Art, Architecture and Football!

When Jerry Jones acquired the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million dollars, it was viewed as a poor business decision.  The team was just an average team that was losing money.  The original Texas Stadium was a mundane steel and concrete structure that offered few amenities, except for some simple suites.  It did not have air conditioning and was suited only to football.

But the larger than life Jones eventually turned the team into the highest valued sports franchises in the history of the U.S.  He also built Cowboys Stadium, the site for this weekend’s Super Bowl XLV.  As we prepare for the big game, we thought we would share some background about this one of a kind, high-tech sports and entertainment venue. 

From the start, Jones wanted a larger, more luxurious stadium befitting his beloved Cowboys.  When they decided to build a new stadium, he and his family immersed themselves into the world of art and architecture so that they could be active participants in the design process.  They traveled extensively to visit everything from ancient ruins to the most modern, cutting edge architecture.

The Cowboys hosted a design competition to solicit ideas for the new stadium.  Ultimately they chose HKS – a Dallas based architecture firm that was relatively new.  The architects at HKS were all in their 20s and 30s.  They had never designed a stadium from scratch, but had worked on some renovations of other sports venues.  Jones chose the firm over the more established architects in the competition because of their unconventional ideas and the feeling that he could easily work with them.     

HKS put forth some basic themes for the stadium – transparency and light, clarity, flexibility and state of the art technology and communication.  Despite the stadium’s home of Arlington having mostly traditional architecture, including the nostalgic Texas Rangers ballpark, Jerry Jones and HKS decided upon a contemporary design that was suited not just for football, but a variety of sports and entertainment. 

Here are some fun, albeit useless, facts about Cowboys Stadium!  As you watch the Super Bowl this weekend, you can impress your family and friends with trivia about Jerry Jones’ amazing architectural feat!

Everything’s Bigger in Texas!

  • The original budget in 2004 was $650 million, but when the stadium was completed in 2009, the final price tag was a whopping $1.2 billion.
  • The 160 foot wide x 72 foot high digital media board hanging in mid-field cost between $40 – 50 million.  It weighs an unbelievable 1.2 million pounds and is suspended from the ceiling 90 feet above the field. 
  • The two arches in the stadium are made of steel imported from Luxembourg.   They were made in Oklahoma and taken by truck to the site.  At 1225 feet, they are the longest single spans ever built.  Structurally speaking, there were far less expensive alternatives to the arches, like corner columns, but Jones wanted a modern look to the building and paid the enormous additional costs to make sure the stadium had the progressive look he desired.
  • The roof is 661,000 square feet and is the largest of its kind in the world.  The domed top can open or close in just 12 minutes to cover the opening above the field.
  • The stadium is approximately 3 MILLION square feet inside.  It is a quarter mile in length.  The Statue of Liberty could stand up inside the stadium.
  • There are more than 80,000 seats, but the stadium was built with flexibility to expand the seating to over 100,000.

Sweet Deal!

  • Cowboys Stadium is the only stadium with field level sideline suites, each with private patios.
  • The luxury suites feature plush leather seats, flat screen TVS, private full service bars, private restrooms and removable glass panels that open up so that that the entire suite is open to the playing field.
  • Suite owners and club seat ticket holders have exclusive access to the American Airlines Lounge and the Sony Lounge.  Each lounge is on the opposite side of the stadium and has 3 story atriums with windows that span floor to ceiling.

Field of Dreams

  • There are 3 different synthetic fields at the stadium – one for NFL games, college games and high school games.  There’s also a blank field that can be painted to accommodate any other sport.
  • The end zones each feature 5 retractable glass doors.  At 120 feet high, they are the largest movable glass doors in the world.   The doors can be opened in 8 minutes to create a 180 foot entry way into the plaza.

Let There Be Light

  • HKS used light as a major theme throughout the building.  The use of glass and transparent materials allows patrons to feel like they are outside, rather than in a building.
  • The roof retractable and is covered in a translucent material that brings in an abundance of natural light. 
  • The retractable end zone doors are made of glass, so that even when closed, there is a feeling of openness.
  • The roof and the base are connected by curved glass walls.  They are each 900 feet long and are fritted.  The frit is a pattern of very tiny dots on the glass.  The bottom of the fritted glass wall is 90% covered, while the top is 10% covered.  This allows for a unique play of light that sets different moods depending upon the time of day.

Stadium or Art Gallery?

  • The stadium is filled with world-class, contemporary art.  Rather than the ordinary sports photos, statues of famous athletes and other sports-related items, the Jones’ decided to fill the stadium with the some of the most cutting edge art around.
  • There are 21 pieces in the art collection, occupying almost 100,000 square feet of space.  Most of the major contemporary art museums do not have this much square footage devoted to art.

Cowboy Stadium truly is one of the most unique venues to have ever hosted a Super Bowl.  Its high tech, highly sophisticated architecture, combined with amazing works of modern art, make it the most cutting edge sports venue of its kind.  This Sunday, as you enjoy the intensity and action packed Packers and Steelers game, take time out to appreciate the beauty and sophistication of Cowboys Stadium.

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