San Benito schools launch $40M project

SAN BENITO — Across parts of a 40-acre stretch of farmland, the school district plans one of its most ambitious projects — a $20 million performing arts theater and a $5 million aquatics center.

As early as next month, crews are expected to launch site construction to pave the way for the performing arts theater estimated at about 65,000-square-feet and an attached 23,000-square-foot natatorium featuring two swimming pools, said Joseph Palacios, president of the Brighton Group, the project manager.

“It’s long overdue,” school board member Angel Mendez said Friday.

Under the project, officials will build the district’s first performing arts theater and indoor swimming pool, he said.

In August, school district officials launched construction of the first of three projects to be funded through bond money — a $4.5 million, 10,000-square-foot indoor practice facility featuring a 90-yard synthetic field next to Bobby Morrow Stadium.

“A well-rounded student is involved in so many different extracurricular activities and the performing arts center, the aquatics center and the practice field as all part of their education,” Mendez said.

The project is being funded through a $40 million bond issue which 54 percent of voters passed a year ago.

According to district officials, the bond issue won’t force a tax hike in the district whose property tax rate stands at $1.3 per $100 valuation.

Palacios said he’s working with San Antonio-based Davila Construction, with offices in McAllen, and ROFA Architects in McAllen to build the performing arts theater and aquatics center.

“It’s going to be a really neat facility,” Palacios, a former Hidalgo County commissioner, said. “It would be definitely for the community.”

Construction is expected to be completed within about 18 months, he said.

The indoor practice field, which the district’s sports teams will share with cheerleading squads, will become the second of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley, Palacios said, noting Brownsville’s Rivera High School is the site of the Valley’s first indoor practice field.

Hellas Construction, the Austin-based subcontractor specializing in sports facilities, is working with Houston-based PBK Sports to complete the project by about May, Palacios said.


In March, school board members hired the Brighton Group to serve as project manager.

As part of the contract, the school district will pay the Brighton Group $1.25 million.

Under the agreement, the district is paying the company $50,000 a month.

“The aforementioned amounts are being calculated upon an estimate of $30 million in final construction costs, not including costs of consultants …,” the contract states.

“Brighton Group LLC. and its project team have extensive experience in not only overseeing all aspects of design and construction but also in the operations of the facilities,” Palacios wrote to school board President Michael Vargas in a December 2018 proposal.

“Our objective is to provide high-quality professional support services that ensure the timely and efficient compliance with all program objectives and the composition of a high-quality project management system,” he wrote.

As part of the contract’s attached professional services agreement, the Brighton Group will also oversee the district’s LED lighting program.

“Brighton Group LLC will manage the LED lighting program for San Benito CISD,” the agreement states.

Under the agreement, the district will pay the Brighton Group 4.5 percent of the LED lighting program’s total costs, excluding the company’s fees.

Performing arts theater

As part of the construction project, officials selected 40 acres of district-owned land near Dr. Raul Garza Elementary School off Interstate 69 near Eighth Street as the site of the performing arts theater and aquatics center, Palacios said.

“We are excited to soon be able to offer a venue that will match the excellence of our performing arts programs,” Superintendent Nate Carman stated shortly after officials finalized their contract with the Brighton Group. “Our high-performing and award-winning fine arts students deserve to perform in a beautiful performing arts center.”

The performing arts theater will give the district’s students their first stage.

“Now, our students will have a place to perform,” Mendez said. “A lot of the performances are done in the cafeteria and make-shift stages. It’s going to lend itself to theater, choir, mariachi, conjunto, folklorico and the jazz band.”

Plans call for a fully equipped theater.

“The facility will certainly include a full, permanent stage, practice rooms, dressing rooms characteristically built into all performing arts centers,” district spokeswoman Isabel Gonzalez stated shortly after officials finalized their contract with the Brighton Group.

Palacios said he hasn’t finalized the performing arts theater’s size.

“The total square footage is a moving target because we’re trying to maximize efficiencies,” he said.

The building, he said, will also feature meeting rooms.

Aquatics center

As part of the project, the performing arts theater will be attached to the aquatics center, Palacios said, adding the facility will be available to the community.

“It’s the community’s building,” Palacios said. “This is a really good catalyst for partnership opportunities between the city and school. This is going to be a building for the city of San Benito.”

However, Mendez said he wasn’t aware the facility would be available to the community.

Palacios said the aquatics center will feature an 11,700-square-foot University Interscholastic League-approved competitive swimming pool featuring a diving section along with 10 vertical lanes and 10 horizontal lanes.

The center, which will give students their first swimming pool, will offer officials an opportunity to field the district’s first swim team.

“We’re one of the only large school districts that don’t have the activity,” Mendez said, referring to a swim team. “We’re in the infancy stages of developing a program.”

The center will also feature a 37,000-square-foot “warm-up” swimming pool aimed at teaching second-graders to swim, Palacios said.

Joseph Palacios’ experience as

Joseph Palacios’ experience as project manager includes construction of public facilities including:

•Mission indoor recreation center

•Mission public library

•Mission police station

•Edinburg police station

•Edinburg city hall

•Edinburg public library

•Santa Maria High School

•Santa Maria sports stadium

The Brighton Group’s project t

The Brighton Group’s project team includes:

•Jose Luis Caso, attorney

•Laura Nassri Warren, architect

•Andrina De Anda, architect

•Jose Ivan Garcia, engineer

•Mark Iglesias, project manager