The new Eagle Stadium will seat 18,000 spectators and cost a bit under $60 million dollars to construct. Its size is too modest to house a popular college football program, and maybe half the size of a stadium that would play host to an NFL franchise. But that’s fine, because the Eagle Stadium, located in a suburb north of Dallas, Texas, will be the setting for Friday night football games for Allen High School.
Those outside of Texas might be shocked that any community would be willing to bear so high a cost for a high school athletics team, but in Texas, where high school football is hugely popular, the new Eagle Stadium is only the fifth-largest high school football facility ranked by size. As it is, the residents of Allen, Texas, seemed willing to pony up with the money for the stadium raised via a $119.4 million bond offering. When put to the voters, nearly 65% voted to approved it.
“Most of the negative stuff that comes out are from people outside of Allen,” football coach Tom Westerberg said. “I don’t really worry about that a whole lot. We’ve drawn quite a few people to the games and I think for the majority of the big games it will be full.”
Still, the support wasn’t uniform. Even within the town there were critics who thought the high expense of the stadium couldn’t be justified at a time when school facilities that are vital for academics were being neglected due to shrinking budgets. When asked his thoughts on these objections, Allen School District athletic director Steve Williams shrugged them off. Allen community loves its football — and is willing to pay to see it in comfort — and Williams wasn’t inclined to disagree with that point of view.
Allen’s voters are getting their money’s worth. The stadium is a sunken bowl with decks on each side. There is a three-tiered pressbox on the home side and a giant video screen on the end zone scoreboard.
The district sold advertising on the scoreboard, but not naming rights. It’s just Eagle Stadium.
The feel is modern, clean and big without being ostentatious. There is no row of luxury suites, just two hospitality rooms in the pressbox. Instead, tented plazas in the corners of the stadium will be available for rent.
That isn’t to say that the school’s academics are being ignored. The community from which the 5,388-strong student body is drawn had an average household income of over $100,000 in 2009, and it has grown in the subsequent 3 years. Since before Allen experienced a population boom in the late ’00s, city leaders decided that they would remain a town with only one high school. So, when it comes to football, the city doesn’t have any split loyalties — everyone who roots, roots for the Eagles. And almost everyone there roots.
So, the expansion of the stadium to accommodate the local fans as well as those who truck over to cheer on the visiting team only made sense.
With the size of the football and band programs, not to mention cheer and drill teams, that’s a lot of parents wanting to see their kids perform on Friday nights. In Allen’s old stadium, not everyone was guaranteed a seat.