Cowboys unveil plan for stadium

Sunday, March 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ The Dallas Cowboys have unveiled their plan for a new stadium, a place they envision will be busy all year long _ not just when the team plays.

``It has to be more than a stadium,'' Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told The Dallas Morning News in Sunday editions.

The Cowboys are presenting the new stadium as the centerpiece of a billion-dollar development. The concept features a retractable-roof stadium that brings skateboarding and other attractions to open end-zone areas. It flows outward into a Cowboys-themed development that includes entertainment venues, restaurants, office buildings, a hotel and playing fields.

By building a major tourist attraction, the Cowboys hope to solve the most perplexing problem with new football stadiums: They are getting too expensive to use just a few times a year.

Jones and his project team told the newspaper they hope to bring the issue to Dallas County voters as early as November. They're aiming for a post-2009 opening, but the project can stay on schedule if the process takes longer, Jones said.

The Cowboys said they would build the stadium and surrounding development concurrently, avoiding the uncertainty and delays of the proposed Victory development around the two-year-old American Airlines Center near downtown Dallas.

The project calls for 200 to 300 acres of land. While the Cowboys haven't identified a site, they said they are looking at two locations, one in downtown Dallas and the other in Irving's Las Colinas development.

As envisioned by the Cowboys, the project would be the biggest and most expensive undertaken by any sports team. The Cowboys are using $650 million as the initial estimate for the stadium itself. At least that much will be needed for the adjacent real estate and development.

Cowboys officials are lobbying the Legislature to raise the limits on hotel and rental-car taxes for sports facilities. An initial hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday before a Senate committee in Austin.

While working on their legislative agenda, the Cowboys will continue negotiating with Dallas County on a financing package. They want the county to establish a sports authority and levy the hotel and rental-car taxes to provide perhaps $400 million or more in public funding for the stadium.

If a deal can be struck, the tax question will proceed to the ballot in Dallas County.

Owner Jerry Jones and other Cowboys officials have been talking about a new stadium since 2000, but over the last 18 months they've said little publicly about their ideas.

At the heart of the project is a stadium with both end zones open. The facility would seat 70,000 to 80,000 fans, including the suites and club sections. Another 10,000 to 15,000 people could congregate in each end zone, boosting capacity to about 100,000.

The Cowboys propose to add extras to draw fans to the pedestrian areas. Besides vantage points to view the field and big-screen video boards, the end zones will offer entertainment and activities.

One end would cater to families and their children, with skating half-pipes, a touch-football field and interactive games. The other end would be designed for adults, with shopping, restaurants and bars.

Like many new-generation stadiums, the Cowboys' facility would have a retractable roof. Massive sliding doors could close off the end zones, so the playing area could be completely enclosed and air-conditioned when the weather warrants. Next to the stadium would be the Cowboys' offices and practice facilities, which would move from Valley Ranch.

A large, all-weather stadium would put Dallas in the running for big-time sports events that it cannot host in the area's present facilities, including Super Bowls, the NCAA basketball Final Four, college football's championship game and a major rodeo. The new stadium could also host the Cotton Bowl and Texas-Oklahoma games, the Cowboys said.