Thursday, August 4, 2016

High School Football Facility Arms Race

In my last post, I mentioned how many folks in the UT Arlington Athletic Department consider Maverick Stadium a sub-par NCAA DI stadium as a lead in to what I think is possible to help make Maverick Stadium a quality FBS venue. Today, I want to look at a bit why Maverick Stadium has gone from a modern college football venue to needing renovations to become one again.

I don't think anyone but the most casual observers would be shocked if I said there was a facility-arms race in college athletics. Everyone has plans and/or has recently brought something to state-of-the art. Since 2010, UTA built a brand new indoor arena with College Park Center, completed several major renovations to Clay Gould Ballpark as well as Allan Saxe Field and have more on the drawing board (sign me up for the petition to get a shaded grandstand at ASF).

No sport has seen more in the last decade to decade-and-a-half than football. Locally, SMU has built Gerald J. Ford Stadium, which opened in 2000 and has since seen renovations twice since 2010. TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium has almost been a constant construction zone, seeing renovations in 1985, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2008. All that was then dwarfed by a $164 million rebuild of the stadium coinciding with TCU's entrance into the Big XII in 2012. North Texas opened Apogee Stadium in 2011, a very nice venue built primarily with student fees (I used to be able to comeback against my UNT associate's when they let me be know UTA didn't have a football team that at least the Mavs stadium was still better).

The song goes on and on, like a pop music song, with very little stanza and a catchy chorus. Staying in Texas, every FBS school's stadium has seen a renovation or brand new construction in the last five years, with the exception of the Sun Bowl in El Paso. The FCS schools in Texas are also in on the deal. Every FCS Texas school has a renovation or new stadium with the exception of Abilene Christian, who will open a new on-campus stadium in 2017. Division II isn't as fast-paced as it's two Division I counterparts, but most every DII school has renovated at some point this century if they have some control over the facility. Non-scholarship Division III has seen roughly half receive some form of renovation in the last decade or so.

So while it is clear that Maverick Stadium is falling behind its peers at the collegiate level, what may not be as understood is that the high schools in Texas are passing up the quality of Maverick Stadium. Hard to recruit to a player when your stadium is a downgrade to what they have known during their high school career.

Some of the areas largest talent will come from the following school districts. Their stadiums are as large or larger than Maverick Stadium is currently and certainly offer more amenities for the participants.

Maverick Stadium began construction in 1979. The $7 million construction cost would be about $23 million today when adjusted for inflation.

Mesquite ISD may have started the whole deal in the 1970's as Mesquite Memorial Stadium was built in 1976 for $2.7 million ($11.3 when adjusted for inflation). It sat a staggering 20,000 fans. $11 million was spent in 2015 on renovations to try to bring it in line with its peers.

Clark Stadium in Plano opened a year later. Estimated cost was $2-3 million ($8-12 million) and still seats almost 15,000.

Southlake ISD spent near $15 million in 2001 ($20.5) for a stadium in similar capacity (12,600) to Maverick Stadium. Ironically, Dragon Stadium has already seen a multi-million dollar renovation, bringing the inflation-adjusted price to climb near $26 million.

Plano ISD opened a second football venue, Kimbrough Stadium in 2003. At a cost of $20 million ($25.8), the track and field facility seats 9,800.

Denton ISD built Collins Stadium in 2004. The 12,000 seat stadium cost $23 million ($29 million in 2016 dollars).

Dallas ISD, not known for its over-flowing wealth like Southlake, built Kincaide Stadium in 2005. Unlike the first two, it is also part of a larger complex that includes track and field. It cost $40 million ($48.7) and seats 15,000.

Newsome Stadium in Mansfield cost $29.8 ($35.2) million when it opened in 2006. The 11,134-capacity stadium is one of the nicer in the southern suburbs.

The much-maligned and certainly most well known high school stadiums is Allen ISD's Eagle Stadium. The $60 million Stadium opened in 2012 and seats 18,000. Of course, $10 million needed to be spent on repairs, but I'm not going to include that in the original cost.

Not to be outdone by their neighbors to the south, McKinney ISD just passed a bond and plan to spend a total of $62.8 million for a new 12,000 seat stadium.

Then there's the curious case of Frisco ISD, which will play high school football games in two professional venues. They currently play in the more standard, though certainly nice, Memorial Stadium as well as Toyota Stadium, built primarily for the FC Dallas Major League Soccer Club. They will also begin play in the Dallas Cowboys new practice facility that seat 12,000. Frisco ISD gave money to help build both.

This is just a sampling. There are many, many more that are older or smaller stadiums that have gone through renovations or rebuilds to make them nicer or offer better amenities. And this also doesn't include any stadium outside the DFW area, like say Katy ISD's new haunt, Grande Communications Stadium in Midland or a number of other places. In DFW alone, there are over 30 stadiums higher that 10,000 in capacity.

In essence, for Maverick Stadium to be a successful college stadium, it has to at least be at the level of the high school players the team would be recruiting. That is part of  the reason why there is a need to renovate the stadium. Hard to convince a player that your school is serious about the sport if they have to accept a downgrade in venues.

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