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Its $60 million high school football stadium, with a three-tiered press box that juts above the Texas horizon, has been a source of considerable pride in this community north of Dallas ever since the state-of-the-art facility opened less than two years ago.

But if you walk inside 18,000-seat Eagle Stadium these days, it's impossible to miss the countless cracks, some as wide as three-quarters of an inch, lining the concourse that have made the stadium unfit for public assembly. And now this one-high-school community has been forced to deal with the fact that the stadium will be closed for the football season because of significant structural deficiencies.

"It is a jewel in our community," said Larry Kelly, a longtime supporter of Allen High's football program who moved to the community in 1973. "To hear that it's closed, it was pretty devastating."

Not only is Allen grappling with the notion its back-to-back Class 5A Division I state championship football team will have to play home games in neighboring Plano, but many locals also have been rankled that the news provided fuel for critics nationwide.

The construction of the stadium was held up by some as a sign of excess, an alarming next step in a high school facilities arms race in a state where football rivals religion in importance. The same critics cite the structural issues as a prime reason it never should have been built.

Much of the community agrees that the stadium issues are embarrassing, just not for the city of Allen or the Allen Independent School District. They say the responsibility rests with PBK Architects, which designed the stadium, and Pogue Construction, which built it.

"This is not a black eye for Allen ISD or the community of Allen," district Superintendent Lance Hindt said while walking the stadium's concourse with a USA TODAY Sports reporter. "It is a black eye for PBK and Pogue. Absolutely."

The school district hired Nelson Forensics to investigate the cause of the cracking. A preliminary report identified design deficiencies in the elevated concourse that fail to meet building codes. Hindt said PBK and Pogue were working with the school district to determine the scope of the problem.

Pogue has retained its own consultant that has been reviewing the stadium construction. Though its final report has yet to be issued, its findings to date support several conclusions of the Nelson report focusing on design issues, Pogue said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.

PBK, in a statement to USA TODAY Sports, said in part: "We continue to work closely with the Allen Independent School District to reopen Eagle Stadium as soon as possible. In the coming weeks, findings will be presented and a repair solution jointly determined with the district. We will do whatever it takes to implement the repairs at absolutely no cost to the Allen ISD or taxpayers."

After the closing was announced, Chris Tripucka, who owns Eagle Designs spirit store near the stadium, grew so frustrated from reading online comments by those criticizing Allen that he took action.

He designed a T-shirt that said "Road Warriors 2014" and "Home is anywhere Eagle Nation plays."

Within an hour, more than 1,000 people had viewed the T-shirt on Facebook. After the first shipment of 182 T-shirts arrived at the store, they sold out in less than 24 hours. Fans have asked for the same designs on car decals and rally towels.

In its latest report, Nelson Forensics said its review of engineering documents discovered areas of the stadium where the design-load demand exceeded the code-permitted capacity by 10% to 20% at multiple locations and by greater than 70% at isolated locations.

A final report from Nelson is due this month. Nelson has partnered with a second firm, Datum Engineering, to begin developing plans for repairs and to coordinate with contractors to procure cost estimates for those repairs.

Hindt said the school district already had lost more than $600,000 in revenue. He said he expected neither taxpayers nor the district would lose a penny.

Most locals are standing by their school district, but they want their stadium back. Mike Williams, who moved to Allen in 1974 and hardly misses a game, said the stadium had put Allen on the map and almost everyone supported the school district in making the best decisions.

"They are definitely blaming the wrong people," Williams said of critics lambasting Allen. "There's always going to be those people who don't read or who don't understand and are not totally educated. They are going to be negative."

Britt Brooks, who has lived in Allen since 1992 and whose son plays on the football team, said he had heard or read negative national reaction to the stadium issues every day since the news was announced in February.

"The one that always cracks me up is, 'Oh, they should have bought $60 million worth of books,'" Brooks said. "We are not short on funding for our schools. Our schools take care of the kids really well. It bugs the crap out of me that people don't take the time to read and understand."

Even with the stadium issues, Brooks said the same referendum to build it would pass again with the exact same amount of support from the community.

Asked if there were any lessons learned from this, Hindt said, "I don't know if we would have done it any other way."

June 10, 2014 

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