ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is in the process of building one of the most subtle 3 million square-foot stadiums this country has ever seen. He flirted with the novel concept of relocating the Dallas Cowboys to Dallas, but a mayor aptly nicknamed "Madam No" and a county commissioner helped drive Jones into the waiting arms of the citizens of Arlington and $325 million in taxpayer money.
Last week, Jones loaned me a white hard hat (with a blue star) and safety glasses and we embarked on a tour of what's being referred to locally as JerryWorld. He was a gracious host, but he walked at an absurdly fast pace and kept mentioning epoxy samples.
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At the beginning of the tour, Jones noted that he's spending $1 million per day on the stadium, which will eventually cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion. You can only imagine how sorry I felt for this benevolent man.
On that dreary morning, more than 1,600 workers were on the property, which seems like a lot. Jones' football temple -- scheduled to open in 2009 -- appears to be about 70 percent complete. A couple blocks away, the Texas Rangers' Ballpark -- one of several Camden Yards knock-offs that sprang up in the 1990s -- looks like a three-bedroom, two-bath by comparison.
Jones has given this tour countless times, but his eyes still dance when he points to where the $45 million digital video screens will hang. The 2,160-inch screens will hang 100 feet above the playing surface and stretch for 60 yards, thus making what's happening on the field sort of pointless to watch. With a straight face, the Cowboys' owner said he was inspired to purchase the screen after attending a Celine Dion concert at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. That Disney song she did with Peabo Bryson apparently sealed the deal.
"I don't think I ever saw Celine," he said, laughing. "I just kept looking at that screen."
If I understood Jones correctly, the Cowboys' video board will be tilted at an angle that will allow fans to watch the action on the field and still see the screen in their peripheral vision. He then transitioned into telling me about the 4D theater he intended to build in the stadium, but my head started to spin, so we took a quick break.
Jones recalls visiting the Houston Astrodome before a bowl game during his senior year on the University of Arkansas football team. He said the facility had a profound effect on him that he still thinks about. Most college students might file that experience away to tell their kids about someday. Jones filed it away so he could build something bigger.
He has admitted that, perhaps more than the three Super Bowls he won in the '90s, this stadium will be his family's legacy. On any given day, you might run into his wife, Gene, or their three kids on the property. Gene and daughter Charlotte traveled the world in search of ideas for the new stadium. Hearing Jones talk about how airports and museums in France inspired him is a surreal experience. This is the man who showed up in 1989 talking about how he would have a hand in all the football decisions, including but not limited to the "jocks and socks."
"I didn't have to do this," Jones said of building a new stadium. "We could've stayed over there in Texas Stadium and been fine. I could've kept being Coach Jones."
Something tells me he was only half kidding. But after years of working on this massive project, he sounds more like an architect than a coach. He led me outside to show off the half-million square feet of etched glass that surrounds the stadium. With great fervor, Jones talked about how the glass will cause the stadium to look vastly different in the day than it looks at night. Below the glass is limestone carefully selected by the Jones family.
After Jones explained the building's "linear feel," he took me to one of the field-level suites. On game days, Cowboys players will walk through the middle of the club on their way to the field.
"Fans can reach out and touch them," said Jones, describing a potentially awkward scenario.
Once the cameras stopped rolling (of course), the Cowboys' owner told me that he thought the new stadium would, in time, be as recognizable as the White House. I'll assume he was talking about the one in D.C., and not the infamous "second home" that a few Cowboys utilized in the early '90s.
The new stadium has two quarter-mile arches that are pretty impressive and a hole in the retractable roof to honor the past. Jones told me that the facility was so big it could host eight events on the same night.
And with that, he was off to look at more epoxy samples.
Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com.