Todd Robison, Hutto ISD director of communications and community relations, said the project is being done with the future in mind.
Construction is estimated to be complete by Sept. 8 with the official ribbon cutting designated for the Freedom Game in November, the closest home game to Veteran’s Day, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Henry Gideon said.
HISD voters passed a $194 million bond in 2019 for renovations to the elementary, middle and high schools as well as technology and transportation facility improvements. Part of the $60.8 million allocated for Hutto High School will be used for the renovations of Hutto Memorial Stadium.
One decision the district had to make before starting renovations was whether there would eventually need to be two stadiums for a potential second high school or if one stadium would serve both, Robison said.
The new ninth-grade center, expected to open this fall, will eventually become a second high school, he said. Because current and projected enrollment at Hutto High School exceeds the building capacity, the center was built to reduce the population by 800 students.
Although the center’s transition into a full-fledged high school is still several years away, it played a role in the final decision to renovate Hutto Memorial Stadium to 6A conference status so, in the future, it could be utilized by both, Robison said.
“We’re not building it just for now; we’re building it for the future,” he said. “What we’re about to do is going to be something that’s going to be here for a long time.”
Room to grow
As the city of Hutto has grown in population, so has enrollment in its schools, including Hutto High School, which moves up in classification every few years, Robison said.
The University Interscholastic League sets conference classifications on public school competitions depending on enrollment. These classifications go from 1A, with enrollment of 104 students and below, to 6A, 2,220 students or more. When Hutto Memorial Stadium was built in 1998, Hutto High School was considered a 3A school with an enrollment of 274 students. Now, with its enrollment at 2,403 students at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the high school is a 6A school.
Before renovations, the stadium had about 4,700 seats, which included additional seats added around 10 years ago. Once complete, seating will have doubled with approximately 10,000 seats, Gideon said.
The base of the home-side seating will be raised 4 feet to ensure a view of the field from any vantage point, he said. Additional seats will be added to the visitor side as well.
Robison said the district expects a significant number of visitors will come to games now that the high school is classified as 6A. When the school moved to 4A status in 2008 and 5A in 2014, many of the teams the high school would play against were far drives from Hutto.
Now, Hutto High School plays against schools in Round Rock and Leander, so an increase in visitors is more than likely, Robison said.
The renovations also include two additional restrooms and concessions on the home side. Currently, the stadium has two concession buildings with one situated between two restroom buildings. Gideon said in the past it would get crowded with people in line for the concessions and the restrooms.
Post renovation, the stadium will have an additional two concession areas and two restroom buildings, one on each end of the home side seating, Robison said.
“This allows us to really spread things out and better manage the population that attends, and frankly it enhances safety,” Gideon said.
Having restrooms and concessions on the home side will also reduce the amount of people walking past the entrance to the field. Athletic Director Brad LaPlante said during games staff would have to temporarily extend a chain blocking the path because spectators would get in the team’s way as the players were heading to the field.
LaPlante said parents would often also have to stand outside the bleachers because there was not enough seating for them.
“Our parents are probably more excited than the kids,” he said. “Now we’ll have more reserved seating.”
Standing room only
With a good football team and an increasing number of band members, more people are coming to games to support the students; however, there has not been enough seating for them, Hutto resident Linda Kay said. All three of Kay’s children played in the band, and she served as the Hutto High School Band Booster president.
The seating situation got to the point where the band, at about 260 students, was moved to temporary seating on the track so more people could sit in the stands, she said.
The number of extra people allowed on the field was limited due to athletic department and UIL guidelines, so it impacted the amount of parents who could help out, Kay said.
Hutto resident Felix Torres said he would have to arrive at football games an hour early to make sure he got a good seat and parking spot.
“The community loves their Hippos so much that everybody, whether you have a child or not, they’re at the field on Friday night,” he said.
While Torres served as the assistant coach to his son’s Hutto YMCA football team, he would go to Hutto Memorial Stadium for events, such as Meet the Hippo, and would walk the track with his son. Now, his son is on Hutto High School’s varsity football team and played his first game as a starter on the field.
“Watching him grow from a child, loving a game and playing it on that field, and watching that field grow with him is pretty cool,” Torres said.
Hippo prideGoing forward the district is considering making the Freedom Game the closest home game to Veteran’s Day, Robison said.
The stadium was renamed Hutto Memorial Stadium five years ago because of its memorials to veterans and first responders, Robison said.
The field house is named after Kyle G. West, a former Hutto High School student and football player who was killed in Operation Desert Storm. Plaques honoring each branch of the military are displayed on a wall inside the stadium. A chair on the front row of the stands designated for prisoners of war or those missing in action always stays empty and serves as a Memorial as well, Robison says.
“It’s not Memorial Stadium just in name; it’s a memorial stadium in terms of things within the facility itself,” he said.
Another feature will be the addition of a spirit shop on the home side. Hours have not yet been set, but the shop will be open Friday on game nights and during the week to purchase Hutto Hippo apparel.
Hippo pride is incorporated in the stadium’s design. Robison said Fort Worth-based VLK Architects did a good job ensuring the stadium has “the Hutto look,” such as a silo appearance.
“We kind of identify with being unique, and so we want our new stadium to have some uniqueness to it as well,” he said.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct where VLK Architects is headquartered.