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Cowboys' new $1 billion stadium retains iconic hole in its roof

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys are taking their distinctive hole in the roof design with them to their $1 billion new stadium.

Only this time, the playground will feature a sliding lid to keep the elements out. That's a must considering there's going to be a 60-yard-long scoreboard hanging over the football field.

With a glowing, glass facade and 80,000 seats, 100,000, if necessary, the Cowboys sure are aiming for the kind of showplace you'd expect from a club that bills itself as ``America's Team.''

``The challenge for us with this new stadium was to innovate, but at the same time never forget to acknowledge tradition,'' team owner Jerry Jones said. ``This new stadium embodies the spirit of the Dallas Cowboys and that starts with the familiar hole in the roof.''

The Cowboys scheduled a gala unveiling of its plans Tuesday night, but provided some of the highlights in an afternoon news release.

Among them: Two steel arches soaring 320 feet above the playing field, the world's largest retractable roof and retractable doors at the ends to provide an open-air feeling on days when the weather permits.

And there's this glitzy touch: The exterior also is designed to cast off a silvery tint, just like the team's helmet.

The unnamed facility is scheduled to open in 2009. The club already has begun lobbying to host the 2011 Super Bowl, and probably won't have a problem luring more major events if it lives up to its billing as the largest pro sports venue in the country.

It also will be among the most expensive. The New York Jets and Giants are jointly financing a stadium estimated at $1.2 billion.

Arlington voters agreed in 2004 to pay for $325 million of this stadium, with the Cowboys paying the rest of a projected $650 million pricetag. The skyrocketing tab is likely worth every penny to Jones, a former oil wildcatter turned billionaire who loves making a splash as much as he loves winning championships.

``What we have designed is a building we believe is both architecturally significant and also reflects the emotion and competition that goes on inside,'' he said.

The Cowboys raised the bar on facilities, and ushered in the era of grand privilege for the high-dollar fan, when Texas Stadium opened in 1971. It featured a then-whopping 176 luxury suites and was paid for through personal bonds, a concept that has since morphed into ``personal seat licenses,'' a cover charge fans must pay to be allowed to buy season tickets.

Texas Stadium's most distinct feature is the strange top, jokingly said to be ``so God can watch his team play,'' but really a result of financial and structural problems.

The new place retains the iconic partial roof as a nod to the past. Everything else will be futuristic.

Start with the humongous TV screen that stretches between the 20-yard lines. With four sides, it will be visible to fans on both sides and in both end zones. More giant monitors will be featured outside the building.

Then there's the next step in luxury suites: Field-level boxes and a ``Bunker Club,'' which also will serve as the team's entry point to the field, letting fans personally wish players good luck before kickoff.

The Cowboys kept the average fan in mind, too, minimizing the distance between fans and the field. Team officials claim the upper deck will be closer to the action than any other NFL stadium.

Most of the end-zone area will be standing-room only, but seats could be added. That's how the capacity could jump by 20,000.

With so much to cram in, the new stadium will certainly live up to the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. At 2.3 million square feet, it's more than 2 1/2 times the size of Texas Stadium.

Considering the Cowboys are guaranteed only 10 home games a year (eight regular season, two preseason), the team will be seeking other uses. College football's Cotton Bowl and the annual Texas-Oklahoma game may be lured from Dallas and the stadium could host national and international events in all sorts of other sports.
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