Austin ISD will look at three scenarios to upgrade aging House Park

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House Park was originally built in 1939. On Memorial Day 2015, the downtown stadium that hosts football games for Austin, Anderson and McCallum high schools flooded and was closed down for months of repairs.

However, more than 70 years after its construction, House Park still stands in the middle of an ever-changing downtown Austin. It now has a new turf field that was installed four years ago after the flood, but the rest of the stadium’s amenities are aging and in need of repair.

On Aug. 12, AISD staff presented a draft of the district’s 2019 Facilities Master Plan, which outlines potential upgrades to the district’s athletics, fine arts and career and technical education.

According to that master plan, House Park’s issues include no parking lot lighting—which creates a safety hazard during night games—press boxes that are undersized and don’t meet accessibility or safety codes, concrete bleachers with exposed rebar, restrooms that are in need of replacement and concession stands that are too small.

“Almost every element of House Park is in need for an improvement or upgrade,” the master plan draft said.

According to the report, House Park is used on about 42% of the days that it is open. The stadium is split nearly in half between events, with 50.5% of its usage coming from football games and 49.5% soccer matches. In the 2018-19 season, the field was also used for youth Pop Warner football games and as a home field for the Austin Sol, a professional ultimate frisbee team.

The report does not outline any specific costs for any of the three House Park scenarios or any upgrades at the other facilities throughout the district. However, it does say generally that a future bond referendum will be necessary to fund the 2019 Facility Master Plan’s recommendations.

“Bond referendum language will clearly outline the scope of work for each facility, in the short term and long term,” the report says.

The report presented three scenarios for the park—renovations, large scale renovations and a rebuild. A final version of the Facilities Master Plan will be presented to AISD trustees for approval this October.

Scenario A: Renovations

This scenario would demolish the press box on the west side of the field to make way for more seating, while constructing a new press box on the east side. Otherwise, the field will look from the outside similar to what fans see now at House Park. However, the project would upgrade some of the areas that are most in need of replacement or renovation—including locker rooms, the scoreboard, the concession stand and restrooms.

Scenario B: Major Renovations

Much like the first scenario, this project would add a digital scoreboard, bring the entire facility into compliance with the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act, install parking lot lighting and rebuild locker rooms.

The major difference between the first two scenarios is with seating. The new press box would go on the west side instead of the first scenario’s proposal to put it on the east side, and the seating configuration would be changed to accommodate that new press box with an elevator.

In addition, berm seating would be added behind the southern end zone near the new scoreboard.

Scenario C: Rebuild

Instead of renovating the specific areas of House Park that are outdated, this scenario would completely rebuild the stadium at a higher elevation out of the flood zone, with a suggested one-story parking garage to go in underneath the field.

The scenario would decrease the seating capacity at House Park. According to the report, the stadium currently seats about 5,000 spectators and averages 3,034 fans per game. The report said that only one annual game, the “Taco Shack Bowl” between city rivals Anderson and McCallum, that draws a crowd exceeding the capacity of the stadium.

In addition to raising the field, this scenario would include a community space at the southern end-zone for academic and professional development with seating for 300 that would be used for community meetings, banquets, and “various CTE related fields.”

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  1. The scoreboard was put up in 1947 by the Austin Lions Club and was dedicated to students of Austin High (then the only high school in town) who had served in WWII. In 2018, the Austin Lions Club re-dedicated the historic scoreboard to students of all AISD high schools who have gone on to serve in our armed forces. A new plaque was created and ceremoniously presented to the AISD Athletic Director. It was not installed because we were aware of these renovation plans, and is currently in the possession of the Lions Club. Whatever renovation gets approved, we hope an appropriate spot will be designated for permanent installation of this marker. A marker of some kind should also acknowledge Col. Edwin M. House, U.S. diplomat in the Wilson Administration, who donated his land to the school district for this facility in the 1930’s.

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Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. He graduated in 2011 from Boston University and worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in January of 2018.
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