Texas High School Builds $60 Million Football Stadium
A rather egregious case of misplaced priorities in Texas.
A high school in Texas opened their season last night in a brand new, state of the art, stadium that cost $60 million to build:
ALLEN, Texas — Call it the palace of high school football: A gleaming $60 million facility with seats for 18,000 roaring fans, a 38-foot wide high-definition video screen, corporate sponsors and a towering upper deck.
Welcome to the new home of Eagles football.
As school districts across the country struggle to retain teachers, replace outdated textbooks and keep class sizes from ballooning, the wealthy, burgeoning Dallas suburb of Allen christened its new stadium in front of a sellout crowd Friday night with a 24-0 victory against defending state champion Southlake Carroll.
It’s not the biggest high school stadium in football-mad Texas, but Eagle Stadium is the grandest, with a spacious weight room for the players and practice areas for Allen High School’s wrestling and golf teams. The school district decided to build it in a down economy, knowing full well it never will recoup the costs.
It’s a decision that local officials and team supporters defend, saying the stadium will serve as a community centerpiece and source of pride for years to come and will more than pay the costs of operating it.
“There will be kids that come through here that will be able to play on a field that only a few people will ever get the chance to play in,” said Wes Bishop, the father of a junior linebacker on the team and head of the local booster club.
Today, the high school has 4,000 students enrolled and a 700-member band that’s among the biggest in the country. Collin County, which includes Allen and other Dallas suburbs, is one of the wealthiest areas of Texas — and home to some of the state’s top football teams.
About 63 percent of voters supported a $119 million bond package in 2009. Construction on the stadium began a year later. District officials went with more expensive concrete seating over all-aluminum benches, adding perhaps $4 million more to the cost, according to officials. But they said they expected this stadium to last decades.
“Our intention is not to recoup the money it cost to build the stadium,” Carroll said. “It’s not practical to say we’ll get that money back. (But) the revenue we receive from the stadium will far exceed the cost of operating it.”
While the district did not have estimates, Carroll said he expects the stadium to be competitive in hosting high school playoff games and other events. The school has also sold six sponsorships for about $35,000 a year, he said.
Now, I realize that High School Football is pretty much a religion in Texas, and that Friday night’s are the Lone Star State’s second Sabbath, but this strikes me as just a bit ridiculous. It’s bad enough that they spent $60 million, which is larger than the budgets of some school systems in this country, on a football stadium instead of on academics, or on upgrading the school facilities that all the students use. But, they did so knowing that they’d never get that money back. Granted, this is a apparently a very well-off area of the state, but making an investment that you know you’ll never pay for in the end is monumentally stupid.
A blogger who goes by the pseudonym “Grover Cleveland” points out just how egregious the Allen Eagles stadium really is:
For the sake of comparison, Fenway Park cost $650,000 to build in 1912. This is only about$15 million today! The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas was built in 1930 for the whopping price of $328,000. In today’s dollars, that is a mere $4.5 million. Of course, those aren’t the replacement costs for the identical structures.
So get this - The University of North Carolina-Charlotte is currently constructing a new football stadium. Cost? $15 million less than Allen’s!
One could point to recent commercial sports stadiums for a different comparison, of course. The new Yankee Stadium cost roughly $1 billion to build, and the new Marlins Park cost $634 million. But those stadiums are both used by teams that generate a ton of revenue for their teams and will more than pay for themselves over the course of their usable lives. Can you say the same thing about this ostentatious sports palace in Texas? No, you cannot. They’ve already admitted they’re going to lose money on the construction costs. It’s perhaps one of the dumber financial decisions I’ve ever seen.
This is has been an issue in Texas before, apparently, and one of the state’s most well-known residents has spoken out against it:
In 1982, when the West Texas city of Odessa built a 19,000-seat stadium for a then-unheard-of $5.6 million, it drew scorn from some people who questioned the district’s priorities. Odessa would be featured a few years later in the book “Friday Night Lights,” a national best-seller that inspired a movie and a TV series.
Ross Perot, the billionaire businessman and former presidential candidate, repeatedly took aim at his home state’s football culture as he pushed the state to shed extracurricular activities and increase accountability measures.
