On March 17, the MISD board of trustees unanimously called for the bond election that, in addition to the stadium, would also fund renovations to existing campuses, maintenance to building and transportation stations, upgrades to technology, safety and security, and fine-arts facilities at multiple campuses.
The board called for the election after receiving suggestions at the end of February from a 103-person citizens advisory committee, which met for several weeks evaluating MISD’s current facilities and future needs.
Superintendent Rick McDaniel said the committee’s objective was to plan for the district’s future growth.
“At some point McKinney ISD has to come to the realization that we are a growing city that will at some point have five to six high schools the size of McKinney Boyd High School with 3,000 students each,” he said.
District officials have said they will be issuing a 2 cent property tax rate reduction regardless of whether the bond passes. MISD’s previous bond election passed in 2011 with no increase to the tax rate.
However, voters in September 2013 passed a tax ratification election, or TRE, that raised the maintenance and operations portion of the property tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17 per $100 of assessed value, the state maximum. This brought MISD’s total tax rate to $1.67 per $100 of assessed property value.
The district cited a $15.7 million cut in state funding as the reason for the TRE and said MISD had cut $4.7 million worth of expenditures to accommodate the lack of state funding.
Although there are several items in the proposed bond package, the stadium has drawn the most discussion.
Accounting for roughly 25 percent of the bond package, MISD is asking for $50.3 million for a proposed stadium and events center in the proposed bond package, which would be added to an existing $12.5 million from a 2000 bond that would be used for stadium infrastructure.
The proposed stadium would be located at the northeast corner of Hardin Boulevard and SH 121. The land was purchased in 2011 and 2014 for a total of $8.65 million and was originally considered for a middle school or transportation center. However, MISD officials said they saw the growth of the city develop in the north and re-evaluated their plans.
The proposed stadium would consist of 12,000 seats, offer 2,400-3,000 parking spaces and include a community events center that would host student and teacher events, districtwide training, and other school events.
Officials say the location would allow for easy travel access and help bring development to the city since MISD will implement infrastructure to the area.
The location is close to surrounding districts such as Allen ISD, which includes its 18,000-seat Eagle Stadium.
Nearby Frisco ISD has the use of two stadiums through public-private funding partnerships in conjunction with the city and various professional sports teams, including the 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium and the 12,000-seat Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, which is currently under construction. The district also uses its district-owned 9,000-seat Memorial Stadium. [polldaddy poll=9375282]
MISD currently operates with a 6,988-seat Ron Poe Stadium, which was built in 1962. The most recent renovations to the stadium took place in 2007 and included new concessions and a press box. Renovations cost $5.5 million and were funded by the 2005 bond program.
Stadium support and opposition
MISD officials and residents have voiced opinions both for and against the proposed stadium.
“We have outgrown Ron Poe,” said Jennifer Gray, a citizens advisory committee member. “We have put Band-Aids on it, and we have done our due diligence utilizing that space. Now we have the opportunity to go and build something that is going to last for another 50-60 years.”
McDaniel said the size and scope of the stadium is a direct reflection of the growth of the district. MISD’s current enrollment is a little more than 25,000 students; however, the district projects roughly 50,000 students at build-out.
“If we were built out with our current students and we were trying to build a stadium like this, it would be over the top,” McDaniel said. “But that is not the case. We are only half-built, and in time we will be an enormous district. The bar for our facilities has been set very high at McKinney ISD. The stadium suggests that we care about providing the best learning opportunity and educational experience to our students.”
But not all residents think a stadium showcases the community’s support for its students.
Mike Giles, who leads the Grassroots McKinney political action committee—formed in 2015 for city and school district elections—said the proposed stadium is an “unnecessary luxury.”
“They will have $50.3 million to construct the stadium, $12.5 million for infrastructure and they’ve already purchased $10 million worth of land,” he said. “So they are really asking for a $72.8 million stadium. We looked around the country. Right now, that will be the most expensive amateur stadium in the country on a per-seat basis. That is not where we need to be putting our money.”
Giles said there were several items in the bond he supports, including technology and safety upgrades as well as heating, ventilating, air conditioning and building improvements. However, he said the size of the proposed stadium is “over the top.”
“[MISD has] no plans for any new high school for the next 10 years,” he said. “We don’t need a new stadium right now to accommodate the growth of new high schools. The demographic study says they are growing less than 1 percent a year. There is not a single school in this bond package. Why do we need a 12,000-seat stadium?”
Giles said when the TRE passed it raised property taxes in McKinney 8.4 percent. That increase, coupled with the city’s increase in home appraisal values, has supplied the district with an increase of more than 45 percent in additional funds since 2013, he said.
“[MISD has] a whole bunch of money coming in, and they are going to offer to give us 2 cents back,” he said.
Liz Strand-Cimini, a citizens advisory committee member, said a new stadium could help bring new residents to the city.
“My neighbors are both Realtors from Ebby Halliday in the McKinney office, and they are having a challenge drawing executives who are coming for Liberty Mutual or State Farm and Toyota because they come and see all the things in Frisco or Allen,” she said. “So folks who are coming to choose a quality school district for their children are drawn to these shinier objects in our neighboring cities. We don’t have that here; we should have that here, and we can have that here.”
Jason Burress, a 14-year McKinney resident, a former McKinney Community Development Corp. board member and a current McKinney Economic Development Corp. board member, said he does not see the stadium as an economic driver.
“I do not believe the proposed stadium would have a significant impact on non-retail commercial development,” he said. “Whether another CVS[/pharmacy] or convenience store would pop up on a competing corner as a direct result of a stadium is a different question, but still not a reason in my view to influence one’s opinion in favor of the stadium.”
Burress said that although some locations in the city, specifically in the north and east sectors, would benefit from a major development bringing in infrastructure, he has not heard anyone discuss the lack of infrastructure near the proposed stadium land.
“I think infrastructure is never a bad thing, but would that make ‘XYZ’ Fortune 500 company come? I don’t know,” he said. “What I hear more than anything else is that shopping, a solid restaurant base, a city with a good walkability, good schools, where it’s easy to get around traffic-wise, anywhere you have a good quality of life or you have a good base of employment talent, those are the things that bring in economic development.”
One bond, one proposition
Although state law requires cities to break down their bond proposals into separate propositions, school districts are allowed to lump all of their proposed bond items into one proposition. Surrounding districts such as Plano, Allen and Frisco ISDs have proposed one-proposition bond packages in the past. However, the decision for MISD to do so has come under fire.
McDaniel said it is not MISD’s philosophy—even with a potentially controversial item such as the stadium—to break down a bond package.
Cody Cunningham, MISD’s chief communications and support services officer, said separate propositions could mislead residents into thinking the district values one proposition more than another.
Unlike the city, which must wait a minimum of three years before resubmitting a failed bond to voters, the school district must only wait six months. Cunningham said should the bond fail, MISD would immediately obtain feedback from voters to determine the primary issues.
“There is no limit on how many bond elections we can call, just a limit on how soon after we can call them,” he said. “So we would just keep re-evaluating until one passes.”