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September 17, 2009
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.