The Most Expensive High School Football Stadium in America
When word leaked out in 2009 that the citizens of Allen, Texas, were going to spend nearly $60 million on a football stadium, it made national news.
The recently completed Allen I.S.D. Stadium is a source of pride in the local community and the finest high school football facility in the country.
It opened on Aug. 31, 2012 with a matchup between the Allen Eagles and the defending Texas 5A state champion Southlake Carroll Dragons. Allen shut out the Dragons, 24-0, in front of a record crowd of 22,000 that included 4,000 standing-room-only spectators.
Allen had never beaten Southlake before that night. It seemed appropriate that the Eagles pulled off a tremendous upset on the opening night of a stadium that redefined what high school stadiums could be.
Allen, which values the educational experience of its children, is willing to spend money to enhance that experience. That commitment is evident in this stadium.
Note: All quotes obtained firsthand in recent interviews with Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.
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Facts About the Facility
Allen I.S.D. Stadium sits on a 72-acre plot of land.
Allen High School has an enrollment of more than 5,600 students in grades nine through 12. It is the second-largest high school in the state. For comparison's sake, the undergraduate enrollment at Wake Forest University is 4,775 students.
The price tag for the construction of this mega-stadium was $59.6 million.
Holding 18,000 seats, the stadium also features an HD video board for instant replay that is 75' by 45'. Some colleges, such as Baylor University in Waco, Texas (located more than an hour away from Allen), do not even have an instant-replay video board at their football games.
Allen I.S.D. Stadium has 5,050 parking spaces and two end-zone activity plazas that can be rented on game days. The stadium also features 42 concession-serving lines along with a three-level press box complete with filming decks for the media and coaches.
When you walk into the stadium, it feels like you are walking into a college- or professional-football facility. The architecture and design of the stadium resembles that of the nearby Frisco minor-league ballpark.
If they built a high school football facility back in Roman times, it would look similar to Allen I.S.D. stadium.
How the Stadium Came to Be
It’s no secret football is life in Texas. When your community continues to grow and fans are forced to stand throughout the game, a change has to be made.
Enter a new stadium.
Tim Carroll, who is the director of public relations for Allen I.S.D., said that it was simply a matter of supply and demand.
He said the new stadium is Allen's fifth since it began playing football in the 1930s. The previous stadium, which had a capacity of 7,000, was built in 1976 when the school district had about 5,000 students. By 1995, when the district had 9,000 students, the stadium was "woefully inadequate."
Today, Allen has 19,800 students in the district. "So we got significantly larger, and all of our facilities got larger, but the stadium did not," Carroll said. The solution was to put temporary seating in the corners of the end zone and surrounding the field.
Carroll said that resulted in 7,000 temporary seats, leased at $250,000 per year, in addition to 7,000 permanent seats and standing room only at every game.
The plans for the new stadium began in 1995, when the city planners realized that the city was going to continue to grow.
"In 1995, we decided we were going to build a new high school, new performing arts center and new stadium," Carroll said. "We waited until all of the elementary school was built before we started on the stadium. We did not want students in portable buildings while we were building a football stadium down the street."
In 2009, the citizens of Allen approved a $120 million bond referendum for a performing arts center, transportation services center and football stadium. Construction of the stadium was completed in time for the 2012 season.
In Allen, the ability to get tickets to the football games has been a source of frustration for local fans.
The demand had long since passed the capacity of the previous 7,000-seat stadium, even with the 7,000 temporary bleachers. There were families who had season tickets since the 1970s who were still attending games.
According to Carroll, the low ticket price has driven the demand.
"They are only eight bucks," he said. "And we can’t charge more than that because that UIL district sets the ticket price."
Even as more and more students pass through the school, the low cost of tickets means that no one gives up their seats.
"Season tickets are $40. I pay $40 for a lousy seat at a pro sports game," Carroll said. "I can buy two tickets to Allen and not care because of the price. I can go to the game or give the tickets to friends and hold on to the season tickets. If they were $200, I would not hold them. So you never have turnover of the season tickets."
In a state where crowds of more than 40,000 attend high school football games, Allen had to build a stadium to accommodate the increased ticket demand.
One of the major problems Allen had with its previous stadium was that its fans didn't have enough room on the home side. Because of the overflowing crowds, many of the Eagle fans and even players' parents had to sit with fans of the visiting team at the old stadium.
Tejan Koroma, who will be a senior and the starting center on the 2013 Allen team, said the new stadium alleviated that concern.
He explained that the team appreciates the way the new stadium allows more of the community to come out and support the team.
"It is a lot better when more of the city is able to come out and watch us, and we really appreciate the support."
The Allen Program Is One of the Best in the State
Allen has won two state titles in Texas high school's biggest division. It won the 2008 5A state title and the 2012 5A state title. It is one of only nine schools to have won multiple 5A state titles in football.
Sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray led Allen to a 15-1 record and state championship during its inaugural season in the new stadium. According to 247Sports.com, he is considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2015 recruiting class and has already received scholarship offers from Ohio State, Clemson and Texas Tech.
247Sports indicates that Brad North, a senior offensive lineman on the 2012 Allen team, will be playing at Northwestern in the fall.
Senior cornerback Mayomi Olootu explained that the stadium gives the team a slight advantage in the high-profile games.
"When you see such a big crowd like this week in and week out, then you go to the playoffs and play in front of a large crowd, it is just a normal game," Olootu said.
