Team's owner 'pushed gas pedal' on huge, $1.2 billion structure
February 2, 2011 10:45 AM
The massive video screen hangs over Steelers players as they participate in Media Day Tuesday.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The superlatives never quite seem enough to describe Cowboys Stadium, the gargantuan home to Super Bowl XLV, from the $1.2 billion cost, to the 100,000-plus fans it can hold, to the 3 million square feet of space, to the monstrous steel arches that hold its retractable roof, to the world's largest video scoreboard.
The place looks big enough to eat Heinz Field for a light snack, then gobble up PNC Park for dessert.
Or, as the Steelers' nose tackle, Chris Hoke, put it Tuesday, "It's bigger than life. There's so much hype about it, but all it takes is for you to drive up to it and ... wow!"
There was a lot of that sentiment at the Super Bowl Media Day, the only pregame event that will be held at the site of the game.
"This is unbelievable!" Steelers coach Mike Tomlin exclaimed while looking around. "It's a special place. This is Super Bowl-worthy, no doubt."
PG VIDEO: COWBOYS STADIUM
"It's phenomenal," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've been excited about being down here for a long time now, and this is even better."
More on those superlatives:
• Standard capacity is 81,000, but the host Dallas Cowboys are working -- even this week -- on adding 15,000 temporary seats. They also expect to sell about 12,000 tickets for fans to watch the game through two outdoor plazas connected to the stadium. That is an attempt to break the attendance record of 103,895 set in the 1980 Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., where the Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams.
• There are 300 luxury suites spread across five levels, including one along the field. Jerry Jones, the flamboyant owner of the Cowboys, has his personal box at the 50-yard line, as well as an elevator that takes him directly from his private indoor parking spot right to the box.
• The retractable roof's panels weigh 600 tons but take only nine minutes to fully open or close. That will not come into play for the Super Bowl, though, as the roof will be closed at the NFL's request.
• The scoreboard stretches from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, is 70 feet tall and weighs as much as the roof. There was some controversy in the stadium's earliest days when a punt struck the scoreboard, but the Cowboys insisted that was an aberration, and that has proven to be the case.
• Beyond the massiveness of the roof, which is visible from miles around, the most striking external feature is a glass skin that runs 86 feet high and slopes at a 14-degree angle.
• Away from public sight, the areas under the seating sections are so spacious that two full-sized trucks can drive side-by-side through the internal perimeter of the stadium. When the Pirates played the Texas Rangers last summer, a few players got a tour and were most impressed by this.
Check out the Associated Press' colorful description of the stadium's size: "The Statue of Liberty could stand on the 50-yard line and not touch the roof. From end to end, the stadium is longer than the Empire State Building is tall. The arches that support the retractable roof are longer than the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Twice as long, actually."
"It's like walking up to the Grand Canyon for the first time, looking out and saying, 'Oh ... my ... God,' " author Jim Dent said Tuesday at Media Day. His book "The Real Story behind Super Bowl XLV" is due in April. "It's probably the greatest sports facility in America right now, and it's probably going to be a long time until someone can top it."
The stadium was the vision of Jones, who pushed government officials for years to get out of old Texas Stadium in Irving. He finally found agreement with the suburb of Arlington -- pretty much halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth -- to locate the new stadium across the parking lot from the Rangers' ballpark.
But he hardly stopped there: When 55.2 percent of Arlington voters approved a referendum in 2004 to contribute $325 million to the stadium, Jones projected that his would be a matching portion. Instead, the overall cost more than doubled, largely because Jones kept asking for more, bigger, better.
"That stadium needed to be enclosed and needed to become as close to being enclosed while feeling like it's outside that you can do," Jones said Tuesday at a Dallas news conference. "All that was done with the Super Bowl in mind."
As for the huge cost amid an economic recession: "All of that could have easily meant a scaling back of this stadium. Rather than scale back, we pushed the gas pedal and basically increased the scope of the stadium, increased the cost of the stadium. And I did that. You can say crazy, but I did that because I really do think there is a really huge future out there for the NFL."
"Jerry Jones was pretty much the hero of this," Dent said. "To say that around Dallas, some people might raise an eyebrow. Love him or hate him, but thank him. Because, without this stadium, this Super Bowl's not here, and the NFL keeps passing us by."
On Aug. 21, 2009, the Cowboys and Tennessee Titans christened the place with a preseason game, but it also has been home to college football and basketball, an NBA All-Star Game that drew 108,713, an international soccer game that drew 82,000, and a Manny Pacquiao boxing match that drew 41,000.
Just about the only part of the stadium that is not squeezing every cent of revenue is the most obvious: The name remains, for now, Cowboys Stadium, as Jones prefers to tout the brand of his franchise rather than sell the naming rights to corporate sponsors.
What might be frightening about the stadium to some around the NFL, where teams share most revenues equally and a salary cap ensures that smaller cities such as Pittsburgh and Green Bay can compete fairly, is that owners could try down the road to keep more of their locally generated revenue. The league and its players' union are engaged in a labor dispute, and next season is considered by many to be in jeopardy.
"I think a lot of people around the NFL are worried that there will be a George Steinbrenner type," Dent said, referring to the late owner of baseball's high-spending New York Yankees. "What happens if someday the salary cap goes away, and Jerry Jones has this, and someone else has something a lot smaller?"
Art Rooney II, the Steelers' president, was asked if he had any such concern.
"Well, I think there is that concern in the league," Rooney replied. "We've always had a very strong revenue-sharing system in the league, and I think we have to keep that. It's great that somebody can get a building like this done, but we have to make sure we keep the economics the right way and keep the league successful the way it's been."
Even the site of the stadium is bigger than most might think: Although Arlington lacks anything resembling an urban center, its population is 380,000, making it bigger than Pittsburgh (311,000) or Green Bay (101,000).