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Friday night lights are bright in Texas

But a $60 million high school stadium...?

By The Mercury

There are folks at Manhattan High School, and we’ll bet some around town, who think we’ve fallen behind the Joneses because we may be the only Class 6A school in Kansas whose football team plays on natural grass instead of the stuff cooked up in laboratories. Can’t blame them.

We don’t have a strong preference. Grass has sufficed for generations, though it’s better in weather that’s dry but not drought-ravaged than it is in rain. Artificial turf, on the other hand, doesn’t need mowing, looks sharper and makes players, and for all we know the fans, feel big-time. Maybe someone will donate it.

But keeping up with the Joneses these days, even for ambitious high schools and their communities, goes well beyond mere artificial turf, especially if the Joneses are from Texas.

Take, for example, the folks in Allen, a prosperous Dallas suburb. Last Friday night they enjoyed the Allen High School Eagles’ first game of the 2012 season in a brand new $60-million stadium. Happily, the Eagles won. For $60 million, they’d better win.

Few small colleges have such a facility. In addition to its 18,000 permanent seats, the stadium boasts private boxes, a press room and a high-def video scoreboard that’s 75 feet long and 45 feet high. Its concessions area can serve 40 lines at one time, which is convenient because high school games fly by. For good measure, the stadium also offers an indoor practice facility for the school’s golf teams.

Manhattan residents are justifiably proud of having approved a bond issue of about $100 million a few years ago to upgrade and expand the district’s schools. Amazingly, Allen voters in 2009 approved $119 million in bonds for the new stadium — revenue from which will support the district’s general fund — and a performing arts center. (Allen, which is bigger and wealthier than Manhattan, doesn’t skimp on the academics. Like Manhattan, its standardized test scores are higher than is respective state average, and after Texas lawmakers cut school funding, Allen residents agreed to raise their taxes to make up the difference.)

Our intent isn’t to diminish MHS’s many accomplishments –— academic or athletic. The school bond issue was the largest in area history and was the envy of districts statewide We simply marvel at a $60 million high school football stadium and wonder if maybe everything really is bigger in Texas.

Not that Allen’s new stadium is the biggest in that prep-football-obsessed state. One that’s bigger is Odessa’s — of “Friday Night Lights”fame.









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