By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – Outside of the final stages of construction to complete the $70-plus million dollar stadium, which sits next to Rhodes Stadium in Katy, the new facility still needed a name.
On Monday, during a board meeting, Katy ISD board members unanimously voted to name the second Katy ISD stadium Mike Johnston Field at Legacy Stadium.
“Anytime you have your name attached to a facility in a district you worked in for 24 years it means a lot,” Johnston said in a phone interview on Monday night. “It’s an honor, not for just myself but for my family, to have our family name attached to a facility. It’s also a tribute to the coaches I had work with me through those years. It’s also for the outstanding players I had play at Katy during that time.
“It’s an honor and a tribute both and overall just a great blessing.”
Beginning in 1982, Johnston guided the Katy Tigers program for the next 22 years ending his tenure following the 2003 season and a third State Championship – winning titles also in 1997 and 2001.
When things began, Johnston’s Tigers went a combined 4-26 overall in his first three years. The next 19 years – an overall record of 196-49, 12 District Championships and three State Championships.
“It was kind of rough those first few years,” Johnston said. “Once we got kids buying into what we were asking them to do, our staff became more established, it all came to fruition. The community was always supportive and of course when you start winning it just excites the community even more. Of course Coach (Gary) Joseph took over and he’s even taken it to another level. It’s a pleasure for me to be indirectly associated with what’s going on.”
The new facility rising up in Katy will seat 2,232 more fans than the current 9, 768-seat Jack Rhodes Memorial Stadium, which sits right next to it, to have a maximum capacity of 12,000.
Improved roads around the stadium, a 4,000-space parking lot and a $1.8 million video replay board are also some of the amenities to come with the new stadium.
“I’m proud of the facility,” Johnston said. “This is going to be one the entire community, the entire district can be proud of once they get into it. It’s going to be a quality place. Kids are going to enjoy playing in it. Of course all the drill teams and bands they’ll love performing in it. It’s going to be a shiny diamond for the district. I believe it’ll be one of the finest facilities in the state.”
The price tag for the stadium pushed past the $70-million mark in the fall coming to a total cost of $70.3 million for the facility.
This is the most recent multi-million stadium project in the arms race in Texas to build new, bigger and better stadiums.
Allen ISD kicked things off a few years ago with a $60 million price-tagged stadium and most recently McKinney ISD in Dallas announced plans to construct a $69.9 million dollar stadium.
With these lofty price tags on football stadiums going higher and higher there has been some public concern on the extremely high costs for a stadium for high school sports but Johnston said this venue shows Katy ISD’s commitment to supporting its students.
“I know there’s a lot of concern about the overall cost of that facility,” Johnston said. “Like I said when you had to start from scratch, which they did, we had no infrastructure or anything. If you look at the facilities we have compared to the (Dallas) area, we’d just be another one of the boys up there. They have some beautiful facilities up there. If you’re going to be competitive, if you’re going to be in the hunt you have to show that you’re supporting what’s going on in your district.
“I think this is probably a good physical example that our school district supports our kids in competition.”
Since retiring from Katy High School in 2003, Johnston hasn’t strayed far from the program he helped build into what it is today.
During the weekdays, at times Johnston can be found having a morning coffee with current coach Gary Joseph in his office, watching practice and then on gameday settling into his seat up in the press box.
When next August rolls around and the lights fire up at Mike Johnston Field at Legacy Stadium for its inaugural game, be sure that Johnston will be in attendance that night and any other night there’s a game under the lights.
“Oh yes, I make the games at Rhodes right now, I don’t miss many games,” Johnston said. “Starting Thursday nights, I’m usually there Thursday through Saturdays. If they’re looking for me in the fall, they’ll know where to find me.”