- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - The cost of a suburban Houston school district’s high school football stadium has climbed past $70 million, making it the costliest such stadium in the state.

The costs associated with the Katy school district’s project will exceed the $58 million that voters had set aside for it two years ago, the Houston Chronicle reported (https://bit.ly/2eGgv39 ) Saturday.

Some district officials are defending the expense, noting that the increases arose from projects related to the 12,000-seat all-purpose venue, but not the physical structure itself.

District officials have said they need the second stadium for events in the fast-growing district.

“I’ve attended (citizen bond committee) meetings and have heard the desires for the 12,000-seat stadium, with the emphasis on not raising the tax rate, and we’ve fulfilled that. We are the only school district of our size with seven high schools and one stadium, so our community understands the need for the second stadium. Over two years’ time, there are added costs that come,” said Katy school district board president Rebecca Fox.

Katy voters in 2014 approved the stadium as part of a $748 million bond that will pay for new schools for a district of 73,000 students. The new stadium is being built adjacent to the school district’s existing Rhodes Stadium.

The new stadium is set to open for the 2017 football season. The district will have eight high schools and each will play their football games at the stadium. Soccer will be played there too.

Katy Superintendent Lance Hindt said some of the stadium’s cost amendments and funding for them were not clearly detailed and explained to both the school board and community by the previous administration.

“And in some way,” Hindt said, “it could have been misleading in an unintentional way. Where we are right now, it is a $70 million stadium regardless of where the money came from. But when this thing is all said and done, it’s going to be a shining star to this community because it’s going to provide for 73,000 kids in this community.”

Critics of the new stadium have expressed concerns about the rising costs.

“Putting two stadiums next to each other is going to cause a lot of traffic problems, so it’s going to cost the school district a lot of money to improve traffic conditions in that area,” said Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, a longtime critic of the proposal. “Costs that should have been obvious are coming true, and it hurts taxpayers and students at Katy ISD.”

A planned stadium in the North Texas city of McKinney - with a price tag of just under $70 million - might eventually surpass the Katy stadium in terms of cost.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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