x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cowboys Stadium is apt and ready to host the Super Bowl

While the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will be taking centre stage, the stage itself will get plenty of attention, too.

The vast Cowboys Stadium will take centre stage next Sunday for the clash between Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
The vast Cowboys Stadium will take centre stage next Sunday for the clash between Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

The initial plans were modest. Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, wanted to build a stadium that would cost around US$650 million (Dh2.3 billion). He asked local taxpayers to put up the first $325m and promised to pay the rest, no matter how much.

As the bills multiplied, Jones gave up on being modest. He wanted something unlike anything ever built, something glitzy and audacious, something that would make every Sunday seem like the Super Bowl.

Nearly $1bn of his own money later, Jones got his wish. And next Sunday, more than 100,000 fans will attend the NFL's showcase event, the Super Bowl, in his showplace, Cowboys Stadium.

"You can't take for granted how amazing it is," said Bill McConnell, the NFL's director of event operations. "We're really excited about those two things coming together."

While the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will be taking centre stage, the stage itself will get plenty of attention, too.

The Statue of Liberty (46 meters tall) could stand on the 50-yard line and not touch the roof. From end to end, the football-shaped stadium is longer than the Empire State Building is tall (381 metres).

Helping fill that immense space is a centre-hung video board that holds the world's biggest high-definition television screens.

The TVs are the stadium's defining characteristic. They stretch between the 20-yard lines and are 22 metres high. No matter how many times you visit the place, you can't take your eyes off the screens.

There are other extraordinary features throughout the stadium.

Parts of the concourse feel like a five-star hotel. Museum-calibre artwork is sprinkled around. Hallways in the suite levels are decorated with pictures from Cowboys history, both famous moments and candid behind-the-scenes shots.

The biggest spenders can watch games from field-level suites or in the bars that the teams walk through to and from the field.

Even the outside is elegant, with curved glass that brightens and darkens depending on the amount of sunshine, and end-zone doors capable of sliding open like patio doors; they'll be closed for the Super Bowl, as will the roof.

League owners picked this stadium to host a Super Bowl two years before it was even ready for business. There was talk of rewarding Jones for such a major investment, but don't underestimate the profit that can be generated by a crowd of more than 100,000 people.

Trucks began arriving at 6am three weeks ago to start adding the Super Bowl touches. As much as the building was designed with this game in mind, there's still work to be done, like putting 13km of fencing and 28,000 square metres of tented areas in the parking lots. Workers have painted the field and added about 15,000 temporary seats, filling pretty much every spot with a decent sight line, including the end-zone decks that had been giant display cases for sponsors.

Tickets carry a face value of $600 to $1,200. Those include seats. There are also $350 tickets to stand inside the building, and $200 tickets to roam a party plaza on the east side of the stadium. If this nose-against-the-glass experiment works, it could become a Super Bowl staple.

The Packers and Steelers arrive in town tomorrow. Both will be at the stadium on Tuesday for the Media Day circus. Since neither team has played here, it will be the first time in the building for most players.

"I'm excited to see what the stadium's got," John Kuhn, the Green Bay running back, said. "They said it's wild, so I'm really pumped up."

Some say the place looks like a spaceship. It's also been dubbed JerryWorld.

But it carries the simple name Cowboys Stadium, giving Jones another way of marketing what Forbes magazine considers the most valuable professional sports franchise in North America.

The only downer for Jones is that his team is not playing in this game.

He hoped to become the first Super Bowl host to also participate and wasn't shy about saying so.

The Cowboys proved to be such a big disappointment that he fired his coach midway through the season, after a loss to the Packers. Now those Packers will be using the Cowboys' locker room as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. As for the Steelers, this will be their eighth Super Bowl, tying Dallas' record.

"Great tradition, outstanding teams," Jones said this week. "With what the Packers are about and what the Steelers are about, it makes a great game. If you're in my shoes right now as far as Cowboys Stadium is concerned, I'm really proud that they're going to be there. I'm proud for north Texas."

* Associated Press