“Do we want our kids to win on Friday night on the football field or do we want them to win all through their lives?” Perot said in a 1988 Washington Post column. “That’s what we have to start asking ourselves.”
Perot has a point here, I think, and this stadium is just another example of how our priorities in this country are seriously, seriously misplaced. When we live in a nation where our students continue to lag far behind other students from other nations on standardized tests, spending this kind of money on a football stadium is quite simply just pathetically ridiculous. The voters of Allen, Texas ought to be ashamed of themselves, look in the mirror, and ask themselves what’s more important, a cool football stadium or their children’s future? So far, they’ve answered that question incorrectly.
Don’t diss this school just because Virginia can’t get 3,000 people to attend a high school football game.
Should the Packers play arena football?
The Packers are a professional, money-making, football team, not a bunch of HS kids.
80% of the cost of the Marlins stadium was covered by taxpayers.
How do we recoup that cost again? Taxes on tickets?
Are you referring to Miami now?
I oppose taxpayer funded stadiums for professional sports teams.
That doesn’t actually address the question Doug. How will the taxpayers recoup that money that you claimed would
Well, I think it’s great that Texas has such a good education system that it’s able to provide a quality education for every kid in the state and makes sure that at-risk kids get the extra support that they need.
I mean, they must, right?
I agree completely.
The San Francisco Giants, after being turned down by voters at 3 times in 10 years, privately financed their ballpark. I believed their construction loan was for $425M, and the city contributed about $80M for infrastructure costs in the area at or adjacent to the stadium site.
The Giants were the first baseball team since the Dodgers in 1960 to privately finance their ballpark. There were rumors and accounts circulating that other baseball owners were not happy that the Giants did this, because it is common for teams to hold cities hostage when it comes to paying for stadiums.
It depends on the tax structure the City of Miami set up for the stadium, of course. But remember, when we’re talking about “usable life” for a sports stadium we’re talking about decades of usable life for an operation that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year. The authorities in Allen, TX have already admitted that they aren’t going to recoup their construction costs.
Additionally, this is about more than just recouping costs. Spending $60 million on a football stadium for HS students is symbol that those people have a pretty perverse system of values.
Being a Texan, I totally understand the mentality. Even this seems excessive. On the other hand, it is one of the wealthiest districts in Texas, one of the highest rank academically, etc, etc. They also voted for this. It is their choice. On the third hand, I guarantee you that they are probably the reddest of the red and vote down all taxes that they can’t use themselves and don’t give a crap that there are crumbling and failing school in other parts of the state.
The previous stadium had a capacity limit of 12,000 and was sold out for home games. Parents who had children on the team or in the band could not attend due to the size of the stadium.
One of the reasons that a larger stadium was build is that it would limit the calls for splitting Allen High school into two high schools. Their opponent in the inaugural game Southlake Carroll (and that is the way to refer to high schools in Texas: City then high school name) is also a one high school school district.
Building a 60 million dollar stadium and a 30 million dollar fine arts center extends the life of Allen High School and keeps the school district from having to build a school high school that would have costs over $100 million.
@superdestroyer: The motivator for not splitting the high school is not the price of the high school but to have the largest possible student body from which to draw the football team.
This is why I could never be a good Libertarian. Sometimes people are just incapable of making good decisions.
With that said….while I’m not really a big supporter of taxpayer funds for pro team stadiums, who after all should be able to fund their own operations, I see no better option for school stadiums. This may seem extravagant, but it’s Texas. It’s football. It’s voter-approved. I think rather than a symbol of misplaced priorities, it’s a symbol of that state’s affluence.
Sports in schools are a waste of time and money. That includes college.
Chiming in with al-Ameda on AT&T Park in SF. Possibly the best ballpark in MLB and it has touched off a renaissance in a formerly blighted area. Public financing for ballparks is basically welfare for billionaires.
It’s ironic that GW Bush’s one real success in business, the ballpark at Arlington, was largely financed by a tax increase. It greatly increased the value of the club, and when Bush sold he came away with a handsome profit, courtesy of the taxpayers.
“I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it’s the sand of the coliseum. He’ll bring them death – and they will love him for it.
@michael reynolds: I would disagree. Sports and athletics are part of the classic liberal education where you train both mind and body. I agree that a rebalance is in order.
