The story of Allen’s Eagle Stadium has been one of excess and prosperity, disappointment and schadenfreude. The most expensive high school stadium in the world opened in 2012 with no small amount of fanfare. But haters got an opportunity to indulge in some mean-spirited snark when the $60 million facility was forced to close in 2014 due to structural problems and cracks in the foundation. Suddenly, the pride of Allen—with its high-def Jumbotron, upper-deck seating, and Chick-Fil-A and BBQ vendors—was the city’s giant embarrassment.
Or, it would have been, if anybody in Allen was willing to let building’s closure actually embarrass them. As Texas Monthly reported from Allen last year:
[A]sk Mike Williams, a local real estate agent whose office is adorned with statues and pictures of eagles, what the town should have done differently, and a laugh is what you’ll get. “I would do the mezzanine a little bit different,” he jokes. “Without cracks.”
Williams is a hard-core Eagles fan—he hasn’t missed a game since before the team won its first state championship, in 2008—but his positivity seems to reflect the general sentiment around Allen. Those cracks in the concrete, the thinking goes, are just some bad luck the town encountered on its road to owning the nicest high school football stadium in the country.
“It was an unfortunate set of circumstances,” says Sharon Mayer, the CEO of the Allen-Fairview Chamber of Commerce. “The people the school district contracted with were reputable companies who have built multiple facilities around the area. It’s sad, but it’s gonna come back, and we’ll have a great facility that will be here for a long time to come.”
“Unfortunate” and “sad” are as reflective and soul-searching as anyone we found would get during conversations about the building, but when it comes to who’s laughing last, it’s the folks in the town: Not only did the building undergo a massive repair process to bring it back up to code, but the 2014 season, which the Eagles spent temporarily homeless, nonetheless ended with the team claiming its third Texas State Championship (this time in the newly-created Division 6A) in three years.
And now, as the team sets out to start its campaign for a four-peat, they get to do it in the facility they’ve been waiting for: Eagle Stadium, which reopened late last year for the school’s graduation, will host a face-off against Denton Guyer on Friday. As the Dallas Business Journal reports:
[T]he Landry Classic — where the Allen Eagles will face off against Denton Guyer — is expected to bring a sellout crowd of 18,000 fans — with 9,000 fans on the home team side — to the facility, Allen ISD Chief Information Officer Tim Carroll told the Dallas Business Journal.
“On Friday night, we’ll be back for good,” Carroll told me. “We expect a sellout crowd as Denton Guyer is one of the top-ranked teams and this will be the first game back in the stadium.”
That’s a big deal for the community, which never wavered from its commitment to the sky-high stadium or questioned the decision-making process that led the district to invest so many millions in the facility. (Indeed, a local booster told Texas Monthly last year that “if anything, you might do it bigger next time.”)
The 18,000 seat stadium has 8,000 of those seats pre-sold as season tickets, with the others reserved for visitors and single-ticket buyers. Indeed, with the three-time state champions as the home team, the odds that any game will have many unsold tickets is unlikely, and that’s the narrative of Eagle Stadium that folks in Allen would surely like to see prevail. Although critics like to point at the stadium and its excesses as an Icarus-like journey too close to the sun, the team’s record and the facility’s reopening probably proves something else: If you’ve got the money to succeed, you probably will.