accommodate up to 16 guests, and provides VIP parking in the Platinum Lot, catering services, and a personal service attendant. Contact Kris Katseanes at 469-365-0045 to inquire about availability.
The suites are predictably nice, but as mentioned above, they also provide access to the River Club. This climate controlled area below the Luxury Suite level features a full-service bar with upscale beer and drink offerings, a buffet of appetizers and entrees, and a panoramic view of the stadium through floor-to-ceiling windows facing the pitch. But the real jewel of the River Club are the reserved, leather recliner seats that sit just in front of the windows called Loge Seats. But as you might expect, they can be pretty pricey at $300 for a single game seat.
Additional options also exist, such as pitch side seating and Section 100 seating which features open air seating with its own private bar.
Food & Beer
There are twelve permanent concession stands around the stadium concourse serving the usual American sporting event staples (hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, nachos, etc.), alongside a highly recommended Mac & Cheese and the Texas BBQ Brisket. Additionally, a number of mobile food vendors can be found on the northern concourse plaza that provide other offerings. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’ve got a decent selection to wet your whistle. Standard macros of both American and Mexican variety are to be expected at most of the concessions. Premium beers are available, but they’re more of the macro-distributed types than they are of the local craft variety.
That said, there are numerous food and beverage options within a short walk of the stadium, such as the already mentioned Londoner, Two Brothers and Jake’s Burger. You’ll be likely to find a far larger selection of craft beers and unique eats in those areas as opposed to what you’ll find once in the stadium.
Game Day Fan Activities
Maybe it was just the day that I visited the stadium, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on before the match aside from tailgating. That said, FC Dallas do have a rather unique tradition that occurs before each home match: “the Scarfing” of the Lamar Hunt statue on the stadium’s north concourse. Each match, a prominent member of the community tied to the club (a youth player, a major sponsor, special fans, etc.) is selected to climb a ladder and to wrap an FC Dallas scarf around the club/league pioneer’s neck. When I visited, it just so happened to be former Dallas Stars goalkeeper Marty Turco.
BEHIND THE SCENES
FC Dallas building their home well north of the city did provide one massive upside: they had ample room to not only build a stadium, but also a plethora of additional fields. In total, the stadium and 17 “tournament grade” fields are situated north of the stadium, three of which are artificial turf. The closest natural pitch is used only for first team training sessions but the rest are used by FC Dallas Academy for training and matches.
Locker rooms are a plenty at Toyota Stadium, as the visiting locker room can be broken up into four smaller rooms. And with the on-site practice pitches situated just north of the stadium, both home and away locker rooms are also located on the same side of the stadium to ease access. The home locker room itself — so far at least — is the largest I’ve seen for an MLS side. So much room for activities, as Will Ferrell might say. An adjacent break room, where the team will eat meals together and relax, separates the locker room from the in-house training facilities. Treatment rooms, two full-sized, in-ground whirlpools and a nice weight training and fitness area: a top class set up, with all of the modern amenities you would expect for a professional team.
The Field of Play
You have to hand it to the grounds crew: despite being subjected to the relentless central-Texas sun and heat, the pitch at Toyota Stadium is was in excellent condition ahead of the match against Vancouver. And for that reason, the staff was understandably protective of it. Regardless, I was still able to get a great photosphere view of the 117×74 Bermuda grass pitch before the match.
Meeting the Players
Want a chance to meet the stars on the pitch for the Hoops? Occasionally you can snare an autograph along the edge of the Budweiser Beer Garden as they make their way to and from locker room prior to/after a match. There’s also off-site event tour called the Party at the Pub, where FCD players will celebrity bar tend and make appearances at pubs around greater Dallas and Ft. Worth (click here for further information). Additionally, players are known to come by the Londoner Frisco on the opposite side of the parking lot after matches.
The coolest thing I learned about Toyota Stadium during my time there isn’t so much a feature, so much as it is a practice. Earlier I mentioned that the visiting locker room could be converted into four smaller locker rooms, but I didn’t really elaborate on it. The reason why they would make that curious choice? It’s actually so the three FC Dallas Developmental Academy sides (U-14, U-16 and U-18′s) can use them. That’s right, the kids get to use the same locker rooms as the pros. And as a kid, to me at least, that would have been a massive bit of motivation to keep pushing myself.
Thanks for reading my review of the FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium! Have a suggestion or see an inaccuracy? Be sure to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.