Listening in on Waco, 2024

By Ashley Bean Thornton

Listen to the chatter on the street in Waco right now and this is what you will hear: “Have you been to the new stadium yet?” “Did you go to the first game?” “Amazing, right?!?”

You could probably throw a rock anywhere in Waco and hit fifteen people who are more devoted football fans than I am. But, despite my un-partriotically lukewarm attitude toward the national sport of Texas, I can’t help but be impressed by McLane Stadium. Wow! If you have to watch a football game, that is one fine place to do it!

mclaneLike about nine million other Baylor alums (give or take a few), I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of the new stadium and posting it on Facebook. A friend of mine commented on my post, “Does George Jetson have his own parking space?” His comment summed up what I was feeling when I took the picture. Gleaming on the banks of the Brazos, McLane Stadium looks like the future.

Do you think ten years ago there was someone…some starry-eyed, Pollyanna-ish, naïve Baylor supporter….imagining that in ten years the talk of the town would be  “sail-gating” at the new on-campus, on-the-river stadium?

Think about it…Ten years ago, in 2004, no one I knew had heard the name “RG3.” Art Briles was happily racking up wins down the road in Houston. Baylor was coming off one disappointing season (3 wins, 9 losses), and heading into another (3 wins, 8 losses).   Do you think there was anyone anywhere imagining that in ten years we would be hearing people say, like ESPN said recently, “Few college football cathedrals can match McLane … They don’t have to dream anymore on BU’s campus. All the pieces are in place to cement a spot among the nation’s best, year in and year out”? Really, do you think anyone back then was imagining we would be hearing that kind of pro-Baylor-speak from the TV sports people?

Yes, I think there were people who were imagining that very thing.

Even when it looked wildly improbable, there must have been people who expected we would get here. Yes, when they talked about it their friends rolled their eyes and smiled indulgently, but they kept talking about it anyway. When things looked like they were getting worse instead of better, they still promoted their vision every chance they got. Even when it was embarrassing and people were tired of hearing about it, they kept plugging away. They must’ve been constantly on the alert to seize opportunities, to put a piece in place here, another piece in place there until finally all the pieces came together. I’m pretty sure if there hadn’t been people like that then, we wouldn’t be hearing people say things like, “Awesome!” and “Fabulous!” now.

So, with great appreciation for the football visonaries of 10 years ago, and with our new shiny “cathedral” on the river as inspiration, let’s talk about the kinds of things we believe people could be saying in Waco ten years from now – in 2024:

“We thought about moving out of town, but we stayed for the schools.” — Ten years from now our school system is a magnet drawing people into Waco and keeping them here. College professors and employers are raving about Waco ISD grads. “They’re so well prepared.” “They know how to think.” “They’re such terrific problem solvers.” Our very own WISD grads are the technicians, engineers, health providers, teachers, artists and entrepreneurs who are pushing the Waco economy to new heights. 

“I found a great job in Waco!” – The businesses we have now are expanding and hiring. Businesses and industry from other places have moved into Waco and started hiring.  Our hometown entrepreneurs are growing and hiring. College grads are looking here first to start their careers. I imagine sitting on the plane from Dallas to Waco, overhearing the person sitting behind me tell her companion, “Waco is a great place to work. There are all kinds of new opportunities cropping up all the time. You’ll be glad you came.”

“This is such an easy town to be healthy in.” — I heard someone say this once about Austin, in the future we’ll be saying it about Waco. I envision healthy food readily accessible everywhere in town, in every neighborhood. Even hard-case fast food junkies like me will be giving in to peer pressure and starting to eat healthy. Parks, bike lanes, trails, and gyms will be bustling with activity as we have fun, get to know each other, and get fit all at the same time.

“How about if I meet you downtown somewhere? We can decide what to do when we get there.” — Ten years from now, people will be taking for granted that there’s always something great to do downtown. Downtown will be our gathering place, the hub of our community, the place where we run into our neighbors and friends, the place where we meet new people. It will be bubbling with enterprise, diversity, art, ideas, and great food!  Businesses will be fighting for spots on Austin and Elm and 25th Street. Downtown residents will be enjoying their morning cups of coffee as they walk or bike to work.

“Let’s just take the bus.” – In ten years, people of all different income levels will be taking full advantage of our excellent public transportation system. We will all be enjoying the option to ride the bus to work, or to the doctor, or to meet friends to hear some music downtown. This freedom of movement will open up new job opportunities for many of us. We’ll be healthier, our streets will be less congested, our air will be cleaner, and we’ll be saving money because of it.

And, finally, the best thing we’ll be hearing in Waco in 2024…

“I wish I had invested in Waco ten years ago!”

me and omarThis Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, the Manager of the website and the editor of the Friday Update newsletter. The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


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