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Dr Pepper StarCenter Opens In McKinney

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

McKINNEY - What an incredible facility!

After a lengthy negotiation process followed by an unusually swift construction process, the brand new Dr Pepper StarCenter McKinney at Craig Ranch officially opened on Saturday. 

At the Grand Opening ceremony, McKinney mayor Brian Loughmiller used the over-sized scissors to cut the symbolic ribbon and the beautiful new building was ready for business. With two ice sheets, the 14th and 15th operated by the Dallas Stars in their eighth Dr Pepper StarCenter in the Metroplex, the facility was overflowing with a large crowd of excited hockey players and figure skaters.

In addition to the new ice surfaces, the new building’s full-service pro shop, snack bar, and adult bar area (cleverly called The Crossbar) were also open.

Officials get ready for the official ribbon-cutting
As part of the celebration, residents got to enjoy an hour and a half of free public skating on one rink while a highly-entertaining game of kids under eight from McKinney against the Texas Aces took place on the other. Then the McKinney High School squad, which will call the sparkling new facilities home, took on Frisco High School in a pre-season match-up, while figure skating exhibitions occupied the other rink. 

Besides all that, there were free Dr Pepper drinks, face-painting and balloon animals for kids, Ice Girls, registration for free skating lessons and to top it all off, complimentary tickets given away for a Stars pre-season game next week at the American Airlines Center. 

“Every time we open one of these, of course, it’s very exciting and it expands opportunities for more kids to start playing hockey, and hopefully more Stars fans in the long run,” noted Ed Reusch, Dallas Stars Vice President in charge of Dr Pepper StarCenters. “We’re really excited about this one because it’s a little different than our others. It’s a different set-up, it’s going to operate differently. We’re very excited. We think it looks great, we think it feels great, we think it’s going to bring more people into both figure skating and hockey, because it’s really just a fun building to be in.”

The new rink, located at 6993 Stars Way near the corner of Alma Road and Collin McKinney Parkway, does have some unique aspects compared to the other Dr Pepper StarCenters. It features a large, wide open lobby area that contains every amenity in a centralized location, instead of having the snack bar or party rooms on a second floor, far removed from the ice surfaces. Here, the party rooms are located in between the two rinks, with doors opening up to either one.

“For one thing, it’s only a one-storey building, most of ours are two-storey,” Reusch noted. “So for example, a birthday party has access directly to the ice, so you can go out and come into your party room, have a piece of cake and go back out on the ice. We’ve got a lot more activity out in the lobby - we’ve got the store in the lobby, we’ve got the grill, you’ve got the bar down there, so we’ve got lots of excitement. It’s a better layout and just a more comfortable place to be. Better, newer type of lighting for the rinks, it’s brighter - it’s just a really good set-up.” 

The impressive new facility is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, with a complex partnership forged between the Stars, the city of McKinney, the McKinney Community Development Corporation (MCDC), the Craig Ranch organized community, Balfour Beatty Construction and the Boka Powell architect firm, among many others. 

“There’s a lot of people that have been involved in this,” pointed out Randy Locey, the Stars’ Executive Vice President, Business Operations. “It seems like just yesterday we did the ground-breaking, it was windy and hot out there. And all of a sudden, here we are and we’re open - it’s pretty amazing. It looks great, definitely a little bit different than our other facilities, but we love the end result that we have.”

“This project is a perfect example of what we can do when we partner with other people like the Stars, like MCDC, to bring recreational facilities to the community,” said Mayor Loughmiller, already wearing his skates during the opening ceremony.

Another key player in seeing the building come to fruition was David Craig, owner and mastermind behind the Craig Ranch community. This is just the latest elite-level athletic facility for Craig Ranch, as it sits in very close proximity to the PGA Tour-caliber TPC Golf Course at Craig Ranch, the Dr. Kenneth Cooper Aerobics Center and the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center. 

“David Craig, he and I started two years ago putting this together,” noted Pat Magill of Boka Powell. “David has a wonderful vision and I was happy to be a part of that, and bringing the Stars on, he helped to sell that to the city. He’s got a vision and this is part of that vision. Getting the team together and working on this, there were many what people might call compromises, but it’s all getting together and finding a common ground, working together to achieve that end. It’s exciting, I’m honored to be part of it.”

“We had a lot of negotiation, a lot of things that went on to get this project off and running,” Locey added. “We were on, we were off for a little while and then we were back on. Then at the last minute, David came to the table, we had some long meetings about how we’d bridge the final gap, that we could make this thing work between us, the city and MCDC. David came to the table with one last little piece that bridged the gap, on top of making a pretty good deal with the city in regards to the dirt here, and now we have this building built, but it wouldn’t have happened without David.”

Craig himself was also excited about the new building.

“We’re thrilled at Craig Ranch and also for the city of McKinney,” said Craig. “This is a quality of life venue that the residents of Craig Ranch and McKinney and the region will have at their disposal, so this is really special. It has taken our relationship with the Stars to a whole new level. We were partners before and this just solidifies our partnership with such a class act organization as the Dallas Stars.”

And as Locey noted, with the ground-breaking back in January, to have this facility already open and functioning so quickly is impressive. He praised Balfour Beatty for their ability to get it completed on time.

“Balfour Beatty, we’ve been doing these now for 10 years, they’ve been a huge partner,” Locey said. “If I didn’t have them, could I have said we could do this in an eight-month time span? I don’t know that I could have done that. Along with Boka Powell, we had them come to the table as the architect and everybody’s rolled their sleeves up.” 

“This is our fifth StarCenter that we’ve built,” noted Doug Jones, President and CEO of Balfour Beatty’s Dallas division. “It was designed and built in 10 months, which takes a lot of teamwork, both on the design side, the owner side, the development side and the construction side to make that happen. It is a huge team effort. I’m really proud of this.”

Another important element in the realization of this facility was the involvement of the MCDC, which helped fund the project from an additional half-cent of sales tax.

“Since it’s inception in 1996, this council-appointed board has been charged with the task of improving the quality of life for McKinney residents,” said Tracy Rath of the MCDC. “We take the job of spending your sales tax dollars very seriously, from neighborhood parks located adjacent to our schools, preservation of our historic assets, and we are pleased to find ourselves here today at this amazing facility. 

“The Dr Pepper StarCenter McKinney at Craig Ranch embodies the collaborative efforts that we as a board strive to achieve. This partnership between the Dallas Stars, the city of McKinney, the MCDC and Craig Ranch is the culmination of a lot of planning, negotiating, and just plain hard work.” 

Locey also made sure to point out the significant contribution made by the company whose name graces every ice rink facility operated by the Stars.

“And Dr Pepper - as we do these buildings, they’re public and private partnerships, but we have other business associates and business partners and we couldn’t do these without Dr Pepper, believe me,” Locey said. “Their backing and everything that they do for our organization is absolutely huge.” 

So for the residents of McKinney, including the players on the McKinney high school squad and those playing at all age levels of the Aces’ travel organization, not to mention all the local figure skaters, have fun enjoying the new two-sheet ice rink facility. It should become a prominent part of the fabric of the community, just as it was planned all along.

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