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Inside the NFL's most expensive stadium

Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion home for the Dallas Cowboys offers a fan experience like no other. Dikenta Dike reports.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2009 13:51 IST

Upon approach from I-30 to the north--the Tom Landry Freeway--in Arlington, Texas, it appears as though a massive spacecraft from a world beyond our own has landed and nestled itself neatly into the suburban sprawl.

Actually, it's a veritable colossus very much of planet Earth, built by a man who has most of its means at his disposal. It's the brand-new Cowboys Stadium, the dream of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (No. 196 on Forbes' list of richest Americans), who spent $1.2 billion on the project. Construction began in 2006, and Jones is now able to see the new stadium as yet another aspect of his growing legacy as a "husband" to America's Team.

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"I wanted this stadium, aesthetically, on it's exterior as well as interior, I wanted it to represent technology, represent media, represent the future," Jones says.

It could be said, however, that the stadium represents the here and the now, considering that the NFL is the biggest revenue generator among the world's pro sports leagues (and the Cowboys are the most valuable franchise). Designed by HKS Architects, Cowboys Stadium is 3 million square feet--the NFL's largest indoor venue. It seats 80,000 spectators but can comfortably accommodate 100,000 thanks to fan-friendly, standing-room-only spaces among the 10 levels of the facility. The domed, retractable roof is the world's largest at 660,800 square feet, yet takes a mere 12 minutes to open or close. The roof is supported by two steel arched trusses that run beyond the expanse of the Stadium and rise 292 feet above field level at their apex.

In addition to the retractable roof, the Stadium boasts the world's largest retractable end-zone doors, each consisting of five glass panels--129 feet high by 180 feet wide--that open or close in 18 minutes. According to Jones, 60% of game-day spectators will enter the stadium through these enormous openings.

"We really wanted to have an airy stadium. You could play an NFL football game, have the required measurement of candlelight as they call it ... and never turn a light on," says Jones.

The grandiosity extends to every small detail. There are 2,900 TV screens throughout the facility, making it virtually impossible to miss a play on the field no matter where else in the stadium someone happens to be. And, with Legends Hospitality Management (a partnership between the Cowboys, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Goldman Sachs ( GS - news - people ) and Dallas firm CIC Partners), the concessions are a cut above those typically associated with stadium eats, available at 800 point-of-sale locations within the building.

"There's no one that I respect any more than I do the Yankees organization and, of course, George Steinbrenner and his family," says Jones of the joint venture. Legends currently serves only the Yankees and Cowboys stadiums, but the goal is to branch out to other clubs in other sports.

But the most mind-boggling feature of the Cowboys Stadium is the video board--created by Mitsubishi--that hangs over the center of the field. This massive display spans 60 yards, from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, displaying 25,000 square feet of video. The two sideline-facing monitors are each 160 feet wide by 72 feet tall. The two end zone-facing monitors are 50 feet wide and 28 feet tall. It is the largest screen-structure in the world, and all of it hangs 90 feet directly above the players on the gridiron. (The problem, however, is that punters' strikes at steep angles can send the ball right into either end-zone screen. When that occurs, the down is replayed.)

Jones' inspiration for the monster-sized screen was a Celine Dion concert he attended in Las Vegas. "I didn't know if I had looked at her all the time or if I'd looked at her image behind her," Jones recalls of the screen used for her performance. "All I knew is it was a heck of a show and I wanted that to be part of the Dallas Cowboys."

Average reserve ticket price for Cowboys Stadium is $90, and club seats cost $340. Standing-room admission is set at $29. Not a bad price, considering how easy it'll be to see all the action on the video board.