AT&T Stadium is a work of genius… in design, planning and execution
It’s only when you’re about 20 minutes out of Dallas, heading down the Tom Landry Freeway (named after the Cowboys’ coach from 1960 until 1988), that you first notice the gigantic rounded structure slowly sprouting from the horizon, not unlike the Death Star rising to bring the rebel base at Yavin into view.
Coincidentally, “Death Star” is popular nickname for AT&T Stadium – the famed 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys (though it holds 105,000 including “Party Pass” standing room tickets). It also goes by “Jerryworld” considering it’s the fruition of a vision partly bankrolled by infamous franchise owner, Jerry Jones.
But driving down the highway, it is weird to think that a brand new stadium for the world’s biggest sporting franchise would be built so far from the city to which the team is aligned, but there’s clearly method to Jerry’s madness.
It’s no coincidence that the Dallas Cowboys become the world’s most valuable sporting team after Jerry Jones bought the organisation – he’s a pretty switched-on businessman. It also wasn’t an absent-minded decision for him to decide to build his lasting legacy in – let’s face it – the middle of nowhere.
The beauty of Jones’ decision to shun downtown Dallas, or Irving where the AT&T Stadium’s predecessor, Texas Stadium, was located, was clearly calculated. Not only does the town/outer suburb of Arlington have no public transport link to either Fort Worth or Dallas, but it’s also a solid half hour drive from either city.
It means that both Dallas and visiting team fans have just two options when it comes to making the pilgrimage to Jerryworld – drive or take a cab or a ride share service like Uber. Naturally, in Texas, everyone drives, so it’s also not a coincidence that parking at A&T Stadium can run as high as US$150 per spot. Genius planning.
Being a state-of-the-art stadium in a warmer climate, the pilgrimage to the Death Star has become a ‘must do’ for opposition fans – particularly for those from colder climates. Jerry doesn’t care – they pay good money for seats, buy plenty of beer and contribute to his ever-expanding bank balance. The drawback means that unlike in some stadiums (for instance in Kansas City or Seattle) there’s a noticeable presence from the away fans.
And so while it would be easy to turn one’s nose up at the total cost of a day out at the football in Texas, fans are treated to what would easily be one of the world’s best sporting experiences.
The tailgating – where fans fire up the barbecue, crack a few cold ones and talk all sorts of rubbish – begins in the morning and can be summed up by the term “Southern Hospitality”, while visitors get a true sense of how huge the stadium actually is after they enter one of the two main entrances at either end zone.
It’s a positively cavernous space featuring a post-industrial open-piping look which, when combined with TV screens, bright lights and a booming sound system, just works. First-time visitors will no doubt find themselves craning their necks to try take in the stadium in its glorious entirety, but the first thing most are likely to notice are the two gargantuan Full-HD video boards which just casually hang over the playing field.
When AT&T Stadium opened in 2009, they were the biggest Full-HD screens in the world at 50.3 metres wide and 22 metres long. They’ve since been surpassed in size by other screens, but the placement no doubt ensures they remain the world’s most impressive.
Being a domed stadium, the noise can be defeating from both the music being pumped at stoppages in play and by the raucous crowds on a vital third down. Dallas’ attendances are biggest in the NFL and AT&T Stadium rocks accordingly.
The stadium’s seating has also been designed so that there aren’t really any bad seats, meaning fans won’t feel ripped off by restricted views or poor viewing angles, while Texas chow is plentiful and available from every corner of the ground, meaning one never misses too much of the action.
In short, it’s a masterpiece in planning, design and execution – and a fitting home for “America’s Team” and a fantastic place to watch and experience everything that America’s favourite sport is all about.
They say that “everything’s bigger in Texas”, but when it comes to the home of Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys, a more apt saying would be that “everything’s better in Texas”.
Five tips for watching football at AT&T Stadium:
1 – Ride share to the stadium early. Especially if you’re in a group. Avoid surges and you might only pay US$20-25 per carload.
2 – Get seats facing the giant videoboards. Even the cheap seats are expensive, but pay a little extra so you’re facing the giant sideline videoboards and not the smaller ones facing the end zones.
3 – Try the chopped BBQ burger at one of the many food outlets.
4 – Tailgate. Take advantage of the friendly Texan hospitality by asking to join a tailgate!
5 – Stick around after the game. If ride sharing home, take your time to let the surge (and general traffic) die down. There are a few dinner options near AT&T stadium.