FRISCO — Frisco’s latest development project will bring a huge cast of superheroes, television stars and motion picture greats to Collin County.
Universal Parks & Resorts — the theme park arm of entertainment giant NBCUniversal — has bought a site on the Dallas North Tollway for a new kids-themed park and hotel. The almost 100-acre planned entertainment hub will be located on the Dallas North Tollway in the $10 billion Fields development.
Frisco officials and executives with Universal announced plans Wednesday for the groundbreaking new development after months of planning and negotiations. The Orlando-based company acquired the land for the theme park in December using a shell company based in Delaware, county records show.
The project will be designed to appeal to families, with immersive experiences making it a one- to two-day destination, said Mark Woodbury, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts. The park will include four or five Universal-themed interactive experiences as well as a 300-room hotel.
“You have a fantastic town,” Woodbury said, describing Frisco. “It’s vibrant and full of energy and full of young families, which make it the perfect place for what we are doing.
“We have a portfolio of terrific attractions that appeals to young families around the world,” he said. “We had an idea to bring all those together and create a destination that is specially designed to appeal to families with young children. It will be a rich, rich experience for families to enjoy together — to create memories that will last a lifetime.”
Woodbury said the park attractions will be “built around a lush landscaped environment.”
Universal executives didn’t provide a timetable for the project. Property sale records indicate that the company plans to open the park in the next four years.
Mayor Jeff Cheney called it a “one-of-a-kind” project and said Universal considered sites around the globe.
“Families for generations to come will get to experience immersive environments with the stories they love,” he said. “They were looking not just anywhere in the country but someplace in the world to launch this.
“They decided North Texas would be a good fit,” Cheney said. “All of you can see why they chose Frisco — Frisco is known for being family-friendly.”
Unlike Universal Studios’ sprawling parks in Orlando, Los Angeles and abroad, the Frisco development will be a much smaller attraction.
“The park is roughly a quarter of size of our big parks in Orlando,” Universal Parks’ president of new ventures Page Thompson said. “It’s full of family-friendly attractions, interactive and playful shows.
“You’ll have meet and greets with all of our beloved Universal characters.”
The project at the northeast corner of the tollway and Panther Creek Parkway will also include retail stores and restaurants, according to the agreement with Fields developers.
Frisco officials teased the project on Tuesday as a “major economic and tourism development” when they sent out invitations to Wednesday’s press conference.
Plans for the Frisco Universal theme park come after decades of speculation that entertainment companies including Disney were scouting North Texas for a theme park.
The Frisco Universal park will join the PGA of America’s new golfing resort as major attractions in the Fields community, which has been in the works for four years.
The Frisco Fields development, which stretches between Preston Road and U.S. Highway 380, is planned to include as many as 14,000 homes and apartments plus commercial space. Developers Karahan Cos. and Hunt Realty are building the Fields community in partnership with investors Chief Partners and Crosstie Capital.
A part of the Comcast entertainment conglomerate, NBCUniversal is best known for its television programming and box office hit movies. The company’s theme park business generates billions of dollars a year in revenue from its signature properties in Florida, California, Asia and Spain.
The huge Universal Orlando Resort draws more than 10 million visitors a year. The Orlando park has more than five times the amount of acreage than what’s planned in Frisco.
Universal Orlando showcases attractions based on popular motion pictures including Harry Potter, E.T., the Minions and The Mummy. There are resort hotels, restaurants, stores and of course thrill rides.
Universal’s theme park business employs more than 28,000 people worldwide.
The Universal Studios theme park in Frisco will occupy land that was previously planned for mixed-use construction.
“This is another huge thing for both our project and Frisco,” Fields developer Fehmi Karahan said.
Frisco’s city council has scheduled a Wednesday night meeting to talk to homeowners about the planned development. It will be held at the Trent Middle School just south of the Fields development.
“Of course our planning and zoning still has some work to do on this project,” Cheney said.
Diane Hornquist works with the general counsel to oversee legal activities associated with various land development and operating company initiatives. Hornquist began her legal career at the Dallas office of Jackson Walker LLP in the real estate section.
Mike Wallace is responsible for all aspects of Hunt Realty Investments overseeing the firm’s direct-owned real estate portfolio, operating company investments and other real estate activities. He is responsible for sourcing and structuring all new investment activity, as well as Hunt Realty’s interaction and investment relationship with other Hunt-related entities.
Throughout his career, he has been involved in investments in single-assets, real estate portfolios, distressed loan portfolios and private and publicly-traded companies including equity, preferred equity, mezzanine and participating debt investments. His experience spans a broad array of product sectors including office, multi-family, hospitality, retail, senior living, student housing, industrial, residential and land.
Prior to joining Hunt Realty, Wallace was with The Hampstead Group, a Dallas-based real estate private equity fund which invested approximately $1 billion on behalf of institutional and private investors. While at The Hampstead Group, his responsibilities included new investment opportunities in real estate portfolios, publicly-traded companies and distressed loan portfolio acquisitions as well as management of the fund’s investments. He also previously worked for EFO Realty, a real estate opportunity fund where he sourced and structured joint-venture equity investments.
Chris Kleinert is CEO and president of Hunt Consolidated Investments, LLC, and Co-CEO of its holding company, Hunt Consolidated, Inc. He is president of Hunt Realty Investments and oversees the operations of both Hunt Investment Group and Hoodoo Land and Cattle Company, as well as the financial activities of the holding company. Other business interests of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. include oil and gas exploration and production, petroleum refining, electric power generation and transmission. Kleinert’s affiliation with Hunt Consolidated began in 1996. Kleinert received an MBA with a concentration in finance from Texas Christian University and a BBA in marketing from Southern Methodist University. Prior to joining Hunt, he was employed by Texas Commerce Bank (now JPMorgan Chase) and General Mills. Kleinert serves on the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University and SMU’s Tate Lecture Board of Directors. He also serves on the Neeley School of Business International Board of Visitors at Texas Christian University, the Board of Trustees of the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Board of Directors of Amegy Bank -Dallas, and the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors. Kleinert chairs the Board of Directors of the newly created Men’s Advocacy Group for New Friends New Life. In 2009, Chris and his wife, Ashlee, founded Executives in Action (EIA), a nonprofit organization that leveraged the talent and expertise of executives in transition with local charitable organizations to enhance their productivity, efficiency and overall impact. In 2016, EIA merged 4 with New York-based Catchafire, Inc. to form Catchafire North Texas and expand the number of volunteers and nonprofits that can be matched nationally.