Star attraction: Cowboys to make new-stadium debut
2:00 AM CDT on Friday, August 21, 2009
By DAVID MOORE / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected] / The Dallas Morning News
Todd Archer contributed to this report.
ARLINGTON – His first view of the architectural goliath came on a flight back to Dallas. Even from 6,000 feet, the scale was impressive.
Marion Barber has driven by Cowboys Stadium several times since. Each time, he's felt compelled to pull off to the side of the road and gaze.
"I'm pumped," said Barber, the Cowboys running back. "I can't wait to get up in there."
The wait is over.
The stadium has hosted George Strait, the Jonas Brothers, Paul McCartney and the soccer elite since it opened its doors in June. But tonight will be the first time it will feature performances by Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Co.
The team's first game in Cowboys Stadium kicks off at 7 tonight against the Tennessee Titans. If you are tempted to play down the significance of this moment and point to the team's regular-season game against the New York Giants on Sept. 20 as the true opener; don't tell the players.
"You know how people have grand openings, and it's really not a grand opening because the place has been open for like a month?" receiver Patrick Crayton asked. "That seems ridiculous to me.
"This is the grand opening."
Deep and wide
The dimensions are staggering. The stadium boasts the largest column-free room in the world, stretching a quarter-mile and consuming 3 million square feet. You could open the retractable roof, air-drop the Statue of Liberty onto the field, then close the roof without scraping the statue's tip.
Owner Jerry Jones hasn't announced the club's intention to do this, but don't put it past him.
"How many wonders do we have in the world?" Crayton asked. "Seven? Is it still seven? Then this is eight and eight and a half."
The Detroit Lions don't have much of a football team, but they do have a beautiful stadium. Ford Field is one of the largest structures in the NFL and hosted the Super Bowl in 2006.
Receiver Roy Williams played for the Lions. After the Cowboys acquired Williams in a trade, Jones gave him a clear picture of what to expect.
"You can pick that stadium [Ford Field] up and put it inside this stadium," Williams said. "Jerry told me not just the field, but the whole stadium.
"That puts it into perspective on how big this thing is."
The players were given a tour of the new stadium in June before the Jonas Brothers concert. The field wasn't down, and crews were still feverishly at work to finish out the details.
The size. The futuristic look of the stadium with its steel arches and glass. The liberal sprinkling of TV screens around the stadium, so many that Crayton said you can't miss them "unless you close your eyes and put a coat on your head."
Surreal is the word Witten uses to describe the Cowboys' new home. Perhaps the most surreal aspect of all is the video board.
"How big is it, six stories and 60 yards long?" Ware asked. "HD? That looks good when you're sacking somebody on that."
The screen stretches from one 20-yard line to the other. It's 160 feet wide and 71 feet tall.
"The first thing I thought was, 'Man, if I could hook my PlayStation up to this thing,' " Williams said.
"My dream since that day is getting the first touchdown in that stadium. I know I'm going to have the first first down. I usually give my touchdown balls and gloves away to little kids, but I'm going to keep those things."
There has been speculation that Mat McBriar will boom a punt into the video board before the season is over since it hangs 100 feet above the field. He doesn't expect that will be an issue. But what about the perception of kicking field goals into a glass background? What will happen on a deep post route when the receiver looks up and sees the board looming overhead like the Death Star in Star Wars?
"I guess the greatest example is in high school," backup quarterback Jon Kitna said. "You play basketball, and you play in gyms with tight walls, and then you go to the state playoffs in these big arenas, and the spatial part of it is different.
"We'll see what it's like."
Depth perception isn't the only thing at work here. Jones' perception is that these lavish surroundings should inspire his team to a higher level of performance.
"I don't know, because that's a billion-dollar stadium," Crayton said. "Nobody on this team has a billion dollars ... except for Jerry.
"He owns the place. It's his house. I just think we need to put on a good show."
The first show is tonight.
"I know as players we look forward to getting out there and competing in a place that is obviously going to be unique," Romo said. "I think it means a lot to a lot of different people, including us.
"We're going to try to make it special for everybody."
Staff writer Todd Archer contributed to this report.
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