September 6th 2017 Note: I’ve updated this post to include my own experiences with four teams; the Texas Marshals, the Texas Legends, the Dallas Wings, and the Dallas Sidekicks, as well as the annual Frisco College Baseball Classic. I also want to highlight the benefits of getting Pogo Pass*, which gets you into several RoughRiders, Wings, Legends, and Revolution games each year, as well as many other DFW area family attractions. If you go to more than one game a year, the pass will be very cost-effective for your family.
If you’re a sports fan like me, you’re probably also raising your kid(s) to love sports. With a team in each of the major professional sports leagues, the DFW area is an incredible place for us sports lovers. Going to a Rangers, Mavs, Stars, or Cowboys game is a great time, but they’re also expensive and sometimes not as kid-friendly as they could be, especially for younger kids. However, if you’re looking for something more cost-effective with the same fun factor for your young sports fans, here is a guide to the many options the DFW sports scene offers:
For any sport: For both boys and girls teams, your local high school is a great place to start. You’ll be exposing your young ones to school spirit early, and in our area, many schools have players who will end up on division 1 college teams, so there is no lack of talent. For football, in addition to the game, your kids will also get to see the marching band. My son loves this as much as the game. We also go to see basketball, baseball, and soccer. There will be mistakes made at this level, so for kids learning the game, these can be used as teaching moments.
1) The Frisco Roughriders seem by far the area’s most popular minor league attraction. They are the Double-A affiliate of the Rangers and all of the team’s top prospects will end up playing for the Riders at some point. It’s also a great way to catch Rangers players on rehab assignments. We got to see Josh Hamilton and Yu Darvish at past outings. You can use Pogo Pass to get into two games each season.
2) The Texas Airhogs (formerly Grand Prairie Airhogs) is a smaller, cheaper option than the Riders. They are not affiliated with a major league team and therefore you won’t be seeing top prospects, but it’s still pro ball and it’s still fun.
3) The Texas Marshals of the Texas Collegiate League is a team of college baseball players looking to continue to play competitively throughout the summer. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids. They have a small concession stand, and you can bring your own food and drinks. They play at the Prestonwood Christian Academy and it’s a great way to see competitive baseball up close. The crowd is small and tends to be mostly parents of the players, and this past summer I ran into a hall-of-fame parent of a player on the opposite team, Greg Maddux! And if you were wondering, his son is just as crafty as he is.
4) In early March, check out the Frisco College Baseball Classic. It’s a four-team round-robin style event with a doubleheader each of the three days. Played at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, they bring in top teams and you get to see two games each session.
5) Other local college baseball: TCU is usually very competitive nationally. For folks in greater Fort Worth, it’s a great way to see quality ball without having to make a long drive. Likewise, Dallas Baptist also fields competitive teams.
1) The Texas Legends are the NBA developmental league team of the Dallas Mavericks, who play at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and they have a kid zone behind one of the baskets with some inflatables for kids who need a break from sitting. For a small arena, it’s a great atmosphere to catch a game, and the players play hard every night, trying to earn a call-up to the NBA. You can use your Pogo Pass to get into a couple of games each season.
2) The Hoop City Dallas Pro-Am summer league features teams made up of players who have played in the NBA, NBADL, professional leagues in foreign countries, and top NCAA division 1 programs. It’s a very inexpensive way to see pro-level talent in the intimacy of a high school gym.
3) Local Colleges: SMU is having lots of recent success and therefore can be a tough ticket to get. They are in the same conference as UConn, so go see the UConn Women’s team for some of the best basketball you’ll ever see. TCU is historically not very competitive in the Big 12, but they host Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas each year.
4) The Dallas Wings experience is relatively inexpensive and family-friendly. The area’s WNBA team includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, one of the game’s most talented and exciting stars. The games are played at UT-Arlington’s arena, creating an intimate experience without a bad seat. Don’t be deterred by their advertised ticket prices…use Pogo Pass to get into up to 3 games per season, or look for deals on Groupon.
1) FC Dallas: I’m including them here even though they’re a major league team because you can get good seats for minor league prices. Toyota Stadium is a great venue, big enough to draw a loud crowd, but small enough that you can buy the cheapest ticket and you won’t be up in a nosebleed seat.
2) Dallas Sidekicks: I’m not a soccer fanatic, so when I first heard about an indoor professional soccer team, I was skeptical, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We got a chance to have a group outing last season, and it was incredibly exciting. Because of the small playing area, the ball moves fast and the action doesn’t stop, creating an intense, high-energy atmosphere. Between the two teams, we saw 18 goals scored. I was also surprised at how physical the game was. I’m not sure I’d watch it on TV but was extremely fun to be there.
1) Allen Americans – An affiliate of the NHL San Jose Sharks, this team draws top talent and has been at the top of the standings the last few seasons. If you’ve never seen live hockey from close seats, definitely give this a try. In my opinion, of the four major sports, the action of hockey translates the worst to TV, so seeing it live will be a whole new experience for those who have never been.
2) Lone Star Brahmas – this is a team of 18-20-year-olds who are hoping for college scholarships and attention from pro scouts. Several of their players end up on top division 1 NCAA hockey teams. Their arena is very small and it’s a great and low-cost way to watch quality hockey live.
1) I’ve never seen indoor football before, so I asked group member Josh Graziani to guest-write about the Texas Revolution, who play in Allen: “The Texas Revolution indoor arena football games are intimate and action-packed. You get close-up experience of America’s favorite game and the team does a lot of giveaways and entertainment between quarters. The kids love it and the fans get into it. All of the games have great attendance and energy.” You can use Pogo Pass to get into some Revolution games each season.
2) College Football: This is a hard one to summarize. If you go to see TCU, particularly against a big 12 rival, neither the game nor the impact on your wallet, will seem minor. UNT and SMU would be more cost-effective choices but can be pricey for certain games. There’s a lot of variances depending on who the opponent is.
Lastly, Some General Tips:
1) Before the game, go online and look at the rosters to learn the names of a few of the team’s key players. When you’re there, point them out to your kids. They will feel more involved if they can cheer for the players by name.
2) Look at the promotions schedule before choosing the game you will attend. Many teams have days they give out free souvenirs such as jerseys, bobbleheads, etc. Your kids will get something cool and it won’t cost any extra. Some teams also have food deals like dollar hot dog nights.
3) Get there early. Find a staff member to ask if there are any ways your kids can be involved. Some teams pick a kid to say “play ball”, announce a player, ride the Zamboni, or bring out the ball to start the game. Even if your kids don’t get to do any of those things, they can watch pre-game practice up close, or head to the area where players come on and off to get high fives.
4) Groupon and other similar websites can be your friend. Many of the local teams mentioned here run deals that can save you extra money.
*5) As mentioned above, Pogo Pass gets you into several games a year. Dallas Dads Group is an affiliate member of Pogo Pass.