Those red voters also pay more taxes than those poor school districts. Why would those upper middle class voters and tax payers want to support an Obama style school system where no public school is allowed to better than the worst school but where all of the elite send their own chidlren to private school?
What really disgusts me is that taxpayers provide the lions share of financing for stadiums around the country.
That’s bad enough but then the naming rights to the facility, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, go to the franchise that benefited from taxpayer largess.
@superdestroyer: Yes, because that surely is a constant danger here in Texas… /eyeroll
There’s a difference between sports and gym. Sports, from HS to college, is about money, bullying, steroids, and corruption. Gym is part of a classical liberal education.
@michael reynolds: I don’t disagree. There is an imbalance which is why more parents pin a lot more hope on an athletic scholarship than the rare academic scholarship.
@superdestroyer: Being one of those folks who pay a lot of taxes in my upper class school district, let me say that underfunded and/or failed school districts cost a lot more down the road in low wages, low skills, and more generations of poverty to say nothing of the increased cost of police and prisons that also cost taxes.
Texas has a Robin Hood law but the voters in Texas have enough control and the teachers unions are too weak to able to do what other states have done when implementing Robin Hood.
Maybe the reason that the coastal elites look down their noses at places like Allen is that most of the parents in Allen and in Collins County send their children to public schools. This is very different from a place like Washington DC where 42% of school age children attend private or charter schools. Or maybe a place like Boston where the public schools are only about 15% white.
You would have a point if there are any correlation between spending and school performance. In most metropolitan areas, the inner city schools are actually better funded that the suburban schools in the same area.
Also, blacks and Hispanics actually performance better in the public schools in Texas than they do in most of the blue states. Blacks students in Texas massively outperform the black students in states like California, Illinois, or Wisconsin.
Straight out your a$$ again Super.
“Athletics” (not “sports”) has come to overshadow learning to an insane degree. It’s not just the money, it’s the time. My children play highschool varsity sports and are regularly required to miss classes, or to practice 3+ hours every night during a school week, or to show up at school at 6:00 a.m. for a quick team meeting. At the (extremely good) university where I teach, athletes are treated like delicate flowers in academic terms: they don’t take very many courses and their required “units” are filled by training modules. During the season, faculty are required not only to make adjustments for all the lectures that athletes have to miss, but to write up special exams that they can take off-site, hundreds of miles away. The university sends a special “proctor” with the team to oversee their exams. This is not just for football, either — in the name of equal access, every athlete’s area is now equally revered and priveleged.
These kids are not students, they are athletes getting a degree as a sideline. It’s a terrible thing for absolutely everybody involved.
While I am not opposed to high school sports (my daughters are/were both 3 sport athletes and my son is a two sport athlete) I think this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At a time when schools are failing and many students aren’t being educated, spending money on huge, 60 million dollar sports facilities rather than academics seems to show a lack of priorities.
How will the taxpayers recoup that money that you claimed would
While I am opposed to taxpayers footing the bill for professional sports stadiums, at least with a professional sport the ticket sales, concession sales and team profits are all taxable locally and at the state level. The state may not recoup every dollar spent, but they do at least take a cut of any and all sales and profits related to the professional team that uses the sport and any other event at the venue.
The school’s ticket sales and concession sales aren’t going to be taxed by the state or the local government.
Hey! “Monumentally stupid?!?” Beg to differ! Don Trump gold-plated the fixtures in his jet, was that “monumentally stupid” or just plain good old All-American(tm) conspicuous consumption?
If a community wants to gold plate their football facilities, so what? Man does not live by bread alone!
All politics is local.
Quite. And yet…(And with morality issues of forcing people to pay for such aside for the moment) there’s an interesting subtext… Texas is likely one of the few places where HS football will attract enough people to make the thing pay off in terms of ancillary business in the area… restaurants, hotels, etc. HS football is bigger there than in most places in the country. It’ll be interesting to see how that aspect works out.
Holy Christ. my graduating class just barely had 200 people in it.
4000 students? Perhaps they do need that second High School instead of a football stadium after all.
In some metro areas the suburbs get more (New York, Fort Worth, Oakland) and in some the inner city gets more (Boston, Chicago, St. Louis).
