Break out the Friday Night Lights , "everything's bigger in Texas" and "football is a religion" references: Allen High School's brand new, $59.6 million Eagle Stadium, which was shown off to the local media last Friday, has now gone national.
The 18,000-seat facility will make its official debut when the Eagles host Southlake Carroll August 31.
"It looks like a gorgeous place to watch boys' lives peak before they're old enough to vote," Deadspin's Barry Petchesky cracked. "It's got two luxury suites, a pro-quality press box, a 3,400-square-foot HD video scoreboard—and tickets will be just $10 a game for the all-bleacher seating. This is Texas football."
Size-wise, Eagle still trails four other Texas high school football stadiums: Alamo in San Antonio, FC Dallas Stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park) in Frisco, Mesquite Memorial, and Farrington in Fort Worth. But Allen's is the only one in which the sole primary tenant is a single school.
Playing dumb to make his point, Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans wrote:
When you look at it, for a split second, you might wonder if the Eagles are an expansion NFL franchise. They are not.
Upon closer inspection, and once the shock wears off, you’ll assume that it’s a stadium for a college football team – possibly a mid-tier Division I team. Nope.
It’s a high school football stadium.
And not without its controversy. As the Huffington Post noted, Allen, like all schools in Texas, has struggled with state education cuts. There have been teacher layoffs, and in 2011, the city raised its property tax rate to help make up for some of the state shortfall.
Separately, as Keith Whitmire of Fox Sports Southwest reported:
Allen raised the money for its new stadium as part of a $119.4 million bond package in May of 2009 that passed with an impressive 63.66 percent of the vote.
Even with such support, there have been critics who say spending $60 million on a football stadium is outrageous at a time when education budgets are being slashed.
"What do I say to that?" Allen school district athletic director Steve Williams asked rhetorically. "I say we're in a community that overwhelmingly voted to build this stadium."
Whitmire further explained that as the only high school in its district, with 5,388 students, Allen is much larger than the typical Class 5A school—which requires a minimum enrollment of 2,090—though still not larger than Plano East (6,016), the biggest of Plano's three high schools.
According to Whitmire, Allen's varsity team has around one hundred players, with another one hundred on two JV teams, and 256 intending to play freshman football this year. The school also has an 800-member marching band.
As Kevin Hageland of Star Local News reported, there will be 5,050 parking spaces at the new stadium, compared to 900 at the old one.
That means fans no longer have to "take their chances of being towed by parking in the Blockbuster Video or Brookshire's parking lot," Hageland wrote.
But Hageland did wonder if the new stadium's open, airy design (including large concourses, and no seats in one end zone) would make it less intimidating than its more-crammed predecessor.
On Tuesday, Dave Krider of Max Preps put Eagle number one on a list of "10 high school football stadiums to see before you die" (Jones Stadium in El Paso and Ratliff Stadium in Odessa also made the cut).
Below, a video tour with Catherine Ross of NBCDFW.com/Channel 5.