The Allen (Texas) football team is making news four months before the start of the football season for what's been going on off the field.
More precisely, the Eagles are creating quite a stir with their field, and the brand new $60 million complex that will be the team's new home starting in 2012.
In May 2009, the city approved a $119 million school board bond project that would provide a new auditorium, transportation center and stadium for the suburban Dallas school.
"I think the community felt overall it was necessary, it was time," Allen Independent School District information director Tim Carroll said. "Our goal has been to build all the schools you need first, and then build all the things that aren't directly related to classroom construction."
According to Carroll, Allen built a new high school in 2000 and set aside land on the campus to eventually build a new football stadium. The team currently uses the facilities still located on the old campus.
That stadium was built in the 1970s when the Eagles were a 3A team and holds 7,000 fans. Allen, now one of the largest schools in Texas with an enrollment of roughly 5,000 students, has developed into a 5A powerhouse and currently brings in portable seating to their games to accommodate another 7,000 fans.
Carroll said that a byproduct of the team's success has been a reluctance to play Allen. This has led to the Eagles need to schedule other elite teams with similarly large fan followings. As a result, there hasn't always been room for all the fans.
"Everyone wants to see those kinds of games. They're a good ticket," he said. "You need to have the seating capacity for those games."
The school's band was also a consideration. With 675 members, Carroll estimates it to be one of the largest in the country at any level. With its equipment, the band requires approximately 1,000 seats.
The new stadium will be able to give the band space near the end zone opposite the students' section, an arrangement that is traditional at Allen. Additionally, Carroll explained that the stadium will be able to host marching band competitions, which can feature dozens of school bands.
"The stadium is well-designed for marching band competitions. Everyone sits on one side of the stadium facing the band. You need to be able to fit the parents of 50 marching bands on one side. We'll be doing more of those kinds of things," said Carroll, who also mentioned that Allen will likely be the neutral host site for some football playoff games down the road.
At 18,000 seats, Allen will be third on the list of biggest Texas high school football stadiums, according to texasbob.com.
What makes Allen's stadium unique is that it will serve as the home stadium for only one school. Every other stadium in the top 10 in terms of capacity is part of a district with more than one high school, and consequently, more than one home team.
Prior to the stadium planning, the school board visited several other mega-high schools in other parts of the country that stand alone in their districts. They also toured stadiums throughout the state of Texas, according to Carroll.
Given the economic climate, some people have been skeptical of such a deep financial commitment. However, the community voted 64 percent in favor of the bond project, Carroll said.
He also pointed out that there is often misunderstanding in how the school's budget operates.
"The buildings and bond funds have no connection to the school funding from the state. If we didn't build the stadium, we wouldn't get a single penny more for books or teachers," he said. "If we didn't spend that bond money, it just means the tax payers wouldn't have the debt. It's like the checking and savings, but you can't mix both."
Allen finished 10-2 in 2009, losing in the second round of the 5A playoffs to Southlake Carroll in a game played at Texas Stadium in front of an estimated 40,000 fans. The Eagles will open 2010 against Cedar Hill.