The DC public schools spend over $20K per per student and are less than 10% white. Arlington, VA spends about $18K per students, Montgomery and Fairfax Counties spend less than $15k per student. Yet, the students in Fairfax outperform the students in the District. Thus, $5K per year is not enough to make up for the type of students.
How many more would have to be spent to make the Newark, NJ schools (the best funded schools in New Jersey) equivalent to the best public high school in New Jersey?
It is about the same size as Robinson Secondary School and Westfield High School in Fairfax County. Large high schools function more like universities than they do smaller high schools. It is kind of nice when you child can pick from six or more foreign languages instead of settling on taking Spanish.
You should look at http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED357503&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED357503
There is no correlation between school spending as stated in the abstract
Yes, but they are one of many schools in a very large county. This is the only HS in the entire city of Allen, TX
I have heard much ballyhoo over the years about how Local Control of Public Schools is a Sacred Tenet of American Life.
Well this is what you get.
Who is going to force the Allen TX High School District to spend their voter approved tax assesment in some other manner? The State Legislature? The Federal Government in Washington DC? Somehow I doubt it.
Apparently there is ample sentiment to maintain the status quo across the land.
Talk about local control going haywire, I think the 15 members of the Texas State Board of Education have influenced American Education over the years with their textbook selection process far more profoundly than one $60M High School Gridiron.
If we are going to beat up on the Lone Star State maybe that should be our focus.
@superdestroyer: Robinson Secondary isn’t just a high school, it is also a middle school. That’s why it has 5000+ students.
Not that the high school part isn’t big–my daughter’s graduating class was 650 kids. Graduation was held at GMU’s 10,000-seat Patriot Center, parents and families filled the place and it took 2.5 hours for all the students to cross the stage and receive their diplomas.
Crosses for the Cross God!! Footballs for the Football Throne!!
Every once in a while I can almost convince myself that some public assistance for a baseball stadium is justified, provided it is in a urban area – not a suburb. Afterall, you can count on it being used 80 to 90 times a year, drawing crowds to the area each time.
Football stadiums that get used 8 to 12 times? NFW.
@Me Me Me:
The best sports venues are the combined basketball/hockey arenas such as the Verizon Center in DC. It host over 250 events a year and has helped revitalized an entire neighborhood.
The worst thing to build is an urban football stadium like Baltimore. It takes up a huge amount of real estate in a down town area and creates a huge barrier between two neighborhoods.
Oh my, who could have guessed that superdestroyer had the time to be an urban planner…one would think that most of his time was spent trying to figure out a way to make sure that the colored people and the homosexuals weren’t taking away all his goodies…
If you’re saying participating is more important than watching, I agree totally. Mind you, I think that’s also true of movies, music, art, science, and even literature. The value of watching the best (in all those) is that it should inspire you to do those things for yourself, rather than to just consume them.
Which gets me to the most amazing thing about that article:
If out of 4,000 students, 700 are in the band, that’s a pretty amazing school … getting that kind of participation in something as worthwhile as music (as opposed to just listening to it) is outstanding. Unless that was a misprint?
@george:According to their website, the Allen band does indeed have over 600 members. http://www.allenband.com/index.html
The Wikipedia entry says it’s the largest marching band in the world. Everything is “bigger in Texas,” apparently.
@An Interested Party:
Once again, if progressives did not have snark, they would have nothing. How do progressives plan on governing when snark is the only motivation?
In Texas, playing football, being in the marching band, being on the drill team, or being a cheerleader counts as a substitute for taking Physical education classes. Many of the kids are in band to get out of gym class. http://www.aahperd.org/naspe/publications/upload/Texas-profile.pdf
There may also be a freshman band that is separate from the varsity marching band. http://www.allenband.com/
Considering what you have written about ethnic minorities and gay people, what I wrote was closer to truth than snark…
A city council near us voted a while back to kick in some money for a baseball stadium. This after raising property taxes.. Madness.
Still waiting Doug. Is there an hourly fee I have to pay for you to support your assertions?
Should I send a check to James?
If only ignorance was bliss you and Doug could get a condo together.
After progressives constantly claiming that they are fact based, you call people ignorant after providing cites.
Once again, progressives prove they are totally motivated by their status seeking and their desire to be seen as the cool kids.
