Surprise! Texas School Board Puts $50 Million Football Stadium on May Ballot

Berry Center Football Stadium
File Photo: Cy-Fair ISD

Surprise! The board of trustees at a North Texas school district voted unanimously Thursday for a colossal $50.3 million football stadium and events center package as part of a larger $220 million bond measure that will go before voters on Saturday, May 7.

While Texas school districts continue to develop a propensity for extravagantly-priced football stadiums and bulging bond measures, this particular extravaganza comes from the McKinney Independent School District, located in Collin County, approximately 30 miles north of downtown Dallas. Money Magazine ranked the suburban community #1 on its 2014 best place to live in America list. McKinney boasts almost 162,000 residents. The school district website accounts for more than 24,500 students enrolled.

McKinney ISD bond proponents insist the district’s existing athletic facility, Ron Poe Stadium, is inadequate for the community’s growing needs, making a new venue necessary to remain competitive. The stadium, built in 1962, seats 7,000 and has 341 parking spaces. A new stadium intends to seat 12,000 with 2,400 to 3,000 parking spots.

Conversely, McKinney ISD bond opponents question the proposed stadium’s $50.3 million bloated price tag and express concerns over potential traffic problems, bright lights, disruptions, and excessive noise pouring into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

At Thursday’s board meeting, parent David O’Connor argued the costs. “That’s what you are voting for – to be the biggest spenders in Texas history,” he told trustees. “You could have done so many other things with that money.”

Earlier in March, Superintendent Rick McDaniel stated that McKinney ISD’s student population has slowed, blaming that on undeveloped city land although he anticipates future growth and envisions twice as many high schools in the district someday.

“You can’t wait until you’ve expanded to that size to start worrying about building these extra facilities,” McDaniel said, the Dallas Morning News reported. “When I look into the future, these are things that we’re going to need, and I have to plan ahead.”

Although the bond contains no new school construction, the $220 million package earmarks funds for district-wide projects including facility updates, elementary school renovations, middle school expansions, a new auditorium at the district’s oldest high school, a land purchase, plans for a new elementary, a new maintenance building and transportation station, plus a laptop for every high school freshman entering one of its three high schools.

McDaniel and bond committee member Jennifer Gray expressed particular excitement about $6.5 million of the entire bond going to safety and security items such as installing cameras at every school with direct feeds to police patrol cars, according to the Dallas newspaper.

This week, the McKinney City Council approved plans to rezone a 64-acre site for the proposed stadium and events center, which would also be used for banquets and reunions. Besides football, the stadium could hold soccer games and vie against neighboring districts to host other sporting competitions and special events, according to the school district. If passed, McKinney ISD officials say the bond would allow for a 2 cent tax decrease due to an increase in the McKinney tax base and the retirement of old debt.

The new stadium site is approximately five miles north of Eagle Stadium where four years ago Allen ISD opened the gargantuan $60 million 18,000-seater, which later shut down for a year and a half because of structural foundation cracks. The stadium, fixed for over $10 million, reopened in time for June 2015 graduation ceremonies. Allen school district officials said those repairs came at no cost to the taxpayer.

The potential future site of McKinney ISD’s stadium also is not too far from Plano ISD’s 9,800-seat Tom Kimbrough Stadium. Adjacent to McKinney is Frisco where, in 2014, Breitbart Texas reported on the troubling math associated with their school district’s taxpayer obligations. At the time, Frisco ISD’s Richard Wilkinson indicated their school bond package removed $27 million, the estimated amount to build a new stadium, from the district’s monstrous $775 million dollar measure. A deal was struck where Frisco ISD would share the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, a facility currently under construction in Frisco.

However, today Frisco taxpayers fund $30 million towards the overall titanic $255.5 million tab on the lavish 12,000-seater within Cowboys complex. When completed, it will service the Cowboys, the City of Frisco, and Frisco ISD football and soccer games plus other sports, athletic, academic, fine arts, and entertainment events, according to the school district. The Morning News noted the City of Frisco and other entities foot $60 million of the mega project.

Last year, Houston area Katy ISD voters approved breaking ground on a $58 million dollar football stadium that will seat 12,000 and include a Jumbotron, two-story press box and room for a high school football hall of fame. Some estimates put Katy’s taxpayer costs closer to $61 million.

Two years ago, Breitbart Texas looked at the astronomical $75 billion dollar debt – before interest — the state holds in school district bond debt.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.