Monday, June 21, 2010

A Coliseum for Cowboys

The initial explorers upon first sighting the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean remarked how it appeared as an endless mass of steel rising from the soil and stretching beyond their ability to see or comprehend. I can't remember all of the numbers and superlatives rattled off by our tour guide but here are a few to start off with:

$1.4 billion cost to build over three years.
Each archway over a quarter of a mile long.
The enclosed ceiling reaches 305 feet above the field which itself is 50 feet below ground level.
Largest movable glass doors at each end zone complimenting a four-acre hole in the roof.
Largest Hi-Definition television in the world at over seven stories in height.
With "hi-density" seating capable of holding over 140,000 guests but right now comfortably built out at just 100,000 including the six-level end zone areas.
177 dedicated acres of parking before shared parking with the nearby Ballpark at Arlington.
Over 350 concession stands, 1500 flat panel televisions and 1600 toilets so no one has to spend valuable time away from the action for which they've most certainly paid good money to see.

Short, perhaps, of a railway system to bring servers and their order trays to various sections of the stadium or each seat having multi-media touch screens to order food or call security it is hard to imagine today anyone beating this expanse of excess called Cowboys Stadium in suburban Arlington, Texas. I won't bore you with the fact that, yes, I am a fan of the Dallas Cowboys but rather will simply say that any fan of professional football simply has to see this stadium to believe it. As much as my beloved team is hated by the rest of the league they may hate the team even more for this over the top edifice but few will come away completely unimpressed; most will, however grudgingly, wish for one just like it.

Various clubs, many featuring lighting in the shape of footballs, and club levels compliment both premium seating and luxury booths making it impossible to enjoy them all as each is dedicated to a particular area of the stadium. The Legends Club, Miller Lite Club, Absolut Club and Sony Club are just a few while Dr. Pepper has an "Experience" set-up for the steerage customers way up on the 6th level of the end zone where the $29 standing room only "Party Pass" crowd hangs out. They're way up high but they certainly weren't cheated out of a similar club-type experience. Wedding receptions and proms have been organized in some of these.

The corridors leading to the sky boxes are bland, lacking any decoration or embellishment of any kind but the boxes themselves are "cruise ship" caliber with thickly padded seats, catering facilities and private restrooms. Field level boxes, another first, offer an interesting view of the game but tend to be particularly good only if the action is right in front of them; otherwise they are nearly eye-level to the grass and staring through the ankles and shoes of players, photographers, officials, cheerleaders and hangers-on. Gotta use the monitors or hang out in the field level club to find out what's happening at the other end of the field.

The two-level Owner's Suite directly above the player's entrance is fitted with a glowing tray ceiling as befitting the Emperor of Rome himself while watching his trained gladiators annihilate hapless victims on the coliseum floor some 60 feet below. The visiting owner's booth is noted by a yellow sign with "VO" on it and situated on the same side of the field, five levels farther up and above "54 Chuck Howley" in the Ring of Honor.
The "field" was rolled up in a storage room this day leaving a bare concrete foundation exposed as the stadium had just hosted a "Non-Game Event." As a tradeoff that day tour groups were offered a sample of the $1000/hour, one million pound jumbo-tron suspended 90 feet above the field. We were also treated to a rare tour of the Cheerleaders locker room which, understandably, had way more in the manner of mirrors, storage lockers and make-up stands than the much larger players locker room did. Thanks to CMT's show "Making the Squad" about the audition and training process for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders some of the girls were nearly as well known by our tour group as the players.

Even the seats, based on level and price, offered something different from most other stadiums. Some are generously cushioned all leather affairs while above that are even more thickly padded leather arm chairs with drink holders in the arm rests while the sky box seats are even better. At the bottom of the scale in the highest sections are standard plastic seats but not without touches of their own. These are up to two inches wider than the ones at Texas Stadium and boast walkways between rows that are noticeably wider as well. Tradition is all well and good but it beats those cold metal benches at Lambeau Field in Green Bay by light years!

Grotesque or grand there is no escaping the outsized result that is the Cowboys Stadium. The biggest issue surrounding the stadium today is not the height of the center television but a small tussle with the heretofore cooperative City of Arlington. What look like two huge solar panels on the sides of the stadium are themselves massive monitors that are intended to show live action inside the stadium for the "Tailgate Only" fans who choose to stay in the parking lots with their grills, RVs and BYOB supplies. So far the city has not agreed to close the streets around the stadium during game time to safely allow the massive outdoor festival these screens were intended to serve.

Where Texas Stadium served for over 30 years I wonder how long this building will meet the needs of the organization. It has a beating heart, though, make no mistake about it, one that is worn on its sleeve for all the world to see: A small patch of turf from the old stadium lies in honor at the head of the players entrance to the field as they enter the stadium from the locker room.

Good memories for good luck.

Gotta go.

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