Texas currently has a Robin Hood Law that forces school districts like Allen to give part of their property tax money to other poorer school districts. Why should poor schools district have so much power that they can prevent the rich district from having anything different from the poor district.
It interests me that there are so many negative comments in this thread as regards the expenditure for a stadium. It interests me, that the majority of those who are taking negatively a against such an expenditure, as a matter of routine tend argue that there is no limit on what government can spend. There is no limit to government power.
I particularly find Reynolds comment interesting that there is a difference between GM and sports. Quite right, there is. Gym is regimental. Centrally controlled. without any met on individual effort, it is merely exercise for its own sake. Whereas sports has a tendency to be based on a meritocracy. … The whole thing tends to depend on the individual efforts of those on the field.
I wonder if the reason for their objection expenditure is because the individual efforts involved with sports doesn’t subscribe to the “You didn’t build that” mentality.
Somehow I’m not surprised thatReynolds would find the former more attractive than the latter.
While I should know better than to get sucked into a no-win conversation, perhaps it is the simple questions that should be addressed.
If the Public School System is Federal by design http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/ ; Why are there different spending costs per student from one area [school district] to another ?
Shouldn’t there be a uniform standard for buildings – classrooms [and not
the ‘trailers’ / ‘portables’ considered as classrooms] as well as sporting fields ? [regional heating or air condition requirements excluded]
‘Charter’ isn’t that just another catch phrase for Private paid for by Public taxes ?
As reported, 64% of Allen’s voters approved a $110M bond issue. That said, I haven’t [and wonder if anyone else posting here] had the opportunity to read its breakdown. Just sayin
Sure $60M for a High School Football Stadium sound like a lot [even more than some Colleges would spend], and it almost makes me want to move there and enroll my 14 year old son, a 4 [to be 5] x Pop Warner All American Scholar-Athlete, but then we have chosen to invest in a Private Education, hopefully one that will take him further in life.
A few things to remember about Texas.
1. The public schools are much better at sports than the private schools. In many other states like Ohio, the private schools are better because the privates can recruit. However, in Texas, student s start playing school related sports in 7th grade and the head high school football coach has complete control over all of the junior high, freshman, JV coaches. Thus, by the time a kid is a senior, they have generally been playing the same system since 7th grade.
2. Public schools have booster clubs that raise money Highpark high school booster raised over $1 million for their high school training facility http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=dw-texashighfootball020311
3. Texas public university must admit everyone who finishes in the top 10% of the students. Sending your child to a private school in Texas does not really help them get into UT-Austin or Texas A&M.
4. In Texas if a student transfers school, the student loses a year of eligiblity. That means that public schools cannot recruit.
5. Also, in Texas, once a student reaches 8th grade, they have five years of eligibility. If a student is serious about football, they usually repeat 7th grade to combine first year of organized school football with a year to get bigger.
6. In Texas, football is a class where the players receive a grade. The football players do not have to take a gym class.
@michael reynolds: Count me among the dissenters. I don’t know where I’d be in life right now without sports to act as my ballast (that’s as a youth AND as an adult, as a large part of my own revenue comes from officiating). It’s also a powerful tool to use to get through to struggling student-athletes. Even in college, I believe there are benefits outside of simple revenue.
Doesn’t sound like the sports culture I experienced. I saw boys, girls, young men and women learning values of teamwork and dedication and the connection to success. Friendships were formed that have endured for decades. For some, their wish to participate in sports gave motivation to achieve academically and led to a more general success in life.
It’s amazing the attention the stadium gets, considering we paid over 23M for a new performing arts auditorium with a Steinway piano in the same bond package. No one complains about the arts not being academically appropriate. We’re not dumb in Allen. The school funding is entirely different in Texas. Regardless, people should know that Allen built the stadium only AFTER funding all of our K-12 schools and renovating older schools to first class status. The academics came first. The stadium was built LAST. The community was tired of paying $250,000 annually for temporary bleachers, bad parking, port-a-potties, and not having enough seats for parents to watch their children play the game or perform at halftime in the very old stadium that was replaced. Why shouldn’t the field be up to par with the rest of the district facilities? Academically, our students are in the top 5% of high schools nationally. When your schools can say that they are at such a high level both academically as well as with your facilities, you can talk ALL you want. Otherwise, you should put up or shut up. An Allen Texan.