Stadium death watch: One leaves, one enters

From the Shoot First, Ask Questions Later Dept.:

With Tiger Stadium now history, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. may soon solicit ideas to redevelop the site.

Meanwhile, the Irving, Texas city council has authorized the demolition of Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys. According to the Associated Press, the council is hoping to set up an “implosion auction,” with tickets marketed “possibly [to fans] from cities with ardent rivals of the Cowboys.” Bring your own dust masks!

Keeping up with the (Jerry) Joneses

ESPN.com’s Matt Mosley raves about the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, or at least its grandiosity, citing in particular its humongous scoreboard, the fact that players enter the field by running through a sports bar, and the glass-enclosed exterior. “It was [Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’] vision to build the greatest stadium in the world,” writes Mosley, “and he just might have pulled it off.”

We can argue whether being bigger necessarily equates with better — it’s especially noteworthy that Jones apparently decided to build the stadium’s signature oversized scoreboard after going to a Celine Dion show at Caesars Palace and being so distracted by the giant video screen that he couldn’t keep his eyes on the actual performance — but for NFL fans the key phrase here is in the photo caption, which describes Cowboys Stadium as “the new standard by which other stadiums are judged.” “State-of-the-art” clauses are already popular among NFL teams, and Cowboys Stadium only ups the ante for what other franchise owners can demand as standard. (And even for teams without lease clauses, you know their owners are salivating over Cowboys Stadium’s new goodies.) At least Jones skimped on the holographic replay system.

This, in part, is the answer to the often-asked question (often-asked to me, anyway): “Won’t the new-stadium craze die off once every team has one?” The problem with “new” is that it’s a moving target — this decade’s state-of-the-art is next decade’s outmoded, as new stadiums keep (sorry) moving the goalposts. Twenty-one NFL stadiums have opened in the past 20 years, but eight of those are already more than a decade old. If Cowboys Stadium leads to a new round of NFL stadium demands — or stadium upgrade demands — it will end up costing taxpayers and football fans far more than the $350 million in public funds that went into the stadium proper.

Cowboys low-hanging video board to stay put for 2009

Looks like Puntgate will linger on for at least another few months: The NFL has ruled that the Dallas Cowboys don’t need to raise the video screens at their new stadium, regardless of the fact that punters have hit the boards during exhibition games. Instead, the league implemented emergency ground rules for the coming season only (permanent rules changes require a vote at the annual rules meeting) that essentially make any punts hitting the board a do-over, with replay used to check if balls hit the board in case officials miss it.

Last night’s game was free of punt-board collisions, so the ground rules won’t come into play for another week at least. Until then, the only problem with the video screens will be the one that former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson identified recently: “If there’s anything wrong, it’s that people are going to watch the video board and not the game.” I haven’t been there myself, but still I know what he means.

Cowboys Stadium just gets worse and worse

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has outdone the Steinbrenners in one way, anyway: He’s built seats with views even more obstructed than those in the new Yankee Stadium bleachers. Deadspin has the link the the GeekBrief.tv video segment, and the color commentary:

One is literally behind a cement column. The other sits up against a cement wall that obstructs all of the stadium except for one red zone. I’m not sure which exact seat this is, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication on Ticketmaster that obstructed view seats are available or that they are any cheaper than the lowest listed price of $75. ($59 as part of a season ticket package.) The standing-room only morons get a better deal than that, but at least you get a chair.

How bad are these seats? You are in the same room with the world’s largest video screen, a massive 160-by-90-foot egoriffic TV built specifically to give fans in the cheap seats a visual reminder that they are actually attending a football game … and you can’t even see that.

Maybe they can at least put a painting of a football game on the wall.

Cowboys’ scoreboard is a punt hazard

There have been plenty of articles about the first Dallas Cowboys preseason game at Cowboys Stadium, but what do I want to talk about? The fact that the new $25 million video screen was hung so low it’s getting hit by punts. The NFL is apparently going to have to make new rules to account for this, and Cowboys tour guides were telling visitors on Saturday that the board was being raised, though team officials denied this.

What was behind this screwup? No one’s saying, but it couldn’t have hurt that the video board appears to be the main attraction both for those in the luxury suites and those in the standing-room-only sections on the same level. One fan told the Dallas Morning News on Friday night: “I catch myself watching that screen instead of watching the field. They zoom in on the bench and you can see sweat running down the back of the players’ necks and you can see the expression on their faces. It just draws you in.” Maybe the Cowboys could just skip the game itself and have computer players play the game on the big screen — that way they’d both save on player salaries and could just avoid scoreboard-colliding punts by adding a few lines of code.

Cowboys Stadium brings flood of … something

A month away from opening day of football, the Dallas Morning News is already ready to declare the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington a smashing success for the economy:

The Dallas Cowboys have yet to play a down in Arlington, but the impact of the team’s new stadium is already being felt in the local economy.

At least 80 percent of Arlington’s hotel rooms were filled for the Cowboys Stadium debut concert with George Strait in June, and the municipal airport was packed with private planes. Tourism officials said the 4,000-room nights booked for that weekend were comparable to Arlington’s largest conventions.

“It would have been hard to find a hotel room the night of the George Strait concert,” said Jay Burress, president and CEO of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Items not covered in the article:

  • How many hotel rooms are filled on a typical weekend in June.
  • How it could be “hard to find a hotel room” when there was a 20% vacancy rate.
  • What the economic activity (and hotel vacancies) were like in nearby Irving, where the Cowboys played until this year, and where any local stadium concerts would have gone had it not been for the new stadium.

The Morning News did mention that the manager of a nearby shopping center reported that “people were so fearful of traffic jams that north Arlington became a ghost town during the Strait concert” — though traffic jams didn’t materialize, so she hoped shopping would pick up during future events.

Cowboys charge $29 to put your fanny nowhere a seat

As part of their bid to make their new taxpayer-supported stadium even more of a monument to excess than the Yankees‘ new stadium, the Dallas Cowboys have announced that they’ll be selling “Party Pass” tickets for $29 a pop that don’t even get you a seat. The Cowboys plan to sell between 15,000 and 35,000 of the standing-room seats per game, which is an unprecedented number — little wonder that one Dallas local who attended a soccer game in the standing section reported that most people couldn’t get close enough to the front to see the game.

“For your die-hard Joe Sixpack Cowboys fan, $29 is a fantastic price point,” one Texas ticket broker told Bloomberg News. Of course, given that the cheapest actual seats cost $75, and that the pizzas in the luxury suites go for $90 (or maybe $60 — either way), maybe he has a point.

Sports bubble watch: Giants waiting list has evaporated

In a Newsday column mostly about the lagging naming-rights market — both the Dallas Cowboys stadium opening this year and the New York Giants and Jets stadium opening in 2010 still haven’t found buyers for their stadium names — sports business writer Neil Best reveals this tidbit as well:

The Giants are further along in their sales process but still have personal-seat licenses available at club levels for $20,000, $12,500 and $7,500 &mdash ones that come with game tickets at $700, $500 and $400.

Johnson and Mara expressed confidence that they will be sold out before the 2010 openers. But Mara confirmed that the Giants have moved through their notoriously long waiting list and that tickets now are available to the public.

What this means is that at least 60,000 Giants fans have been offered the chance to buy season tickets at the new place, and replied, “Not at those prices.” See why I’m concerned for Santa Clara?