Central Texas — For some, a home playoff game during the Texas High School Football Playoffs is a dream.
For others, a nightmare.
Tuesday, the UIL will discuss and possibly vote whether to allow home field advantage for higher seeds during the first round of the football playoffs for schools in Class 4A and smaller.
As expected, many coaches around the state are excited about the possibility, including Lorena's 27-year coach, Ray Biles.
"Personally, I like the idea," Biles said. "I feel there should be a reward for a team that wins the district championship. And hosting that first round playoff game can be a huge thing for the home team."
Lorena's stadium, Leopard Stadium, has a turf field with seating for about 6,000 people.
But some schools don't have the facilities to handle a high school football playoff game.
"What we'd rather do is qualify and go play somewhere nicer than our stadium that's memorable," Salado football coach Alan Haire said. "It's all about kids' experiences in high school."
Haire, in his third year at his alma mater Salado, said he's worried that's the case at Eagle Stadium.
Salado's stadium seats a significantly fewer amount of people and has a grass field. Although a recently-passed bond issue will allow Salado ISD to install an artificial turf field following the 2018 season, that doesn't solve what Haire said is the main issue: space.
"On the visitors' side, we would have to bring in some portable bleachers for the visiting bands and different things," Haire said. "We've even had to do that for some regular season games."
The playoffs in Texas draw large crowds, as evidenced by the UIL's reported 213,192-fan attendance at its 2017 State Football Championships in Arlington, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Although it's not as big of a crowd as when the playoffs reach AT&T Stadium, Haire said Salado's crowd is 30-40 percent larger during the postseason.
"You have aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents that come and that may be the last time they get to see them play," Haire said. "Plus, you've got people that wait until the playoffs to follow you....Here, we wouldn't be able to facilitate all of them and that would keep some of them from coming to the game, because they'd know they couldn't get a seat."
In hosting, there's an argument to be made for the money generated.
During a regular season home game, Haire said Salado's concession stand can make $2,500-5,000, "on a good night." That doesn't include gate, which he didn't have numbers for.
In order to play at a neutral site, schools have to split rent for the facility which Haire said typically ranges from $2,500-$8,000. And that all depends on the stadium, with venues like the Alamodome, McLane Stadium, etc. generally costing more than another high school venue.
"I've never felt like I was getting gouged by anybody trying to put on a playoff game for us," Biles said.
During Salado's 2017 run to the 4A Div. II Quarterfinals, they played playoff games at:
- Manor HS
- Bryan ISD's Green Stadium
- Katy ISD's Legacy Stadium
If the measure existed then, Salado would have hosted Columbus in Round 1, having won their district.
For Lorena, which played their two playoff games at Round Rock ISD's Reeves Stadium and Bryan ISD's Green Stadium, respectively, the Leopards would have traveled to Caldwell as the district's 3-seed.
When it comes to choosing a stadium, not only are coaches searching for space for their fans, but Haire said they're also searching for space for players to be able to get dressed, taped, meet with their offensive and defensive coaches and stretch. Biles added that he typically looks for turf fields which are typically more even and less affected by inclement weather.
Price is also a factor, though.
"You want someone who will give you a fair price," Haire said.
So while the measure would allow higher-seeded teams an extra home game and the revenue which would generated in playing that home game, it could put other schools in uncomfortable situations.
The UIL will meet Tuesday morning in Austin.