Thursday, August 16, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #69 - Part 2

Clarabell Award: $60 million for high school football stadium

Allen, Texas, is a suburb of Dallas. Not long ago, it was a relatively small farming community but over the last 10 years it has developed into a site of high-end retail shops and entertainment. Its population has doubled to 84,000 and its median household income has risen to a hefty $85,000.

And like way too many places in Texas, they loves them some high school football; Texans will admit it's almost a religion in the state.

And so the city of Allen, Texas is about to open a new $60 million high school football stadium. It will have 18,000 seats, NaturalGrass Matrix turf, a 75-by-45 foot HD video scoreboard, a customized weight room, a press room, and private boxes that rival those of some college stadiums. It's being built in large part because it's held that the existing stadium, which holds a mere 14,000 seats, is not big enough.

It was funded from a $119 million bond package approved by 63% of voters three years ago. The head football coach at the Allen high school, one Tom Westerberg said "It shows that the people of Allen support their kids." I think it shows something else entirely.

What's more, Christian Herr, an architect who worked on the project, said he expects other towns now are going to be jealous and will want their own bigger stadiums.

This comes at a time when Texas lawmakers have cut the state's education funding by $4 billion. By the 2011-2012 school year, Allen was facing a $4.5 million budget shortfall and was forced to cut 44 teaching positions and 40 support positions.

Now, in fairness, the budgets for school operations and for the stadium construction were separate. And last fall, residents in Allen agreed to raise local property taxes to make up for the cuts from the state. So good for them on that.

But at a time when the state is cutting aid to education, when you're having to raise your own local taxes to keep from losing 84 teaching and support positions in your high school, at a time when Texas ranks 47th among states in SAT scores (and yes, I know all the problems with SAT scores, but they do provide some basis for comparison), for you to be spending $60 million on an 18,000-seat high school football stadium because the 14,000-seat stadium you already had wasn't big enough....

The people of Allen, Texas - in fact, all the towns in Texas that rate high school football above a high school education - you are clowns.


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