Texas High Schools in ‘Arms Race’ to Build Stadiums

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Football lovers may think the stadium built with rose-colored brick, an enormous high-definition video screen, and a three-tiered press box is a college's dream stadium. After all, it cost $60 million to build. But this is not a university's football stadium — it's the home field for the Eagles of Allen High School in suburban Dallas.

In Texas, where everything is bigger and better, Eagle Stadium is about the size of the Staples Center with 18,000 seats. But Eagle Stadium is about to be one-upped. Nearby McKinney Independent School District High School is ready to begin building an almost $70 million stadium, thus becoming a competitor in what critics have called a "stadium arms race."

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at McKinney North, one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000, and many believe that even though the new edifice is expensive, the students are worth it. But Grassroots McKinney, a local tea party organization, is fiercely against the building of the stadium, writes Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times.

A member of the group, Mike Giles, was standing near the original stadium recently, and said:

"In many places, that would be a really nice stadium," Giles said, rolling his eyes. "But, no, we've got to one-up Allen. That's what started this whole mess."

It all began when in 2001 Carroll High School in Southlake built a $15.3 million stadium that held 12,000. Since then, a small, elite group of high schools have built stadiums with seating for 10,000 or more around Dallas. In Katy, a Houston suburb, a $62.5 million stadium is under way.

In Frisco, which is near Allen and McKinney, the district has contracted with the Dallas Cowboy's to use their new 12,000 seat practice field for the school's football and soccer games, along with graduation. What's the tab? Frisco will be paying $30 million for this privilege.

The median home price in McKinney is $279,600, which is higher than the Dallas median of $191,500.

Even though critics say the stadium is just a showpiece, the idea passed with 62% of support and was begun as a part of a $220 million, five-year bond package. Daria Guillen of the Houston Chronicle, reports that the McKinney's school taxes for those who own property went down 5 cents to $1.63 per $100 of value assessed after the district got rid of some old debt.

The stadium's original cost was estimated to be $63 million but increased because of the higher price of additional road work and concrete.

"What we told the voters we'd build, we need to build that," McKinney board trustee Amy Dankel told The Dallas Morning News.

The McKinney stadium is being created by the same contractor who constructed Houston's NRG Stadium and the Dallas AT&T Stadium, Dallas-based Manhattan Construction. The estimated opening date of the stadium is Fall 2017.

The stadium arms race even got a shout-out on the Jimmy Fallon talk show, where Fallon joked that all the soccer team got was permission to buy a ball.

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