No team in the state consistently draws crowds as big as the Allen Eagles do.
When Allen built the new stadium, it was able to increase its season-ticket allotment from 5,000 to 8,300.
According to Carroll, Allen played before a large crowd in every home game after the record-setting home opener.
"We had over 14,000 for every game, but under 18,000."
What's to Eat?
The Allen Eagle Stadium has three large concession stands and one smaller stand. The larger stands are each staffed by 40 people during a football game.
At a typical game, there will be 100 to 120 people serving food and drinks to the crowd.
While at the game, high school football fans can feast on Dickey's Barbecue and Chick-fil-A. The facility also serves plenty of traditional fare, including an all-beef hot dog, hamburgers, pepperoni or cheese pizzas, pretzels, and chili-cheese fries.
For the health-conscious, a "bistro box" that contains fresh fruit, assorted cheeses and crackers is available. Anyone searching for caffeine will be happy to know that cappuccino is served at all four concession stands.
The big favorite among the high school students is the "Mega" chocolate-chip cookie, which is the size of a compact disc. Fans looking for more of a Texas feel will be happy to know that jalapeno-and-cheese sausage wraps are available at every game.
The concession stands are run by nonprofit organizations as a fundraiser.
During a typical home game, each stand will bring in $30,000 in revenue. With 20 percent of that going to the organization running the stand, you can raise $6,000 for your favorite cause in a single Friday night.
Not Just for Football
While built for football, Allen I.S.D. Stadium is used by several other sports as well. The stadium contains a practice facility for the wrestling team, which has won four straight state titles and produced a female state champion.
There is a golf practice facility under the stands that is used by the men's and women's golf teams. The men's and women's soccer teams play some of their games at the stadium, too.
There is also a weight room at the stadium that is used by all of the Allen athletes. The stadium was built for football games, but the entire athletic department profits from its existence.
The Weight Room
Located under the home stands, the weight room is used year-round by all of the athletic teams at Allen High School.
At 85 yards long and encompassing nearly 12,000 square feet, it rivals the weight facilities at most colleges.
Koroma feels that the location of the weight room at the nearby stadium is convenient for the players.
"Having the weight room underneath the stadium is a lot better, because we used to have to bus over to the weight room every day during the offseason," he said. "It always reminds us what our main goal is and what we are trying to accomplish."
The team had been forced to take a bus from the high school to the old facilities for the past 13 years.
Financial Boon to the Community
The new stadium has given the Allen community a nice financial boost. Besides the obvious benefits of having construction workers spending money in the city during the two-year building process, the stadium spurred several business owners to relocate to be closer to the stadium.
Nancy Tripucka is co-owner of Eagle Designs, an apparel and screen-print store. When she and her husband, Chris (part of a family of athletes including former NBA star Kelly Tripucka), found out where the stadium was going to be built, they moved the store to a nearby location.
Tripucka said that the new stadium and the success of the football team has helped increase business.
"It was just the excitement of the stadium opening, and then the football team going all the way to state was huge," Tripucka said. "The new stadium gives us great foot traffic. There are a lot of people driving by to look at the stadium who stop in and become customers."
Tripucka's son, Shane Tripucka, was the punter on Allen's 2012 state title team. Having raised a child in Allen and seen the passion surrounding the football program, she is still surprised at the effect the stadium has had on her business.
"Game days on Friday were nothing like we could have ever expected," she said. "The first game we actually had friends who came here, who went behind the counter to help out." Customers "emptied the shelves," according to Nancy.
Enjoy the Show
With more than 750 members, the Allen High School band is one of the biggest in the nation.
The band has won multiple awards and marched in both the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The band plays popular songs from the 1970s all the way up to current top-10 hits, but is best known for playing "Celebration" by Kool and The Gang. Other popular songs that the band typically plays during a game include "Born to Be Wild," "Land of 1,000 Dances," "Gimme Some Lovin'," "Macarena," "Poker Face" and "25 or 6 to 4."
Tim Carroll said that Friday nights are more than just a football game.
"Think of this as a performance of Allen High School students," Carroll said. "This is a performance of 100 kids on the field, but there are 700 kids in the band, 20 kids running the video board and doing all of the camera work. There is a store being run by the business department, even the first-aid stations are partially manned by students in the EMT program at the high school."
"If you have hundreds of kids involved in activities, and you double that number for the amount of parents who show up to watch their children, a third of the people in the stadium are not football fans but parents watching their kids perform," Carroll added.
The new stadium has been a success on and off the field during its first year of existence. The Allen football team went 5-0 during the regular season on its home field en route to the 2012 state title.
The stadium produced a substantial increase in revenue over the old stadium. That revenue goes to the Allen School District general fund, where it is used to pay for teachers and equipment.
In 2011, the gate receipts at the old Allen High School stadium totaled $344,365. In 2012, the gate from the new Allen I.S.D. stadium was $640,358.
The stadium revenue in the new stadium in 2012 was $611,408. The old stadium did not produce any stadium revenue.
So the new stadium produced $1,251,766 for the general fund, as opposed to $344,365 the year before. That's an increase of $907,401.
The stadium has 10 "founding sponsors" who each pay $35,000 per year on a three-year contract. That means the stadium will bring in an extra $1.05 million for the general fund.
The City of Allen built a palatial high school stadium that should benefit the school district and surrounding community for years to come.