DALLAS – The Green Bay Packers were eager to move their Super Bowl week practices indoors after cold, icy weather hit the North Texas region. They were skeptical though when coach Mike McCarthy explained exactly where they’d be training.
At a local high school.
Wait, really? Visions of patchy grass, make-shift weight rooms and cramped training facilities came flashing back. That was the best the NFL could do?
“The players rolled their eyes at first when I told them where we were going to work,” McCarthy said. “I said, ‘Now, just hold on. This is Texas football.’ ”
Specifically, this is Highland Park High School’s $4.5 million indoor practice facility, freshly opened in August and on par with the facilities the Pittsburgh Steelers are using over at Texas Christian University. TCU just won the Rose Bowl, of course. Highland Park is still a high school after all.
Apprehensions dissipated when the Packers strolled through the glass doors and into a building that was most certainly worthy of a potential Super Bowl champion. The Packers plan to train there up until Sunday’s game, sharing the site with the school’s boys' and girls’ soccer teams.
The hope is their rubbernecking looks around the place won’t distract game preparation.
As McCarthy said, that’s Texas.
Highland Park is hardly the only community in the area that’s pouring huge sums of money into its football facilities. The City of Allen, which sits in the northern suburbs, is currently building an 18,000-seat, stadium complete with high definition scoreboard, two-level press box and chair back seating in certain sections.
The total price tag? Try an estimated $60 million.
“My daughter went to Lake Travis High School [in Austin], and their facilities are similar to this,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think anybody was disappointed when they walked through the doors.”
How could they be? The Packers were universal in their praise, saying it was hardly any different than their indoor facility back in Wisconsin.
“The roof is lower than our indoor center in Green Bay, but other than that [nothing was different],” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes). “We didn’t kick in there, but other than that it is not a big deal.
“They have a great facility over there,” Rodgers continued. “I think back to my high school days – I hope those kids realize how fortunate they are to be able to practice in a facility like that.”
There is something mind-bending – and controversial – about these football palaces. The opulence of the buildings and obvious one-upmanship that seems to inspire bigger and better appears from the outside to be misplaced priorities.
The community sees it differently. The indoor facility is safer for high school athletes, who otherwise would train in the Texas heat. Overall, the state of athletic facilities has become a testament to the priorities – and wealth – of the communities involved.
Highland Park is one of the richest communities in Texas, an enclave tucked inside the Dallas city limits. Its high school is nationally ranked for its academics. It’s churned out great football players from Doak Walker to Bobby Layne to Matthew Stafford(notes).
Part of the funding came from a $1 million donation from school boosters.
In Allen, a booming suburb with a population of about 85,000, a $119 million bond was put to the voters in 2008 for the football stadium and an equally impressive performing arts center. Allen High School boasts 5,000 students, including a massive 800-member marching band.
The bond passed with 63 percent of the vote.
This is what the people here want to do with their money. Whether that makes sense to the rest of America isn’t the issue. Here on Super Bowl week, a bunch of professional athletes could only look around in wonder at a facility and laugh at how it was back where they grew up.
“Texas football is amazing. Everything in Texas is great.”
- High School
- the Packers
- Highland Park High School