Universal theme park idea draws NIMBYs in Frisco

Noise from attractions like “Shrek Land” to be contained, execs say

From left: Universal's John McReynolds; Mayor of Frisco Jeff Cheney (Getty, Frisco, TX, 2015 Universal Orlando Resort)
From left: Universal's John McReynolds; Mayor of Frisco Jeff Cheney (Getty, Frisco, TX, 2015 Universal Orlando Resort)

There goes the neighborhood: Frisco residents are unsure about Shrek moving into their backyard.

Universal executives, city leaders and local developers presented plans for a Frisco theme park to nearby property owners Wednesday night. It didn’t go the way they’d hoped.

The 100-plus attendees peppered them with questions about traffic, noise, the impact on surrounding property values and the appearance of the park. One attendee voiced concerns that houses in the vicinity would become Airbnb rentals catering to park visitors.

John McReynolds, senior vice president of External Affairs for Universal, assured the crowd that property values have risen around Universal’s theme parks in Orlando, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

“I track real estate issues for the company, and I’m not aware of a single surrounding area that has not gone up in value,” McReynolds said. “The property values have gone up in all circumstances, and in Orlando alone, there are six HOAs that I deal with.”

The Frisco Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council still have to approve the project, something that might not happen if the community unites against the idea.

There’s also an incentive deal that needs to be finalized within the next month, according to Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. The incentives will be tied to road and infrastructure improvements made by the city to benefit the park in exchange for sales tax revenue the park is expected to generate, he said.

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Cheney supports the development, although he hasn’t said his mind is made up.

“What was planned for this site was much more dense than what is being proposed,” Cheney said. “The traffic impacts of high-rise, office, mixed-use, hotels and all the uses that were planned for this site would have probably been thousands more cars per day.”

As for concerns about noise, Page Thompson, president of New Ventures for Universal Parks & Resorts, explained it like this:

“When you go into each land, we want to plunge you into the world of that story,” Thompson said. “For the sake of argument, let’s say it’s Shrek’s land. Shrek lives in a swamp. So you’re going to go into an environment that looks like a swamp. The music in that land will be music from the Shrek movies. Next door to that land will be another land themed around another character. We don’t want the music or the sound from the Shrek land to bleed over into the next land because that would ruin the experience of being in an immersive place.”

“So we’re trying to contain the sound within that land — not just within the park, but within a piece of the park,” Thompson continued. “We’re going to work very hard to contain that sound.”

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— Maddy Sperling