They built and they came. But then it cracked, leaving graduation and classes in the lurch.
A nearly $60-million, taxpayer-funded football stadium in Allen, Texas, north of Dallas, was closed indefinitely this week, 18 months after opening, because of "extensive cracking" along the concrete concourse, district officials said.
The stadium was a showy marvel when built and regarded as the nation's most expensive high school field. Its 18,000 seats rank it among the top 10 high school stadiums in Texas. Voters asked for the stadium in 2009, with 63% of them approving a $119-million bond. It replaced a 35-year-old, still-used stadium with 4,000 fewer seats.
But Allen's Eagle Stadium will have to be evaluated and repaired, Allen Independent School District announced. Classes and members of the public that used the stadium were turned away starting Thursday.
"The most prudent thing to do, to absolutely assure the safety of students, staff and the community is to keep the facility closed during this review," School Board President Louise Master said in a statement.
District officials said it's unclear where graduation ceremonies will be held now and that repairs would likely affect the reigning state champion's home games next fall.
The district said it's in discussions with the designer, PBK Architects, and the builder, Pogue Construction.
"We are very disappointed and upset that these problems have arisen," interim Superintendent Beth Nicholas said. "It is unacceptable."
Neither company could be immediately reached for comment. Pogue Construction told reporters at a news conference that the cracks range from a quarter-inch to three-quarters of an inch and that tarps were preventing rain from seeping in.
"We'll be a partner for the solution," said Chief Executive Ben Pogue.
Adding to the problems for the architect and builder is that they are working on another facility, a $36-million office, for the district. Officials have ordered an independent review of the team's work.
Golf and wrestling teams at Allen have facilities in the stadium, too. All of the school's sports teams use the stadium's gym.
"We are frustrated, we're very concerned, we're not happy about it of course," Nicholas said at the news conference. "We want to get to the bottom of it because our taxpayers deserve that."
Excitement over lavish stadiums seems to have tempered a bit in Texas. Last fall, about 55% of voters in Katy, near Houston, rejected a $99-million bond measure that would have paid for a $69.5-million football stadium.