Now that the new Sherman High School construction is underway, thoughts can turn to a new stadium for the school district. The opening of such a facility – if it happens – is still in the future, of course, but it’s never too soon to begin planning.
The need is based on the age and condition of the current Bearcat Stadium; it is 80 years old having been built by the Works Progress Administration (the WPA of the 1930s New Deal). It has been renovated several times over the years, but there is only so much one can do for the quaint landmark. The size just doesn’t allow for what is needed in today’s high school environment. The locker rooms alone leave much to be desired.
Another factor is the widening of US 75 through Sherman. The stadium is situated alongside the east service road, which is the likely side that will be used to ‘widen’ this US highway. Recently, TxDOT began plans for renovation of the overhead walkway across the highway. The walkway is next to the stadium, so the reality of that ‘real estate’ the stadium lies on is beginning to take shape; and there apparently is no room for it in the plans. The SISD stadium will need to be somewhere else in the city.
Of course, any citizenry wants a ‘showpiece’ for its school district, but what will it look like? What will be the cost? When will the bond be called? Will enough people want this and to what extent? These and other questions are beginning to find voice as the future slowly takes shape in our part of the world. Yes, it is years off, but to get there, one must plan accordingly. The better the plans now, the better the facility will be then.
I had the opportunity to be at the opening of the new McKinney ISD Stadium Aug. 30. The inaugural game was McKinney High School vs. McKinney North High School on that hot summer evening. Yet, the heat didn’t deter a packed house of almost 12,000 people who came to see what $70 million would buy. The stadium is second in Texas only to Katy (Houston) ISD’s $72 million facility. Of course, you’ll remember Allen’s $60 million stadium down the road, which opened a few years ago; and there are others in the $40-$50 million range around the state.
I know that Sherman’s size and population doesn’t warrant such a price tag, but it is interesting and informative to see what is happening right now in the high school stadium biz in Texas. Perhaps, we can learn from McKinney and others what is good and needed in a stadium and then, work to afford it. First, some basics: the McKinney ISD Stadium is almost 142,000 square feet and has 6,000 seats on each side (none in the end zones, which I think is good!) It has artificial turf, naturally; and the video board, which is situated in the north end zone, is 50 feet by 30 feet. There are three 50 yard ribbon boards as well.
There are two home and two visitor locker rooms with a laundry on each side; several team meeting rooms; and two major concession stands. The three level sound proof pressbox has facilities for broadcast and print media among other rooms. There is a sound system throughout the stadium including restrooms and concession; home and visitor spirit stores; handicap seating, Wifi and television monitors throughout. Drones feed the video board streaming content during the game—Cool! The VIP catered suite is on the 50 yard line and is simply awesome! The atmosphere outside the stadium can be anything you want it to be-vendors galore- and food to boot. Wow!
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the community room situated in the south end zone; this is a space that seats 800 for events and 500 for banquets. The district can rent this facility during games or anytime through the year. The athletic offices are also in the south end zone building. There is a great view of the field from this vantage point. There are seven parking lots and separate areas for busses and band warm-ups. The traffic pattern is split between home and visitor directions. The main ticket office is on the home side.
The stadium’s $70 million price was included in the 2015 $220 million bond election, which passed with 52 percent of voters.
Let’s have some fun with numbers; and remember I have no background in school finance or bond elections, so this is just a mind exercise for the sake of discussion. If 200,000 population McKinney can build a $70 million stadium, then couldn’t 40,000 population Sherman build a $14 million facility? (Sherman is one-fifth the size of McKinney nowadays) I realize that $14 million doesn’t sound like much and maybe, it isn’t in today’s high school stadium ‘industry,’ but it’s a place to start.
Now, a $20 million stadium doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility; it’s a nice round number. I’ll bet you can get many amenities for that price. Somebody somewhere will have to begin this ‘number crunching’ with the determination of how many seats to include in this stadium; this is what everything else follows from. Then, you got the steel and concrete discussion – what about cracks? And will there be other cheaper materials available at the time of a potential bond election? What about locker rooms and a video board? Do you want to put the athletic offices in the stadium, too? And what about that ‘community room’ concept? Is that even a consideration for a $20 million figure?
What will $20 million buy in today’s market? And will the Sherman ISD’s constituents opt for a higher pricetag if warranted? So many questions, but you have to start asking to get it done.And I haven’t mentioned the location of such a facility—that’s another completely looong discussion!
I believe it is time for the citizens of Sherman and the school district to begin planning for such an eventuality. I don’t think it’s ‘IF’ there is a new stadium at this point, I think it’s ‘WHEN.’ To have the best facility Sherman can have, it will take planning and the sooner the planning begins, the better opening night will be.
“I like it,” said Alex Rohrvacher, a McKinney resident on opening night. “I think they got it right. They don’t build them anywhere else like this.”
For the record, the first touchdown scored was by McKinney High School at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter. It was fitting that the original high school in town scored the first time in the district’s newest facility. And I left early, so I don’t know how the traffic was at the end of the game, but I have heard that it rhymes with ‘sad.’
Some things never change no matter how much you spend……………………..