Celina Independent School District has succumbed to sports mania, joining its North Texas neighbors in voting to spend tens of millions of education dollars on athletic facilities instead of building classrooms for the small but growing district.

Celina school board members unanimously approved a $24.5 million athletics complex at Celina High School that includes a football stadium, field house, athletic building, film room, and an $800,000 scoreboard, among other amenities.

Modest by Collin County mega-stadium standards, Celina’s football stadium will hold 6,500 seats, with room to expand to 10,000. Construction is expected to take a year.

Allen ISD’s trendsetting $60 million stadium complex, completed in 2012, seats 18,000. McKinney ISD’s just-opened stadium cost taxpayers $70 million and holds 12,000. Celina ISD currently has only about 2,600 students across six campuses – less than half the enrollment of Allen High School alone.

Taxpayers will pick up the $24.5 million tab for the Celina complex as part of a $34.3 million bond package approved by voters in November 2008, though not specifically for athletic facilities. The cost plus interest will be repaid with property taxes.

According to the district’s bond data, CISD taxpayers are now on the hook for $175 million in bond debt principal and interest — more than $12,000 for every single resident, and over $67,000 per student.

The district’s total budget for the 2018-19 school year is $61 million, including $27.8 million in capital projects.

Celina ISD, which calls itself the “Destination District,” expects significant increases in enrollment as the area’s population explodes in the next few years. Anticipating such fast growth, the district’s responsibility to taxpayers should have been to reserve its approved bond debt to spend on new classroom capacity and ask voters to okay a separate bond issue to pay for new sports facilities.

While many high school sports boosters support mega-stadiums, more and more Texas taxpayers want school districts to spend education dollars on things that educate students.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.