Texas H.S. opening $60M football field of dreams
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.
The new stadium revives an old argument in Texas about whether communities and their schools have their priorities straight.
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."
Today, neighboring Plano High School's stadium seats more than 14,000 people. Mesquite, about 30 miles away from Allen, has a 20,000-seat stadium. And the Berry Center, a suburban Houston facility with a stadium, an arena and theater, opened in 2006 and cost about $84 million.
"In a couple of years, someone's going to do something that's bigger and bigger," said Robert McSpadden, who runs the high school football site TexasBob.com.
Officials in Allen reject the premise that they're focusing on sports over academics. The bonds approved three years ago also funded a new performing arts center, and Carroll said extra revenue from stadium operations will go into the district general fund. Allen's student test scores are also largely stellar.
But for now, Eagle Stadium is gaining wide notoriety. The No. 8-ranked Eagles' Friday game against Southlake Carroll, which won a state championship last year and is ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press' Class 5A preseason poll this season, sold out in just over a day. More than 2,000 people are expected to watch from standing-room areas.
Bishop's son Zack, a linebacker, said he and his teammates already noticed differences: a more spacious weight room, a softer playing field.
"It's going to be really incredible to step out in front of a full house and a sold-out game," he said.
Chris Wallace, whose oldest son is a senior quarterback, said she had to reassure him when they visited smaller colleges over the summer with older facilities.
"In his mind, this is it," she said. "He can't even believe it's here already."
And there's always room for growth.
Fred Montes, one of the architects of what he called "an incredible project," said the district's master plan left open the possibility for more construction, if needed.
"The end zone that has seats currently can be expanded," he said. "And on the visitors' side, you can always put a deck."
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