Artist's conception of the finished McKinney stadium.

Artist’s conception of the finished McKinney stadium.

Each day, I do “five pointers,” questions my students can answer that yield five extra credit points. Among the categories is official Texas state symbols. “Official Texas state symbols?” Of course! Legislators actually vote on such things. For example, our state fish is the Guadalupe Bass, and our state flying mammal is the Mexican free tail bat. Can’t you just imagine the debate on the floor of the Senate:

Senator Foghorn: “For the official fish of the great state of Texas, I nominate the majestic trout!”

Senator Obfuscation: “Trout?” That there’s a sissy fish! We need a bass! The manly Guadalupe Bass!

Rest of the Senate: “Bass! Bass! Bass…”

Our state sport is rodeo, but when I ask the question, the kids invariably respond “football,” to which I reply:

“No. That’s our religion.”

And in McKinney, Texas, a town of about 150,000 some 40 miles north of Dallas, our religion’s grandest high school-level place of Friday night worship is under construction: 

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and now the record-setting budget for a new high school football stadium has reportedly ballooned to a whopping $70 million.

Voters in McKinney approved a $63.5 million stadium in May, but just three months later, planners have called an audible — tacking on another $6.5 million to the cost of the 12,000-seat gridiron showcase. The stadium will top a $62.5 million, 12,000-seat facility under construction in Katy and a $60 million stadium that opened in Allen in 2014 to become the costliest ever to host prep pigskin.

The visionary Rick McDaniel

The visionary Rick McDaniel

We’re visionaries,” McKinney Independent School District Superintendent Rick McDaniel told the Dallas Morning News after 63 percent of local voters passed a $220 million bond issue to fund the stadium and other district improvements. “And we believe we have a vision for McKinney ISD that will propel us forward for a long time.”

The cost overrun was blamed on rising concrete and labor prices, according to WFAA.

I’ve noticed that whenever someone calls themselves “visionaries,” it’s a sure bet they’re anything but. That tends to be a title others bestow based on long-term, unquestionable accomplishment. McDaniel–no relation–is the Obama kind of visionary, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for being Barack Obama. Nobel Committee members later admitted they gave him the prize in the expectation he would eventually do great things. And as the Middle East burns and the rivers run red with the blood of innocents, he has: he’s made the world, including America, a far more unstable and deadly place.

Building a ridiculously expensive high school football stadium will propel the McKinney ISD (Independent School District) forward? What the hell does that mean? The visionaries will tell us:

As with pro sports venues that can cost upwards of $1 billion, much of the sales pitch for the high school stadium was about its value as a catalyst for development. Local officials believe it will bring restaurants and retail shops to the town, some 37 miles north of Dallas.

Not everyone was thrilled at the expenditure, with Grassroots McKinney campaigning against it.

Inconceivable!   Who could possibly be against such a visionary undertaking?  Business owners will surely and universally say: “Golly! They built a huge stadium that will be in use on a few Fridays during football season, and will never, ever be filled to capacity. We must immediately sink huge sums we don’t have in the Obama economy to build restaurants and retail shops in an already saturated market. We’ll be sure to lose a fortune, but we’ll be propelled forward, and that’s what matters!”

I’m sure McDaniel, if he has not already done so, will soon be announcing that this is not just a football stadium, but it’s a stadium for the entire school district and every possible activity. That’s what Texas superintendents of schools do whenever they get caught with huge cost overruns on wasteful stadiums. Somehow, English, math, science and other classes never seem to make their way to such stadiums, even though they were built just for them. I know an Astroturf floor in my classroom would absolutely transform my teaching.

Or perhaps McDaniel and his fellow self-proclaimed visionaries will claim the McKinney ISD will make a fortune renting the stadium to other communities. That’s also a common Texas superintendent ploy. Unfortunately, few, if any, other school districts have the money to spend on the transportation necessary to drive to McKinney, to say nothing of the rent, merely to use a huge stadium they can’t remotely hope to fill even halfway. And there’s the little matter of losing most of the home crowd for away games.  After all, a football field is a football field, and many people go to local high school football games because it’s convenient. What are the compelling reasons to drive to McKinney? It’s big–and empty? Ask people to drive a hundred or so miles, and enthusiasm wanes fast.

In any case, the residents of McKinney voted for it, and they’re about to get it, good and hard. Perhaps a few will feel a bit of remorse as they’re sitting in that huge temple to Texan religion, surrounded by empty seats.

Do I need to say the money could have been better spent elsewhere if actually educating students were the primary function of the McKinney ISD? Didn’t think so.

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