DALLAS One football stadium isn’t enough for one Texas school district.
The Katy Independent School District is asking voters to approve a $99 million general obligation bond request, of which $69.5 million would be used to finance a 14,000-seat stadium the district says is needed to alleviate scheduling problems with its seven high school playing games at a single stadium.
The Katy stadium which would be built right next to the existing stadium stands out among the Texas school bond referendums on November’s off-year ballot, most of which are related to the usual issues such as older facilities or growing enrollment.
The Katy district in suburban Houston is the only one in Texas with that many schools sharing a stadium, executive athletic director Debbie Decker told school trustees last month when they approved the project list for the Nov. 5 referendum.
There are more than 1,300 school district stadiums in Texas, with about 100 of them built in the last five years, according to a TexasBob.com, a database of state football information.
More than 500 Texas high school stadiums have artificial turf, and at least 100 feature video boards. Ten of the stadiums can seat 16,000 or more.
The Katy ISD’s $99 million bond package is the first one it has proposed that would not finance a single new school, said district spokesman Steven Stanford. In addition to the stadium, the bond package includes $25 million for an agricultural sciences center and a $4.5 million science-technology-engineering project center.
The Katy district has more than 67,000 students and is one of the fastest-growing districts in the state.
“We usually build new schools, but we saved enough money from the last bond package to build two new elementary schools that we hadn’t expected to be able to afford,” Stanford said.
The building program funded by the 2006 bonds benefited from a competitive building market and low interest rates on the district’s debt, Stanford said. Katy voters approved a $460 million school bond package in 2006.
“With the schools we’re building from the $60 million of savings from the 2006 bond package, we won’t have to ask for more building bonds until 2015,” he said.
If voters approve Katy’s stadium, which is to be ready in time for the 2015 football season, Allen Independent School District’s $60 million stadium that opened last year won’t be the most expensive high school stadium in Texas.
That stadium in suburban north Dallas received national attention in fall 2012 as a symbol of Texans’ passion for high school football, but the hubbub had died down in the second year, said district spokesman Tim Carroll.
“We’re not getting the attention we used to and that’s fine,” Carroll said.
There were some voices in opposition to the stadium bonds, “but most people voted for it and we’ve had great support since we opened,” he said.
The $119 million bond package that included the $60 million for the stadium was approved in 2009 with 66% in favor, Carroll said.
The first game in the new 18,000-seat Allen stadium attracted 22,000 spectators, he said, with 4,000 of them standing throughout the contest.
The district had reserved 5,000 seats for season ticket holders, but had to expand the section to more than 8,000 seats due to stronger than expected demand, Carroll said.
More than 600,000 people saw six Allen High School home games and nine high school playoff games at the stadium in its first year.
“It wasn’t a matter of If you build it they will come,’” Carroll said. “The people in Allen were ready for this. They were here before we built it.”
People outside Texas might have been amazed at a high school football stadium with a 75-foot long video scoreboard, 42 concession stands, and 192 public restrooms, Carroll said, but Allen residents are proud of the facility.
“You can’t imagine the satisfaction parents feel sitting in a comfortable seat watching their kids play football and looking around at all the concession stands and other amenities,” he said.
The home team Allen High Eagles won the state football championship in 2012 without a single defeat at their new stadium and only one loss on the road.
Katy High’s Tigers also won the state football championship in their category, with a spotless record.
The proposed Katy stadium will be smaller than Allen’s, with 4,000 fewer seats, and will look like a conventional high school stadium, said Stanford.
“There won’t be a lot of ornate brick or steel work,” Stanford said. “If you look at the design, it’s pretty conservative, almost like an older structure. Nice, but conservative.”
The Katy district is cutting costs by building the new stadium on school land near the existing facility.
“We saved $40 million by not having to purchase a stadium site,” Stanford said. “Land is not cheap around here.”
Having two stadiums at a single location will also allow the district to bid for high school playoff games and other competitions, he said.
Little opposition has surfaced to the Katy district’s debt proposals, Stanford said, at least so far.
“A lot of that calm may be that the bonds won’t raise the property tax rate for debt of 40 cents per $100 of valuation,” he said. “There’s been a lot of economic growth in the district, and it is continuing.”
The Dallas suburb of Frisco also made headlines this year by agreeing to more than $100 million in public funding for a Dallas Cowboys training complex that will yield a domed football stadium Frisco’s high school teams will play in.
Voters will decide Nov. 5 on bond referendums from at least 24 school districts totaling at least $2.945 billion, according to Joe Smith at TexasISD.Com.
The largest is Fort Worth Independent School District’s $489.9 million request.
The Fort Worth school bond package would fund a new high school and hundreds of new classrooms at existing schools. It includes $14 million for new athletic field houses at the district’s high schools, but trustees turned down a request for $13 million to install artificial turf at 11 fields.
Comal Independent School District is seeking $451 million of general obligation bonds to build as many as six new schools and buy land for more.
The district north of San Antonio saw its enrollment hit a record 19,100 last month, and officials expect 30,000 students by 2023.
“We are embracing the mindset of being a fast-growth district,” said Andrew Kim, superintendent of the 600 square mile school district that includes New Braunfels.
Passage of the Comal bond plan would require an increase of up to 7 cents in the property tax rate, currently at $1.43 per $100 of assessed valuation.
Denton Independent School District in north Texas says it needs $312.6 million of GO bonds to accommodate enrollment of more than 36,000 by 2022, up from the current 27,000 students.
Proceeds would fund construction of the district’s fourth high school, 23rd and 24th elementary schools, and eighth middle school. Bond projects also include renovations at 17 campuses and land acquisition for future schools.
Alvin Independent School District south of Houston is asking for $212.4 million of GO bonds to build its third high school, sixth middle school, sixteenth elementary school, and buy land for three schools.
Funding for the Alvin district’s proposed capital program also includes $28.1 million of unexpended funds from a 2009 authorization.
Rapid population growth will result in six existing elementary schools being over their design capacity within five years, said Superintendent Fred Brent. Enrollment is expected to increase by 800 new students a year for the next five years, he said.