Just in case you forgot how important high school football is in Texas, the residents of Allen will soon have a $59.6 million stadium that will leave no doubt.
Next month in the booming north Dallas suburb, ground will be broken on a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat facility that will feature two decks, a video scoreboard, four concession stands and 12 restrooms. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.
“The community supports our kids in everything: Football, baseball, basketball, band,” Allen coach Tom Westerberg said. “It isn’t just athletics. They really support us with everything we do.
“The new stadium has been discussed for a number of years and the bond was passed. We are very excited to get this project done and get in there and play.”
But before you start throwing out stereotypes that Texans care more about touchdowns than textbooks, understand this:
# The stadium was part of a larger $120 million bond package passed in May 2009 that included nearly as much money for a state-of-the-art auditorium for performing arts;
# The town approved a bond package of $219 million in November 2008 that called for the building of two new elementary schools, the purchase of 45 school buses and improvements to many of the other elementary and middle schools in the district;
# The money for the project could only be used on capital expenses not general education;
# And, this is Texas, after all. Last year, the Allen football team played a game before more than 50,000 fans at the new Texas Stadium.
The facility will replace Allen’s existing stadium, built in the late 70s when the suburb – located 25 miles north of Dallas – was much smaller. In the past few decades, the area has seen amazing growth.
The high school, built in 2000, has more than 600,000 square feet and serves 3,900 kids – and that’s just between 10th and 12th grades. It is one of the largest in the state and the only one in the district.
A new stadium has been planned since the school was built, but since the area kept growing, capital money went to additional schools first.
“We finally maxed out on growth,” said Tim Carroll, the public information director for the district. “This is something that we have wanted to get done for a while, but we had to build schools first.”
Carroll points out the money being used for the stadium and the performing arts center could not be used for anything else.
“In Texas, funding is completely separate between capital projects and general (education) fund,” he said. “If we don’t build the stadium, none of that money could go to teachers or classrooms.”
The proposal passed 63-37.
“This was not that controversial in Allen,” Carroll said.
The stadium will be built in a horseshoe-fashioned sunken bowl with wide concourses. The field will be artificial surface.
Students have their own section in one end zone – in a fashion similar to many colleges – to create a wall of sound. The band – the largest in the country with more than 600 members – will be on the other end. There will be a wall of honor for former greats from the program.
And, of course, plenty of seats.
There will be roughly 5,000 reserved seats with seatbacks – all of which will be sold as season tickets. Another 2,700 will be sold as general admission; 4,000 will go to the students and 1,000 will go to the band. There will be seating for 5,300 visiting fans on the other side of the field.
The school’s current facility has only 7,000 seats, though Allen brings in 7,000 more temporary seats each game. School officials are confident they will have little trouble filling the new stadium.
“I know there are people in Allen that didn’t come out to the old stadium because they knew there wouldn’t be seats,” Westerberg said. “Now we should be able to alleviate that problem with this new building.”
Allen, which won the Texas 5A state title and finished as the No. 2 team in the RivalsHigh Top 100 football rankings in 2008, is one of the powerhouse teams in the state.
Allen is 67-12 since Westerberg took over as coach in 2004. The Dallas Cowboys have just 53 wins over that same time frame.
“The old Eagle Stadium was very good to us but just got too small,” Westerberg said. “We hope the new field will continue to be a home-field advantage for us.”
Carroll said he can understand how this project may look in a time of financial concerns, but he said it makes sense in Allen.
“(The cost) may appear high to other parts of the country, but it compares to what people are doing here,” he said. “It becomes an economy of scale.”
He points out that the town has only one high school – and that the stadium will be used for more than just football.