Texas Stadium memories outlast blasts

IRVING, Texas -- They sent the old girl to stadium heaven a little after 7 on Sunday morning.

They sent some kid named Casey, who won a contest or something, to push the button to finish the demolition process of Texas Stadium.

It was a nice gesture, but the people who helped build the old girl for $35 million back in 1967, the Murchison family, should have closed the show.

Sunday morning, Texas Stadium was demolished. The last game played there was by a crew that drilled more than 2,800 holes in the columns at the stadium and placed nearly 2,715 pounds of explosives into the structure.

When it went down, as the sun was just getting up, a man who had worked there for 25 years was crying.

"My heart went to my toes when that roof over my office laid down," Bruce Hardy, the general manager at Texas Stadium for 25 years, said when it was over. "I lived over 110,000 hours in this place, and it's gone in a minute."

Another man was emotional.

Jerry Jones won three Super Bowls while the Dallas Cowboys called Texas Stadium home. Jones watched with Hardy as the stadium came crumbling down. Jones' daughter, Charlotte, started crying. Jones' granddaughter Haley also cried.

After the gray dust started to kick up, the Jones family decided to leave. A small group of reporters chased Jones to an awaiting black town car.

Jones paused to talk with a flicker of a tear in his right eye hanging off an eyelash.

"When that roof started coming in, it was sad," he said quietly. "That's about all you can say with that. It certainly wasn't fun."

When it was open, Texas Stadium was fun.

Will it be revered as Lambeau Field, the Polo Grounds or old Yankee Stadium?

No. But Texas Stadium has its history.

It has the 10-day Billy Graham crusade in the fall of 1971. The Jackson 5. Garth Brooks. Madonna. James Brown. U2. Emmitt Smith breaking the rushing record. Mean Joe Greene filming his famous Coke television spot. Roger Staubach comebacks. Troy Aikman comebacks. Tony Dorsett runs. Drew Pearson catches. Randy White sacks and Tony Romo touchdown passes.

The roof was what made Texas Stadium, not its 381 luxury suites or the fact it hosted 30 "Monday Night Football" games.

Television cameras caught the stadium at its peak when it showed the lights shining through the roof and the Cowboys' cheerleaders smiling on the sideline.

"It's a meaningful place," Romo said earlier this week. "It represents history and great games, great players and big moments. I remember the first time I walked in there, it made me think of the Masters golf tournament. Something you saw on television all of your life and you always wondered if you were ever going to get the chance to walk on the grounds in person."

The final day had Irving police blocking off roads to the highway and construction workers preparing the grounds. A special VIP tent was set up a few miles away as city leaders and guests watched things go down. Fans paid $25 to park across the highway to view the ending.

There also was White, who drove an hour from Prosper, Texas, in the dead of night to watch things.

There was Burk Murchison, the middle son of Clint Murchison Jr., the first owner of the Cowboys, walking around the VIP tent telling stories of how his dad was ahead of his time.

"It's a bittersweet memory," Burk Murchison said. "Nothing lasts forever. My dad put his heart and soul in the stadium and planning of it. It was a stadium well used for many, many years."

When the stadium was finally down and the dust was cleared, there was just debris. Cars slowly drove by the old gal one last time as if a funeral were going on. Television anchors and reporters continued their live shots, but Hardy kept hanging around.

He's now the senior vice president and senior adviser of Cowboys Stadium, the new $1.2 billion palace in Arlington. He has a nice office in the basement on the opposite side of where the players dress. He drives from his home in the Park Cities to Arlington every day, right past Texas Stadium.

On Monday morning, it won't be there anymore.

"It will really be tough to drive by it at 10 to 7," he said. "It's gone."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.