It appears further confirmation was needed that in Texas, football truly is king.
Sixty-three percent of voters in the McKinney Independent school district decided last Saturday to publicly fund a $220 million bond package which includes $62.8 million for a new 20,000-seat high school football stadium and events center. You read that correctly.
Some perspective: that’s more than half of what it cost the University of Kentucky — a Southeastern Conference football team — to renovate Commonwealth Stadium. It’s only about $23 million shy of the $86 million the University of Cincinnati recently spent to upgrade Nippert Stadium. It dwarfs the $3.3 million Trinity spent a decade ago to build Marshall Stadium, which was constructed through fund-raising and privately donated materials and services.
The McKinney price tag is $2.8 million more than what the city of Allen, Texas, famously spent on its own high school stadium two years ago (which was later closed for a year due to concrete defects), and $300,000 more than Katy, Texas, will spend on its own 12,000-seat stadium set to open in 2017. Allen and McKinney are about 4 miles apart.
Perhaps I’m jaded — my high school used coal-severance money to build a new football stadium and then a few years later had to scramble to repair ceilings that leaked every time a rain cloud rolled into Inez — but it sure seems like most of that money could be put to better use than creating a venue for staging scholastic sporting events. I’m not alone.
“That’s a shame,” Highlands Athletic Director Matt Haskamp said. “Their (school) buildings better be awesome.”
Highlands recently completed a decade-long, campus-wide project of which renovations to its football facilities and other athletic venues were a decent chunk. About $10 million of a $40 million project helped Highlands get a new field house open to multiple sports, a host of upgrades to its basketball gym and a new press box — all that to go along with improvements to its football stadium, including new artificial turf.
“And it wasn’t out of want, but it was out of need,” Haskamp said with a laugh. “… 10 years ago when I first started here, I would venture to say we had the worst athletic facilities in the state.”
A new fitness center was included in the $10 million dedicated toward athletic additions, but that building is open to the public and is used more for academic purposes than by the school’s athletic teams, Haskamp said. Every academic portion of the project was completed before the athletic facilities were renovated. Nearly $10 million of the overall project was donated privately with the rest publicly bonded.
The total McKinney bond package includes, among other items, renovations for HVAC systems, band halls, security, plumbing, roofs and an auditorium.
Three high schools will play home games at the stadium, which somewhat massages the stunning sum. Soccer games and band competitions will be held there. The attached events center can accommodate occasions such as banquets and reunions. So that’s $62.8 million for a football field and what amounts to a community center.
Highlands and Trinity got by just fine without fancier amenities for much of their history; each have won 23 football titles, more than any other program in state history.
“When (former Bluebirds football coach) Dale Mueller was here, he had the worst facilities in the world,” Haskamp said. “His weight room was a dungeon. He’d have kids exercising in the winter program running up and down the halls of the school because they didn’t have any other place to go. … I don’t think (kids) are joining our teams to use a $2 million field house.
“That’s kind of what Texas is saying. ‘We’re building this $62 million field, come out and play football.’ We’re gonna have kids come out and play in a sandlot and play as hard as they would if they had that facility.”
The Republic Bank/KHSAA State Team Tennis Championships get underway, with boys’ and girls’ fields to compete at Shillito Park and Sayre Tennis Complex, beginning Saturday morning. The boys’ and girls’ semifinals and finals will be held Sunday.
Republic Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Team State Tournament bracket Republic Bank/KHSAA Girls’ Team State Tournament bracket
For the first time since 1997, the Henry Clay boys and girls are both vying for a team title in the same season. Henry Clay’s boys have advanced to state nine of the last 11 seasons. This is the girls’ first trip since 1998. Only one school has ever swept both team titles in the same year — Sayre in 1985.
“You look at the draw and we have a great opportunity,” Blue Devils Coach John Herring said. “We’re looking forward to getting there and giving it our best shot.”
A Lexington school hasn’t won a team title since the Lexington Christian girls won the second of back-to-back championships in 2006. Henry Clay’s boys have never won a team title, but the Blue Devils’ girls did win once in 1986.
St. Xavier has made the boys’ tournament its own personal championship buffet: the Musketeers have won seven straight team titles and 24 overall. Trinity has won five boys’ titles while five other schools — Ballard, Henderson, Manual, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Sayre — each have one.
Lone Oak won 11 girls’ titles before consolidating into McCracken County. McCracken won the girls’ championship last season.
Track meet moves
Tates Creek hosts the Class 3A, Region 6 track-and-field meet Friday. Field events begin at 5:45 p.m. with track events scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m.
The meet originally was scheduled for Saturday morning but the KHSAA granted a waiver after coaches expressed concern about weather (our meteorological friends call for rain and temperatures in the 50s on Saturday; sunshine and 70s are expected Friday).
The following teams are part of the event: Anderson County, Bryan Station, Clark County, Henry Clay, Lafayette, Montgomery County, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Scott County, Tates Creek and Woodford County. The top-seeded individual or group in each event is from a Lexington school.
Lexington Catholic competes in Class 2A, Region 4 while Lexington Christian and Sayre are part of Class A, Region 5. Those meets will be held next weekend.
