Since Legacy Stadium opened in August 2017, it has been home to more than football games.
It provided meeting room for staff and groups of the Katy Independent School District after flooding that followed Hurricane Harvey damaged the Merrell Center and Education Support Complex. FEMA set up ground-zero operations at the stadium as one of first big events after the field’s dedication as did first responders.
Target of criticism because of its $72 million price tag, the 12,000-seat stadium neighbors the smaller and older Rhodes Stadium and is the product of stakeholders from community members to food service personnel and from coaches to band leaders who played roles in helping to decide what needs the facility should meet and how. That has made Legacy Stadium very functional, according to Debbie Decker, executive director of the Katy Independent School District Athletic Department, which is housed in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Student Activities Complex.
Having a central athletic complex also has allowed the district to maximize staff efficiency because the stadiums are so close, she said. She said the stadium has had a positive financial impact on the neighborhood noting the number of shops and restaurants that went up nearby. Those are key, too, as the stadium has increasingly hosted playoff games which bring fans and players from afar who might spend the night in the Katy area, she added.
The athletic department houses four assistant athletic directors as well as other offices such as one for Marketing & Event specialist Kelley Baldwin. A large community room at Legacy can be partitioned to three separate rooms; the space is available to rent. Located at the south side of the stadium, each of the rooms has a view of the playing field where the goal posts can be removed to accommodate soccer which enjoys a larger playing area. “They absolutely love to play here,” said Decker. “It’s like a soccer stadium not a football stadium.”
The meeting rooms also are equipped with projectors and screens through which games may be viewed. There’s an outdoor seating area near the rooms. “I’m convinced there’s not a bad view in the house,” said Decker. And, it’s a local show. “We play ourselves most of the time,” she said. In 2017, for example, Cinco Ranch played nine regular season games of which six featured other Katy ISD high schoolss at either Legacy or Rhodes stadiums.
Tributes and inspiration can be found throughout the fieldhouse. For example, the hallway window of the staff meeting room displays quotes from athletes such as “Don’t Count the Days. Make The Days Count” by Muhammad Ali. Nearby is a wall dedicated to the Coaches of the Year.
In a long fieldhouse hallway under the title of Be the Legacy, are framed shirts and photos saluting the district’s 21 state championships, starting with the 1959 Katy High School’s state 1A football championship, the first of eight state football championships for the school. Another hallway wall displays the Katy ISD Athletic Hall of Honor, which is also recognized in an exterior display on the west side of the stadium near the bricks dedicated by patrons. Proceeds from the sale of dedicated bricks go to the nonprofit Hall of Honor.
“There are so many great athletes and contributors to athletics in the Katy ISD,” said Decker. This year’s inductees will be recognized Oct. 12 with 5:35 p.m. ceremonies at Legacy Stadium and 6:35 p.m. ceremonies at Rhodes Stadium.
The stadium includes space for the police department, food service, custodial, maintenance, medical personnel, coaches, players and media. The central concession stands which are larger at Legacy than Rhodes are operated by staff of the Katy ISD Nutrition and Food Service Department off the mezzanines. They contain on-site equipment that allows staff to prepare some food and warm other foods as well as two big coolers and equipment to serve fountain drinks. Off the mezzanines are restrooms and bench seating. The mezzanines provide shade for fans and a place to go in case of inclement weather.
Meeting rooms for game officials contain dressing rooms for both men and women, said Decker, who said they are seeing more women officiate at football games and soccer already has both male and female officials.
“A central ice machine is for any and all teams to use,” said Decker, opening the door to a garage-like storage space. “It produces massive amounts of ice.”
During games, four misting machines are busy at each side of the field to keep athletes and visitors cooler. Decker said Rhodes has four, older misting fans.
“The varsity locker rooms are 200 square feet bigger than at Rhodes,” said Decker. Movable walls allow a locker room to accommodate up to four soccer teams. “Because meeting space is at a premium, the locker rooms contain projectors and screens,” she said.
“Every varsity football game has two paramedics and an ambulance,” said Decker, “for athletes or patrons.” An injured or ailing person can be brought into a private room where each is evaluated before medical personnel decide what to do from there, she said.
Police have an office in the fieldhouse as well as space near one of the hospitality rooms in the stadium designated for district staff, including Decker. Eight cameras allow officers to monitor people and activities. “The cameras are very very good. They’re able to see a problem before it even happens,” she said. Officers also patrol the athletic complex.
The school district worked with Harris County Precinct 3 when the stadium was being built to improve vehicular access to the athletic complex. Decker said Katy ISD Police are responsible for handling the game traffic and games start at different times if both Rhodes and Legacy have games the same night. Decker noted a curved driveway on the east side of the complex that allows parents to enter the complex, pick up their children who attend a game and exit without mixing with the game traffic.
When the stadium was proposed, Decker said, “We heard from handicapped patrons who have some access issues who said they needed more seating and more parking.” Legacy has an elevator in addition to ramps and stairs; Rhodes does not.
Under the direction of John Bertram, students from the Miller Career & Technology Center, not only learn about filming as they record the games but also about football as they learn to anticipate where to look for the best game plays, said Decker.
Golf carts are a common mode of transportation for groundspeople, paramedics and police. Technicians were checking the speakers on Aug. 29 to make some adjustments before the regular football season starts. Decker said they are adjusted so that sound doesn’t bleed between the two stadiums.
Starting in September, the district will offer programs for parents to help support their children through the Legacy Parent Academy. With a capacity for more than 300 participants, the program will offer 11 sessions throughout the 2018-19 school year covering topics related to academics and social-emotional learning.