Budget & Finance

Is a $60 Million High School Football Stadium Excessive?

By Bryan Toporek — May 05, 2011 2 min read
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Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to the size of its high school football stadiums.

A story about Allen High School has been making its way around the web these past few weeks, as officials there are aiming to complete construction of a new $60 million football stadium in August 2012.

Sixty-three percent of the voters in the school district, in a suburb of Dallas, approved a $119.4 million bond package back in May 2009 that included $59.6 million for the stadium, according to The Dallas Morning News.

OK, it’s not fair to just call it a stadium ... a better description would be “full-blown multipurpose athletic facility.” The stadium will include a weight room, wrestling practice room, indoor practice area for golf, and a two-tier press box. Oh, yeah, it’s also going to have 18,000 seats—an upgrade from the school’s current 14,000-seat stadium. School officials said the stadium will definitely be used for soccer, will likely house high school football playoff games and band competitions, and the school’s graduation ceremonies may take place there, according to the Morning News.

A few more quick facts about the stadium and school: Allen High is one of Texas’ largest schools, with 3,897 students enrolled this school year, according to the Morning News. The marching band and accompanying color guard and drill team consists of 600-plus members. And the school did manage to sell out the 14,000-seat stadium during at least one varsity football game this past season.

Not surprisingly, however, the stadium’s price tag is raising some eyebrows nationally, especially given the nation’s current economic climate.

The Seattle Times wrote a quick piece about the stadium in mid-April, while the New York Daily News just ran a story about it this past weekend. Yahoo! Sports even made it the subject of a Yahoo! Sports Minute earlier this week.

“It’s hard when people are losing their jobs and you’re building a $60 million dollar stadium and an auditorium and things like that,” Allen High athletic director Steve Williams told CNN. “But ... those are two separate things. You can’t take that money for buildings and hire teachers with it.”

To Williams’ credit, he’s absolutely right. The bond referendum specified what the $119 million would be spent on: $59.6 million for the stadium; $23.3 million for a new 1,500-seat auditorium (the school currently doesn’t have one), and the remaining $36.5 million for a transportation, maintenance, and student-nutrition center, according to the Allen American.

And, believe it or not, Texas has at least four stadiums larger than Allen’s new stadium, including the 20,000-seat Mesquite Memorial stadium for the Mesquite Independent School District. That said, those stadiums are regularly used by more than just one high school, according to the Morning News.

“I think that’s what people who aren’t from this area or aren’t from Texas don’t understand the magnitude of the event and how many people come to watch and support their kids,” Williams said to CNN.

My colleague Sean Cavanagh reported on the State EdWatch blog that a budget proposal being considered in Texas would slash schools’ budgets by at least $8 billion over the next two years. Texas is currently projecting a two-year budget shortfall of as much as $27 billion. Another proposal, recently approved by a state Senate committee, would only cut $4 billion from schools over the next two years, according to the Morning News.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.