A Community Asset: The Stadium
“Friday Night Lights” is often the phrase you hear when you think about a district stadium in Texas. Growing up, I was involved in the fine arts, so my own Friday Night Lights experience was watching the halftime show put on by the band, the color guard, and the drill team supporting their team with choreographed routines.
The fight song blazing from the stands would envelop the crowd, giving a strong sense of school pride to everyone within earshot while parents, grandparents, students, and alumni gathered in the stands and worked the concession stands in support of the students. It was a community event – an entire celebration of a variety of educational components that contributed to the night’s experience. The specialized instruction required for Friday Night Lights should not be underestimated, nor should facilities in support of the fine arts and athletics be an afterthought. The question of the value placed on a facility intentionally designed to meet the needs of the student is important to consider in order to create this magical environment.
Student Career Opportunities
When we think about stadiums, we are often flooded with fond memories of performances on the field or from the stands. At Denton ISD’s C.H. Collins Stadium, there is something special happening in a part of the stadium that participants and spectators alike may overlook:
For some students, a stadium is not just a place to cheer on classmates, but a way to explore a potential vocation. Denton ISD started a program 16 years ago that gives juniors and seniors in the Audio/Video Production class at the LaGrone Academy (which includes some students from other area schools) the opportunity to produce football game and marching band productions at C.H. Collins Stadium. The pre-productions elements, like graphics and planned visual elements for advertisers, is all done by the students. Students not only operate the camera, but they are also directing, running replay, and assisting with the livestream.
There is a play-by-play announcer, and the students help with the sound mixing of that production. Many Denton ISD graduates attend area universities and take the skills learned in their high school program to additional elevated skills at the university level. North Texas has a wide range of facilities with a need for this skillset from massive venues like AT&T Stadium and American Airlines Center, to smaller ones like Toyota Stadium and Riders Field in Frisco.
Safety and Security
A stadium can be used for a variety of activities: soccer, football, track and field, band, dance, color guard, cheerleading, and possibly graduation. The safety and security aspects of stadiums are fundamental and require thoughtful design, which is often lacking in aging facilities. The paramount objective of a stadium’s architectural design is incident prevention, and the multitude of potential uses must be considered. The Crowley ISD Athletic Complex applies crime prevention through environmental design principles, VLK best practices, and the policies and procedures of the district’s first responders.
The primary safety and security design elements that were considered for the complex include perimeter, vehicular, and pedestrian solutions. The perimeter design comprised the incorporation of landscape at the four corners of the stadium, with direct access to the field shielded with berms. Site signage for wayfinding controls ingress and egress. The vehicular drives were designed to separate home-side and visitor-side spectator traffic interactions. Bus parking for fine arts and athletic teams are located at opposite ends of the stadium. The delivery path for concessions is distanced from the stadium’s main gate access. The fencing is designed to deter climbing. A continuous bridge inside the stadium connects the concourse level allowing district police to station officers at all four corners of the stadium.
Strategically located holding rooms in the stadium were placed to remove and isolate any human threat inside the stadium from spectators. Ample lighting is provided throughout the site, including the parking lot, around the stadium, and at the concourse level. To address severe weather threats, the facility is equipped with a lightning prediction and warning system to protect both players and spectators.
Design for the Crowley ISD Athletic Complex was a NCS4 2021 Golden Eagle Award finalist, which reorganizes excellence in architecture, engineering of construction, specifically related to the safety & security of spectators, property, and infrastructure of spectator event facilities.
Overall, the architectural design offers the owner a facility with a long-term, low-cost maintenance program. The site’s safety and security program unite technological, practical, and innovative solutions that will allow the entire complex to operate cohesively and efficiently, while proactively ensuring the well-being of every individual user.
The bright lights on Friday night beckon many in a community, bringing together a variety of individuals demonstrating pride for a team, a program, or a community. Some drive great distances for the experience of the evening.
A stadium’s value goes far beyond the Friday Night Lights tradition. The students who perform in them are motivated to perform on the field, around the field, and in the classroom as well. Students may find a future vocation in a stadium.
They can be a source of pride for communities – and when appropriately designed, a safe and secure asset. Despite pressures on funding for arts and athletics venues, they are valuable to students’ experiences in our schools. Let the lights of Friday nights never dim.