Could four KISD schools have a legitimate home field for varsity football in the coming years?
Two options for football stadium upgrades were introduced near the end of a nearly four-hour board meeting Tuesday. The first option was to upgrade the three auxiliary fields at Harker Heights, Shoemaker and Ellison high schools to the size and stature necessary for 6A varsity football. This plan would also include upgrading the planned auxiliary field at the traditional fifth high school set to open in the fall of 2022.
The second option was to build a second, big stadium similar to Leo Buckley Stadium, which is at Killeen High School.
The first option would cost the district around $28.2 million, according to estimates from Adam Rich the district’s facilities director.
The second option would cost around $41.3 million.
The upgrades in the first option would include replacing the grass that is currently on the fields with artificial turf, and adding lighting, sound and new bleachers, as well as other upgrades. The seating additions would make the stadiums each have a 4,000-seat capacity.
KISD spokeswoman Taina Maya said that no specific plans have been made and the talks that were held were very preliminary.
“As far as timeline, if the board were to move forward with a proposal we are looking at a two-year time frame to expand the existing stadium facilities. If they were to vote to go with a new stadium it could take up to four years,” Maya said.
Board member Brett Williams was very vocal at the board meeting on Tuesday about the need to upgrade the stadiums and allow students to play at a “home stadium.”
Williams provided a statement to the Herald on Wednesday.
“I do think Ellison High, Shoemaker High and Harker Heights High deserve a true home stadium that can host 6A varsity sports for football and soccer and provide a true stadium for their track teams. No team in our district should have to pack their bags and travel across town to compete for a home competition,” Williams said.
“I also truly believe that these neighborhood stadiums will attract the surrounding community and generate excitement within these communities. Future students at these various schools will be able to walk to games with friends and experience the game,” Williams said.
Williams also commented on the idea of a new big stadium.
“I do not support a large stadium at this juncture. I want our students and community to be able to embrace their respective team within their respective geographical community,” Williams said. “An empty nest family from Harker Heights would have to drive to another city to support their hometown team for a ‘home’ game. I just think that’s not right.”
Corbett Lawler, the board’s president also responded to the Herald via email on Thursday.
“There must be some additions to KISD’s stadium resources. Buckley Stadium can’t accommodate serving 5 traditional high schools without utilizing Thursday night games and games on Saturday. Neither schedule is conducive to creating traditional high schools with community support environments surrounding a particular school. It puts our schools at a competitive disadvantage and makes it difficult for them to schedule out-of-district games because the outside teams do not want to play Thursday or Saturday games,” Lawler said.
Lawler also commented on the idea of a big stadium.
“The big stadium solution is the least attractive option in that it is more costly and it doesn’t allow the high schools to feel as if they are playing at ‘home’,” Lawler said. “Athletes and students always have to get on a bus and travel somewhere, even if it’s across town. School and community spirit is built around feelings of ‘our school’ and ‘our home field’.”
Board member JoAnn Purser said additional playing fields were needed.
“We have a problem with the typical Friday night football game. Some are held on Thursday and Saturday,” Purser said. “We have to support the athletic program like we support the academic program and the fine arts program, i.e. the stem academy and stage upgrades,” she said.
Board members Minerva Trujillo and Marvin Rainwater both did not want to comment individually on the stadium upgrades. Board member Susan Jones could not be reached by the Herald.
The school district had a new outdoor sports stadium in the plans during the bond planning process in 2017.
“If approved by the board, construction will include a new elementary school for 2019, estimated to cost $37 million, a career center expansion plan for 2020 that does not have a tentative cost yet but is expected to be near $20 million, a new high school to open in 2021 that could cost more than $135 million, a new outdoor sports stadium for 2021 priced near $48 million and a new middle school to open in 2021 estimated to cost $54 million,” according to a Herald report from 2017.
Social media response to the bond was mixed in 2017 and one reader addressed the stadium. Laura Edmiaston Allen, who lived in Harker Heights, said: “We do not need a 40+ million dollar stadium for a single sport.”
The stadium was removed from the bond at the time and discussions are now resurfacing.
If either of these projects were approved, the money would come from the strategic facilities fund, according to Maya. Other possible uses for that money were not discussed.
The bond, which was approved in May 2018, granted the district $426 million in taxpayer money to build new schools, renovate current schools and consolidate some campuses.
“Proposition A of the bond, for $235 million, will pay for construction of a new high school and elementary school and renovations to existing schools for ADA compliance and security upgrades.
Proposition B, for $191 million, will pay for consolidation of some schools, and renovation of Killeen High School and other schools,” according to file reports.