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City prepares to welcome NFL, scouts for all-star game
Kelsey Kruzich/Staff Photo - Starting Monday, the Village at Allen will welcome the NFL for its annual Texas vs. The Nation all-star game, which will be held at Allen Eagle Stadium.
Allen is no stranger to hospitality and tourism.
Since 2009, the Allen Event Center has played host to everything from the Dallas Sidekicks to Reba McIntyre.
But now the city has Eagle Stadium, another venue attracting what it hopes will be equally impactful events, the most recent courtesy of the NFL.
For six years, the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game has gained a reputation for making many young athletes' dreams come true at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso and the Alamodome in San Antonio.
This year, the game will be held Feb. 2 at Eagle Stadium in Allen.
Two teams consisting of 110 graduating collegiate seniors with draft ratings from the NFL vying for a chance in the national league will face off in front of more than 200 scouts, making it a chance-of-a-lifetime event not only for the athletes but for the city as well.
"We're proud to welcome the players, coaches and NFL scouts coming to town for Texas vs. The Nation," Allen Mayor Stephen Terrell said. "Hosting this college all-star game gives us a chance to showcase our city and Allen ISD's premier Eagle Stadium. It's a big win - great football, great location and great for our local economy. "
As of Monday, the Courtyard Dallas Allen at the John Q. Hammonds Center off East Stacy Road had availability for the week leading up to and the weekend of the game, but general manager Michael Kapoulis is expecting "very good crowds" and possibly a sell out.
The Courtyard Dallas Allen has been named host hotel for the game, as Marriott, owner of the hotel, is a national sponsor for the NFL. The scouts begin to arrive Monday and will typically check out Thursday or Friday after observing practices. The hotel will then look forward to greeting the next wave of visitors - the parents.
"We're looking forward to hosting families [of the players] when they get here," Kapoulis said. "I can't take credit for it, but [the developers] had vision and insight to put together some dynamic pieces, and having a hotel of this size next to the event center and The Village of Allen has definitely been a winning situation for everybody."
While it's hard to tell exactly how much revenue the game will bring to Allen, from a visitor's bureau perspective the game is estimated to bring in roughly $800,000 - a number that is calculated based primarily on hotel occupancy during the week of Jan. 27.
With visitors, scouts, players and the NFL's entourage, there are expectations for success and increased tourism, said Karen Cromwell, tourism manager for the Allen Texas Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"There are only two other (games) similar to this that the NFL puts its name behind, so it's truly an honor to have them in town," she said. "We want it to be hugely successful; it would be a great thing for Allen."
The CVB's primary funding mechanism is the city's occupancy tax. That tax is levied to assist cities to create economic impact through promotion, which in turn brings in the tourists. Aside from lodging, economic impact from events like this are also calculated by estimated dollars brought in from restaurants, other entertainment venues and retail.
"I think what's different with this event is that this it is the first large event attraction to Allen because of Eagle Stadium," Cromwell said. "It's a national recognition when you look at the event being an NFL supported all-star game for collegiate athletes. It's a big new world for Allen."
With this being the first year Allen has hosted the event, it is somewhat difficult to predict what Allen can expect in economic returns until after the fact.
"We'll see what it really turns out to be, it's very hard to gauge," Cromwell said. "When an event is relocated, the first year is a tough factor; right now, we don't necessarily know if we're going to have the same number of ticket sales. The expectation is definitely there because the North Dallas area is such a football fan, not just in Allen but Plano, McKinney, Southlake - a lot of people are very passionate about football here."
Whether from national media entities like The Washington Post and New York Times or local criticism the school district attracted, there have been questions about the funding of a $59.6 million stadium.
"This game is bringing a ton of money in to the city of Allen," said Tom Westerberg, Allen football head coach and assistant coach for Team Texas. "I think that's who the biggest benefactor of this whole deal is."
Allen athletic director Steve Williams believes hosting events like Texas vs. The Nation is another way the district has reassured those skeptics that the investment will be well worth the returns.
"When we were building this stadium, we felt the finished product would bring us these kinds of opportunities," he said. "But it's good to see that actually come to pass and it's great for our community, especially with all the money coming in to the local restaurants and hotels."
Team Texas head coach and former Dallas Cowboy Bill Bates remembers when Allen "wasn't really a mark on the map." With the explosion of growth that has occurred north of Plano along the U.S. 75 corridor up through McKinney, however, the city of Allen has quickly become much more thanks to a growing population and the construction of facilities like the Allen Event Center and Eagle Stadium.
"The whole part of the nation following football heard of this great monster of a stadium was built for a high school out there, that was of great interest to everybody in the football side of the world and believe me, Texas definitely all around has the best stadiums and the best places to play high school football," Bates said. "This stadium is the premier stadium in high school football. To be able to play at that stadium and be with the great people there in Allen is just amazing."