The Way a Multi-purpose Stadium Should Look
The final stop on my recent 5 day trip to Texas with my wife, Carolyn, was a tour of AT & T Stadium. This tour was a request I had made to my wife and she was able to arrange a V.I.P. tour of this magnificent facility, as I call it – the way a football stadium should look. Hopefully someone in the Chargers Office has visited this huge facility, taken notes and pictures and will incorporate some of the features of AT & T into the plans the Chargers have for the their new home.
AT & T Stadium is formerly known as Cowboys Stadium also referred to as “Jerry World” or “Jerry Dome after Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones. The stadium is a city-owned 101,000 seat capacity stadium, 105,000 if you include standing room numbers. The record attendance for an NFL game was set in 2009 with a crowd of 105,121. In 2010, 108,713 people attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game as seats were added to the field area. WrestleMania was recently held with over 101,000 in attendance. The stadium has been host to record concert crowds to see performers like Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Manny Pacquiao, U2, the George Strait farewell tour and many other events. Guns and Roses is slated to appear in August. They have used the stadium for events like the memorial ceremony for American Sniper Chris Kyle, for the International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 50th Annual of Academy of Country Music Awards show, Greg Laurie’s Harvest America – the largest evangelical event ever held, Monster Jams, Motocross events, CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer matches, Rodeos and high school football championships, not to mention high school proms. Truly a multi-purpose stadium.
The original stadium was estimated to cost $650 when completed in 2009, but changes and cost overrun put that price tag at $1.15 billion making the stadium one of the most expensive sports venues ever built. Arlington voters approved an increase of the city’s sales tax by 0.5%, the hotel occupancy tax by 2% and car rental tax by 5%. The City of Arlington provided over $325 million in bonds as funding and Jerry Jones covered any cost overruns. The NFL provided the Cowboys an additional $150 million loan. No expenses were spared in the design and luxury of the artistic design of the stadium, the seating area, the suites and luxury boxes, the club houses, eating areas, press areas and the locker rooms.
The stadium is easy to get to, just off of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Freeway in the City of Arlington, Texas. The stadium is visible from 5 miles away on Interstate 30. The parking areas are huge as they are shared with the Texas Rangers baseball team stadium. For the tour, we entered a beautifully designed front entrance which led us to the large Dallas Cowboy gift shop. Cost for the tour ranges from $22.50 to $27.50 plus tax. Up a flight of stairs to the middle level overlooking the field we met our tour guide. We were escorted to seating at the 50 yard line – I should mention all of these mid-level seats were roomy and padded. We were told the seats are on rails and the entire stadium seating can be reconfigured to fit whatever event or capacity is needed. From here we were taken to one of the many bar/concessions area set-up for different levels of ticket holders. Some of the concessions offered in the stadium are a little different than most stadiums. You can order chicken-fried chicken sandwiches, chicken-fried turkey sandwiches, grilled pork tenderloin tacos and Texas Frito Pie for example.
Everything in the stadium, wall designs, lighting patterns and fixtures, seating and tables is configured around football designs. Our next stop was to visit the personal viewing box of owner Jerry Jones and his two sons, which is above his personal luxury box (we were not allowed in there). In his personal viewing box there are 5 TV’s and phone connections to the sidelines where Mr. Jones can personally speak with the coaches if needed. In his luxury box we were told that he and his family have many works of art on the walls. Eighteen contemporary artists created site-specific artworks for the stadium. There is one tour you can sign-up for that is strictly designed around viewing all of the works of art throughout the stadium and just outside of the stadium – ranging from paintings to sculpture and more.
As we moved around the stadium, the many features were pointed out, such as the retractable roof design, the huge video screen hanging from the top of the roof, the unique design of the Party Pass sections where for $29 on game days you can see a game in a standing room only section of the stadium. These area are also designed around multi-levels of Ford car displays. The stadium is set at a constant 72 degrees regardless of the temperature outside. Each of the huge glass partitions at the ends of the stadium can open allowing access to bring in whatever might be needed for different levels, such as the cars on display. These doors can open in 18 minutes. The huge retractable roof can open in 12 minutes. Mr. Jones also wanted people to be able to see the action on the field at all times regardless of where they were in the stadium. Above each concession stand is a long row of monitors and as you get close to the stand there are monitors in the back area of the concession stand. Over 3,000 Sony LCD displays are throughout the luxury suites, concourses and concession area.
