Approximately 8 miles south of McKinney, Allen High School unveiled one of the grandest high school football stadiums in the entire country in 2012.
Carrying with it a price tag of $60 million, the 18,000-seat behemoth of a stadium is visible from miles away and gained 62 percent of the voters support in 2009, when Allen residents voted in favor of a $113 million bond.
Earlier this month, Frisco, which sits roughly 14 miles to the west of McKinney, partnered with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys on a $115 million project that includes a 12,000-seat indoor football stadium to be used for Frisco Independent school District football programs.
The stadium, which has the capability to seat more than 20,000, can also be used for concerts and will be the new headquarters and training center for the Cowboys.
McKinney, however, will not be making headlines like these anytime soon, as officials within the McKinney Independent School District agree that plans to for a new football stadium to replace Ron Poe Stadium are not on the horizon, even though Ron Poe is smaller and older than many of the 5A venues in the area.
“In the future, we are going to have to look at a stadium down the line, but not right now, we have other things to do,” McKinney ISD Superintendent J.D. Kennedy said.
All three area high schools – McKinney High, McKinney Boyd and McKinney North – play their home games at Ron Poe Stadium. Both McKinney and Boyd are 5A programs, and North is currently 4A, but is expected to be make the jump to 5A as the district continues to grow.
Football classes are determined by enrollment, and for schools to currently be determined a 5A school, their enrollment must exceed 2,065. McKinney North’s current enrollment is near 1,900.
And the continuing growth of the district is a main reason Kennedy said a new stadium is not in the plans. The Superintendent noted Allen built all necessary schools by the time they approved the new stadium in 2009. MISD, however, is only 50 percent built out and will soon need a fourth high school, Kennedy said.
Kennedy, however, noted the continued growth will make the need for a new stadium a necessity and “something we’ll have to address in the future.”
Discussions about a new stadium is not new to the district.
The MISD board approved a proposition in 2000 for a new football stadium, and MISD Chief Financial Officer Edd Bigbee said the approved bond issue carried a price tag of $13.5 million. The new stadium was to be built on land near McKinney North.
Board member Lynn Sperry, who is the longest serving board member, also served on the board in 2000 when the proposition was approved. She said while the bond was passed with the intent for a new stadium, finances had to be directed toward building new schools.
“We felt the classroom should come first,” Sperry said.
She said the $13.5 million in the bond can only be used for a new football stadium, and the possibility of a new football stadium depends on the price tag and the district’s ability to sell the bond.
However, a new stadium is not on the horizon, although MISD Athletic Director Shawn Pratt knows the need for a new facility is imminent.
“Do I want a new stadium? You bet I do. Do I think it’s going to happen in the real near future? No, I don’t,” Pratt said.
Pratt, who has served as the district’s athletic director since 2008 after being head football coach at McKinney North, said the nearly 50-year-old stadium has seen some upgrades in recent years, most notably a new press box in 2006 and upgrades to the electrical system.
Seating continues to be an issue, with the district having to lease bleachers for several home games last season, notably the game against 5A State Champion Allen and the cross-town matchup between McKinney and Boyd.
Bigbee noted that bleacher rentals for the 2012 season cost the district $20,644.
Pratt said new lockers, more suited to football, were installed in the home locker room this summer. New flooring was installed, also.
He added, “We’re always looking for things to do here and there,” noting that seat backs were added in the “reserved” section of the home bleachers.
“Is it a complete renovation? No, but every year I try and look for something we can try and do,” Pratt said.
One of the biggest upgrades was the new turf installed at McKinney High School, McKinney North and Ron Poe Stadium last summer. The new turf cost around $300,000, Pratt said.
And Pratt said he has plans “when the time comes” for a new stadium or an expansion to Ron Poe.
“When that time comes, I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “It’s too early to say which that would be, because we don’t know exactly when it will happen and how much bond money will be available.”
Pratt, however, praised both Allen and Frisco for what their respective schools districts were able to do, saying both situations are “awesome.”
He also noted both North Dallas suburban cities are at a different place in terms of revenue than McKinney, saying of the city, “we just haven’t been there.”
“When you can put something in town like that, where your students have an awesome place to compete and go to on Fridays nights and your city has a great venue for lots of other things, also – I think it’s a great deal,” Pratt said.
Kennedy noted while McKinney has experienced rapid growth, a lot of commercial development, such as places like Craig Ranch, are located outside district limits, and don’t contribute to the district’s ability to build new facilities.
He added Frisco houses a younger population and more businesses call Frisco home, but noted McKinney will benefit in years to come once Frisco continues to build out.
While noting that it’s easy to think the grass is greener on the other side, the district’s debt ratio is decreasing and there are many school districts in the State that are envious of McKinney ISD.
Continuing to compare McKinney to surrounding districts, Pratt said while athletically McKinney is “right in the thick of things,” he said that is where the comparisons stop.
“I can’t say we’re going to compete with that, because we’re not,” Pratt said.