Rendering of Allen Eagle Stadium in Allen, Texas
In August, one of the largest school districts in Texas will unveil a new $60-million football stadium in Allen, a suburb of Dallas with about 84,000 residents. The Allen High Eagles football program is ranked 9th in the state after going 11-1 last season in conference play. On opening night, the 18,000-seat venue on the campus of Allen High School will become the biggest single-team football stadium in the Lone Star State.
In May 2009, 63 percent of residents approved a $119-million bond to build the new Allen Eagle Stadium as well as an auditorium and a service center. The high school, built in 2000, has a 600,000-sq.-ft. footprint and serves 3,900 students between 10th and 12th grades. Talk of building the new stadium began because the old Allen Eagle Stadium simply could not handle crowds drawn by one of the state’s best football teams.
“The stadium we’re currently in was built in 1976,” said Tom Westerberg, assistant athletic director. “At that time, Allen was a two-way high school. We’ve grown to be the second largest high school in the state. We’ve really outgrown the old stadium, the city has outgrown it and we don’t have enough room for the reserved seating.”
Allen city officials had been planning a stadium in the city prior to 2000. The Eagles’ former home had just 7,000 seats and an additional 7,000 temporary seats brought in for game day. This for a 2008 Texas 5A title-winning football program, which has 67 wins and 12 losses since 2004 and played in front of about 50,000 fans during a playoff game at Texas Stadium in Irving last year.
School officials are estimating opening night could bring as many as 20,000 fans.
“Our whole town comes out to watch our games,” said Tim Carroll, Public Information director. “Then you add opposing teams’ crowds. It isn’t like we just have a few hundred people on the other side because we don’t play against little schools. They bring crowds, too. I mean, Texas football is very big and we are playing with the big boys.”
The new Allen Eagle Stadium will consist of 5,000 reserved seats with seatbacks, which will be sold to season ticket holders; 2,700 general admission seats; 4,000 seats for students; and 5,300 seats for the opposing team. An additional 1,000 seats will be reserved for the school’s marching band, The Allen Eagle Escadrille, which is one of the largest in the country with over 700 members.
“Just do the math,” Carroll said. “Think about all the parents who come just to watch football, then the other thousands of parents who come because their kids are in the band.”
While Carroll said the stadium won’t be much different from several others in the state, it will be the most modern and multipurpose. PBK Architects designed the stadium with a sunken-bowl design and a playing surface 15-feet below ground level.
“The old stadium was fun to play in,” Westerberg said. “The fans were pretty much right on top of you. This one sits down in a bowl, but it’s hard to say whether we will lose any effect from the crowd because we don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I’m betting that first night we’ll be pretty loud.”
The stadium, which broke ground in mid-September 2010, will have two decks on the home side that sit underneath the two-tiered press box — housing coaches, scouts, an in-house video crew and as many as 20 media members. The video crew will send its feed through a 42-by-27-foot, high-definition video scoreboard that sits on pillars more than 20 feet high. At each corner, there will be full-service concessions stands with up to 42 points of sale. The stadium will also have 12 restrooms.
The playing surface will consist of 90,000 square feet of Matrix synthetic turf with an elastic shock pad and drainage system. Carroll said most, if not all, football fields in Texas are turf because of limitations on water.
Outside the building, there will be a 1,500-space parking lot. Fans will enter from the parking lot and walk underneath a large brick facade with the Allen Eagle Stadium name across the top.
Westerberg said the location of the new stadium — right on campus — will make it easier for his team to practice and play.
“One big key is we won’t have to bus everywhere any more,” he said. “The school will benefit from us not having to take buses to the stadium, which is a mile down the road. This will be right outside the doors.”
Architects also built the new Allen Eagle Stadium to benefit athletic programs other than football. There will be weight rooms and a brand new wrestling facility underneath the stadium along with locker rooms for wrestlers. Underneath the stands will be a practice area for the golf team that Carroll described as “batting cages for golfers.” The stadium will also host soccer matches and the junior varsity team.
Additional events have not been scheduled yet at Allen Eagle Stadium, though school officials said it is possible for other events such as concerts, high school football playoffs and graduation to be held there. Eagles Stadium will complement the school’s athletic center, which contains locker rooms for soccer, basketball and track, a weight room, a film room and the football team’s offices.
“The way things work in Texas is that the money between education and projects like this is separate,” Carroll said. “It’s not like if we don’t spend it on the stadium we can spend it on the other side.”
Unlike Frisco’s stadium, Allen Eagle Stadium will keep its old name rather than selling naming rights. Instead, the school will earn revenue by selling 10 advertising packages for spots within the stadium including on the scoreboard.
Carroll said construction is on pace to finish in time and has benefited from dry weather during the winter. School officials have said the project is likely to end up under the $60-million budget.
Interviewed for this story: Tom Westerberg, (972) 727-0437; Tim Carroll, (972) 727-0510