The Tea Party vs. the $70 million high school football stadium

In Texas, high school football and anti-tax sentiment collide

Student Activity Facility
(Image credit: (<a href="" target="_blank">Katy </a>)

In Texas, pretty much the only thing more popular than low taxes is football. Hence the awkward battle in Katy, Texas, over a proposal to build the most expensive high school football stadium in the United States.

The 14,000-seat stadium would be built next to the 10,000-seat stadium the school already has. Improvements would include state-of-the-art lighting, concourses to provide shelter during storms, bigger bathrooms, and adjacent field houses to hold weight rooms and offices for the staff. The proposed price tag is $69.5 million.

Additional bells and whistles haven't been announced, but the current record-holder for the country's most expensive high school football stadium — located in Allen, Texas — boasts a 38-foot, high-definition scoreboard, an upper deck to help fit its 18,000 seats, and a variety of corporate sponsorships. That stadium cost $60 million to build.

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Every other stadium that even comes close is located in, you guessed it, Texas. That includes the $49 million Woodforest Bank Stadium near Houston and the Alamo Stadium in San Antonio, a 23,000-seat facility that is currently undergoing a $35 million renovation.

Of course, it's not Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who is footing the nearly $70 million bill for Katy's new football stadium; it's the taxpayers, as part of a $100 million bond package. And that has some local Tea Party members, like Cyndi Lawrence, angry, according to the Houston Chronicle:

A $69 million price tag for a second stadium is excessive on the backs of the taxpayers … Just a few years ago, the housing market crashed. Who's to say this market is stable? If something happens again, they will be forced to raise taxes. I think it's just bad planning, putting that much debt on future generations. [Houston Chronicle]

That is coming from a woman whose son is a quarterback at a local junior high school and might eventually play for the Katy Tigers, a team that has won seven Texas state championships. Lawrence's group is not alone. A conservative, anti-tax PAC, Put Katy Kids First, has also sprung up to oppose construction of the new stadium.

This, however, might not be a battle Katy Tea Party members can win. As the Houston Chronicle's Mike Tolson notes, Texas voters have approved $5 billion in school bonds over the last five years, with "a fair portion of that" going toward stadiums.

The stadium's defenders, like design committee member John Eberlan, argue that it would serve seven schools in the Katy Independent School District, compared with the stadium in Allen, which serves only one school.

Eberlan also told CBS News that the construction costs were "reasonable" and "conservative." And he predicted that Katy's stadium would ultimately be outdone, telling the Chronicle, "I have a feeling we won't hold the record for long."

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