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Frisco mayor says Universal Park will have less traffic than H-E-B, as residents raise concerns

Frisco leaders, along with Universal, announced plans for the park last week.

FRISCO, Texas — Several Frisco residents expressed concerns Tuesday night over the proposed Universal Studios theme park, including questions over crime and traffic.

But Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney at a council meeting said the kids park isn't expected to bring similar crime issues as more adult-focused theme parks and that traffic is expected to be less than H-E-B, Costco and other developments along the Dallas North Tollway.

Cheney and other Frisco leaders, along with Universal, announced plans for the park last week.

The planned park would be located on 97 acres near the Dallas North Tollway and Panther Creek Parkway. The park will be kids-themed and about one-fourth the size of Universal's main theme parks in Florida and California.

Unlike other major Frisco projects, the council did not approve plans for the park the same day it was announced. 

Cheney said the council wanted a monthlong "buffer" period for residents to express any concerns they might have about the park.

When the PGA Frisco headquarters and The Star plans were announced, the council voted and approved the projects the same day.

Cheney said Universal preferred to have a similar timeline of approving the plans immediately. But the Frisco council wanted a waiting period between announcement and approval so "citizens can understand what the project is and what it isn't," Cheney said.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, several residents questioned the viability of the park and raised concerns over crime and traffic.

Cheney said the council was initially "skeptical" of the park and that the city had turned several pitches for theme parks in the past.

On concerns over crime - as one resident cited data that showed an increase in crime surrounding Universal's Orland park - Cheney said the council shared those concerns and has been "hammering [Universal] with those questions."

"[Crime] was the first this council brought up," Cheney said. "[Universal] did a very good job of explaining what this park is going to be and what it isn't going to be."

Universal has typically targeted adult and teenage audiences with its parks, Cheney said, but the Frisco park will be solely targeted at young children, "which wouldn't bear that same fruit as far as crime goes."

Cheney also said Frisco's police department is working to verify the crime outlook for the proposed park.

Cheney said another aspect of the city's deal with Universal is that the park's rides will have height restrictions, ensuring it remains a kids-focused park and won't be a "bait and switch" years later.

On traffic concerns, Cheney said the city received new data Tuesday afternoon that showed the traffic impact at the Universal park would be less than H-E-B, Costco and the Stonebriar Mall.

"This will be one of the lowest, if not the lowest, traffic generator projects the entire stretch of the tollway," Cheney said.

The full traffic report wasn't released at Tuesday night's meeting, but Cheney said the data will be "fully and 100% shared" soon.

Universal last week said 30 of the 97 acres it purchased will be used for the park and hotel.

Both will be built on the northeast side of the property leaving space for parking, “an easy exit and entrance,” and room for expansion for future development said Page Thompson, president of new ventures for Universal Parks and Resorts. 

He also said the park’s hours won’t interfere with high-traffic commute times.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments, a regional planning organization, was not aware of the development until it was revealed to the public.

“It doesn’t give me heartburn,” said chairman Michael Morris, when asked if traffic form the park might cause problems. 

He agreed that traffic demands for a park are not the same as the current traffic demands in the northern Collin County and Denton County areas. 

“They have huge a.m. peak period congestion and huge p.m. peak period congestion. It’s largely weekday. Not at night. Not weekend,” he said. 

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