Meet Marla Roe, Executive Director, Visit Frisco
If you will drive seven hours for a baseball game or a football game, you probably are a pretty big sports fan. Marla Roe is just that.
Growing up in Brownsville, Roe would need to make that seven-hour, family road trip north to Houston if she wanted to see a professional baseball or football game.
“I’ve been a sports fan my whole life. I grew up with two brothers. My whole family played golf, but me, I played tennis,” said Roe, a Harlingen native. “We used to go to Astros games and Oilers games back then. I went to a bunch of Cowboys games. Then I met my husband and he is a huge sports fan and we started going to the Mavs and Stars. I love sports.”
Well, Roe doesn’t need to go far for sports anymore. The Executive Director of Visit Frisco is in a sports hot-bed city where five professional organizations put down roots and another is digging itself a place right now. She has definitely found a home and a job she likes.
“I love the people. Anybody in the tourist industry would probably say the same thing. You have to be a people person,” said Roe who moved to Frisco (28 miles north of Dallas) 16 years ago. “I love my staff. I love the community I work in. I love living and selling the community that I work in. We have just incredible partners with our hotels and our sports venues. There is a huge sense of collaboration in Frisco and it’s been that way since I started here.”
Since her arrival in 2004 when she was its only employee and the budget was $276,000, Visit Frisco has grown to 15 employees and a budget of over $4 million. Hotels have gone from four in the city to 23.
The growth has corresponded with the expansion of the city and its leadership’s vision to make Frisco a bustling family community anchored around sports-related businesses.
Frisco is home to the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, The Star, which houses the professional football team’s practice and training facilities as well as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The Star’s multi-purpose facility, the Ford Center, is the site for Frisco Independent School District’s football games, Conference USA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the World Olympic Gymnastic Association competition.
On top of that, Frisco lays claim to the Texas Rangers Double-A Rough Riders baseball team at Dr. Pepper Ballpark and the Comerica Center which hosts the Dallas Stars hockey executive offices and practice facilities as well as the NBA’s minor league’s (G League) Texas Legends.
In addition, the Toyota Stadium has been the site for Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas soccer games since 2005 and the National Soccer Hall of Fame moved its museum to the stadium in 2018. For the past 10 years, the stadium has been the location for the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision national championship game and has presented the NCAA Division 1 Frisco Bowl since 2017.
And under construction right now, the new PGA of America headquarters and Omni Resorts is expected to open in Frisco in 2022 and will include two professional 18-hole golf courses intended to host major PGA tournaments.
Of course sports are all but at a standstill in Frisco these days with the pandemic halting or delaying every activity on the schedule. As with everywhere else, Roe has had to deal with conferences falling by the wayside as well.
“We have had about 30 events cancel and we have been able to rebook about half of them. The ones we booked in the fall are kind of looking at the spring now,” said Roe, a business administration and marketing major who attended Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin State University before graduating from the University of Texas-Pan America. “Oddly enough we are still booking small pieces of business. I think we’ve booked probably 10 or 12 pieces of business in the last couple of months, but they are not the big ones.
“We do have contracts pending for ’21 and ’22, but I think everyone is hesitant right now just kind of waiting to see what happens in the next three to four months,” Roe continued. “The one thing we are on edge about is sports. We have got a bowl game (in December). We are kind of waiting to see what the NCAA is going to do.”
Out of college, Roe worked in hotels for nine years starting as a food and beverage secretary and eventually working her way up to a director of sales. The following 10 years were spent at the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau, another city with major sports businesses, where she went from state association sales manager to vice president and ultimately executive vice president.
All these experiences, Roe says, provided her foundation including an opportunity she had in her career involving a new property.
“I was on the opening team for a hotel in Austin so I kind of had an idea on what you have to do to start from scratch,” said Roe recalling when she started at Visit Frisco. “Fortunately we have a city that embraced tourism. The ballpark was already built and the Dr. Pepper Arena (now Comerica Center) was there. They understood the mall. They understood a mall of our size can’t be supported by residents alone, you need visitors to spend dollars as well.
“Right now is a challenging time for everybody,” Roe concluded. “I have been so happy here. I hope they will keep me until I retire.”
Where surely she will spend some time with her family watching sports.
Notes: Roe is married with two daughters and one grandson. She loves to read, cook and run. She is passionate about the tourism industry.
Honors: Roe received her CDME, Certified Destination Management Executive status from the Destination Marketing Association International. She is also a Certified Tourism Ambassador and achieved the Institute of Organization Management designation through the US Chamber of Commerce. She is past chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Tourism Council, Visit DFW and the Texas Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus. She also served 3 years on the board of Destinations International.
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice (2005)