The huge video screen hanging from the roof area at one time was the largest high-definition television screen in the world when it was installed, visible on both sides of the field. The stadiums roof, above the video screens, is one of the largest in the world covering some 660,800 square feet.
On the side of the stadium opposite Mr. Jones luxury box, we were able to see what one of the luxury boxes looked like inside. There are different types of these rooms, depending on size. Some hold as few as 10 or so and some hold over 60. Everything is Dallas Cowboy blue and silver-grey. There are even luxury boxes located on field level and a small patio that opens toward the field. There are 342 luxury suites available for rent. Since the visibility here would not be good, owners of these type of rooms also get some stadium seats directly above the luxury box. One thing that was pointed out to us is that the press covering the games sit toward the end zone area as Mr. Jones wanted the paying people to have the best views of the field. For each luxury suite, the occupants can purchase a variety of food packages for the season with as much or as little food and drinks as they want for the suite.
Before we went down the elevator to the lower sections, lockers and field we stopped by the offices of the Cotton Bowl, the stadium now the center of one of the sites for the College Play-off system. Impressive designs led to a huge wall display of college football helmets of teams that have played in the Cotton Bowl over the years.
Next, an elevator trip to the heart of the stadium, the underground areas where teams arrive, supplies arrive, equipment is kept and parking is available for certain employees of the stadium, one set of parking for Mr. Jones and his family. On the day we were there, Mr. Jones was at the stadium and we saw his Lexus in a private area. He has office here as well as offices closer to his home. A short walk down the sidewalk area by the underground stadium road led us to the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader dressing rooms. Inside this area, each cheerleader has an ample sized locker with a large dressing area and lots of mirrors. Each of last year’s cheerleaders have full sized pictures above their locker with their name on it. The Cowboys are in the middle of tryouts for the new selection of cheerleaders. All of the cheerleaders have to go through tryouts every year, regardless of how many years they have been on the squad.
We left this area and walked down to the Dallas Cowboy team locker area. Again large locker and changing spaces. Each player have beautiful wooden storage area with wood imported from Africa. We were told each locker space cost over $9,000 to build. Training rooms, Jacuzzi and whirl pool areas were next to the team room. Last year’s players names were on their lockers and in a special locker area, past players have names on lockers in an adjoining room. From here we walked to the press area used for after game press conference presentations. This area had a small stage, numerous chairs and areas for TV cameras. A large plate glass window looked into another bar area located on field area that looked out onto the stadium floor. We were told the room is completely sound proof. This bar area is where the cowboys enter the stadium and onto the field. They walk through fans who greet them, held back by partitions, before they enter the field area. We were also told there is another similar bar area for Cowboy fans where they can “greet” the opposing team as they enter the field area.
Once on the field, we were able to get an idea as to the immensity of this stadium. Pictures on the Dallas Star at midfield were on everyone’s list. We could also look into the field level luxury boxes to get an idea of the view these folks would have. Looking up at the roof and the two monumental arches supporting the retractable roof, we were told this is some 292 feet above the field. The Cowboy Super Bowl banners hung high above from the end zone roof. We could also get an idea as to the sponsors that have paid large sums to have their logos and names around the Stadium, Pepsi, Ford and others could be seen. It is reported that AT & T pays in the neighborhood of $17-19 million per year for the Stadium naming rights. AT & T also has naming rights at AT & T Park in San Francisco, AT & T Center in San Antonio and AT & T Stadium in Lubbock.
One addition they will be making to AT & T will be the building of a Hall of Fame level of all past Cowboy Hall of Fame members, as well as the additional of a large sculpture northeast of the stadium. There are a number of huge pictures located down various hallways throughout the stadium and small plaques indicating who the players are.
This was truly an amazing tour of a beautiful facility and certainly the proto-type of what stadiums should look like and what they can be used for. San Diego would be incredibly lucky if the proposed new stadium is built and is even remotely close to AT & T Stadium.