A warm morning in mid-August, and across Central New York the rituals start up again.
Put on your helmets. Line up. Stretch out. Run from one end of the field to the other. Learn to block, tackle, throw, catch and kick. Then put on the pads at the end of the first week and start hitting each other – cleanly, we hope.
Three weeks and one scrimmage later, it’s time to play for real. On the night of Aug. 31, dozens of games will kick off, community events in front of hopeful crowds looking for hometown heroes to celebrate and congratulate.
As this goes on, the season also opens at Allen High School, in suburban Dallas, where the local team, the Eagles, meets Southlake Carroll, the reigning state champions. They do so in a new stadium.
Eagle Stadium cost $59.6 million to build. It seats 18,000.
Drink that in for a few moments, especially if you’re one of those types that complain and moan every single time your school taxes go up, even if it’s a penny or two. And ponder that every single time you say there’s too much emphasis on high school sports.
Now let’s bring it into the proper context (if that seems possible). Allen is a very, very large high school, even by the large standards of Texas, with nearly 5,400 students in grades 9-12.
Eagle Stadium, gaudy as it is, was part of a larger capital project costing $119.4 million. It was overwhelmingly approved by district voters and included a brand-new auditorium and transportation center, among other needs. Even the stadium has facilities other sports teams will use to their benefit.
So what was the old stadium like? Opened in 1976, it sat ‘only’ 7,200. They needed 7,000 temporary seats to meet demand over the ensuing decades. Visiting teams dressed in a gym, and with minimal on-site parking, most of the fans had to arrive through shuttle buses.