▪ Darius Williams, a first-team All-State selection as well as a finalist for Mr. Basketball this past season, signed to play at Northeastern Mississippi, a junior college in Booneville, Miss. Williams averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who won their first Sweet Sixteen title in March.
▪ Tates Creek senior Shay Wilson signed to play basketball at Midway College on Wednesday.
“I am so proud of Shay because she has worked extremely hard and put in countless hours preparing for this moment in her life,” first-year Tates Creek Coach Jan Perkins said. “Playing at Midway is a true testament to her pursuit of excellence on and off the court.”
▪ Ally Johnson, a Beechwood basketball junior, has committed to Bucknell. She averaged a team-high 18.1 points for the Tigers. She and fellow senior-to-be Kimi Stokes accounted for 62 percent of Beechwood’s scoring last season.
▪ Madison Central basketball senior Terique Miller, who was second on the team at 13.1 ppg last season, signed with Berea College on Wednesday.
▪ Mason County golfer Tyler Lippert has signed a letter of intent to play golf at Eastern Kentucky University. Lippert was first-team All-State in 2014 and 2015.
▪ Lafayette infielder Jacob Abbott has signed to play baseball at Eastern Kentucky.
WYMT reported last week that Rodrick Rhodes’ boys’ basketball coaching contract at Cordia would not be renewed for the 2016-17 season.
A letter signed by Knott County superintendent Kim King that Cordia officials shared with WYMT said that Rhodes’ contract would not be renewed based upon his “inability to maintain a satisfactory working relationship with Principal (Jonathan Mullins), insubordination, neglect of duty and ineffectiveness with respect to following established school district policies and procedures related to Red Book training and accounting requirements.” The decision was made on Mullins’ recommendation according to the letter.
King did not respond to multiple attempts the Herald-Leader made to reach out for comment.
Dozens of people rallied at a Knott County Board of Education meeting Tuesday in support of Rhodes.
“It meant a lot,” Rhodes told WYMT on Tuesday. “… I’ve tried to fit into the community, and I’ve tried to set an example with the kids and just be humble.”
Rhodes, who played at the University of Kentucky and helped the Lions win their first All “A” state title in January, refused further comment on the situation when asked by the Herald-Leader.
Cordia finished 15-10 this season, the second year of a two-year postseason ban after the KHSAA tagged the Lions’ basketball program with numerous violations.
The Lions went 76-51 under Rhodes.
Here’s the schedule, by site, for the Fayette County Invitational, which annually brings several of the best baseball teams in the state — including No. 1 Greenup County, the state’s last remaining unbeaten team at 31-0 — to Lexington this weekend. Games are subject to change based on weather. All times are p.m. unless noted.
At Bryan Station — Friday: Station vs. Ryle, 5:30; North Laurel vs. Johnson Central, 8. Saturday: Station vs. Johnson Central, 11 a.m.; Johnson Central vs. Ryle, 1:30; Ryle vs. North Laurel, 4; Station vs. North Laurel, TBA
At Henry Clay — Friday: Henry Clay vs. Lexington Catholic, 5:30; Ballard vs. Somerset, 8. Saturday: Henry Clay vs. Somerset, 11 a.m.; Somerset vs. Lexington Catholic, 1:30 Henry Clay vs. Ballard, 4.
At Lafayette — Friday: Fern Creek vs. East Jessamine, 5:30; Greenup County vs. Lafayette, 8. Saturday: Lafayette vs. Fern Creek, 11 a.m.; Greenup County vs. Madison Central, 1:30; East Jessamine vs. Greenup County, 4; Lafayette vs. East Jessamine, TBA
At Tates Creek — Thursday: Tates Creek vs. West Jessamine, TBA. Friday: West Jessamine vs. Boone County, 6; Boone County vs. Tates Creek, 8:30.
At Paul Laurence Dunbar — Saturday: Dunbar vs. Elizabethtown, 11 a.m.; Elizabethtown vs. Butler, 1; Butler vs. Madison Central, 4.
The Kentucky Lacrosse Association named its North Region and South Region All-State teams this week. Lexington players accounted for 18 of the 24 selections, including 11 of 12 on the South team.
The North’s honorees were: Blake Alexander, Dixie Heights; Cole Bentley, Dixie Heights; Mason Blackburn, Tates Creek; Preston Brooks, Bryan Station; Kagen Butler, Dixie Heights; Walt Finch, Henry Clay; Michael Fredlock, Henry Clay; Austin Miller, Dixie Heights; Ben Schaeffer, Henry Clay; Dustin Soper, Bryan Station; Jordan Tobler, Covington Catholic; Luke Winkler, Sayre.
The South’s honorees were: Strohmann Breeding, Lexington Catholic; Kevin Brown, Lexington Catholic; Shannon Brown, Paul Laurence Dunbar; Trey Carney, Lexington Catholic; Kyle Draper, Paul Laurence Dunbar; Colin Fulkerson, Elizabethtown; Joe Mulert, Paul Laurence Dunbar; Spencer Kriss, Lexington Catholic; Stevan Kriss, Lexington Catholic; Jesse Purdy, Paul Laurence Dunbar; Joe Sternberg, Lexington Christian; Daniel Stuber, Lexington Catholic.