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Who “Lost” The New Cowboys Stadium for Dallas?

Wherein we bust three myths surrounding the Cowboys’ move Arlington.
illustration by Douglas Jones

The new Dallas Cowboys stadium is finally open. It is massive. It is behemoth. In fact, the only thing larger at this point is the giant chip on the shoulder of Dallasites still angry that the stadium is located in Arlington and not in Big D, either downtown or in Fair Park.

But, it’s time to move on and see clearly that Dallas sits well east of the stadium—especially in light of the upcoming Super Bowl in 2011.

No doubt, having the Cowboys stadium at Dallas’ Fair Park would have provided an incredible boost to Fair Park’s revitalization, not to mention a tremendous boost to Dallas’ pride, having America’s Team play in its “real” home. But to move past the self-loathing and blame, it’s helpful to take one last look back to clear up many of the myths that still exist.

First, a little background: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ original—and only—proposal was to build the stadium on the banks of the Trinity River near downtown Dallas. To pay for it, he was asking Dallas County voters to finance half the stadium and approve a 3 percent increase to the hotel-motel tax. Within Dallas city limits, that would have increased the hotel tax to 18 percent—among the highest in the country.

One of the city’s largest conventioneers quietly promised to meet somewhere else if the tax increase passed, and many in the local tourism business feared more conventions would follow suit—or would never consider Dallas to begin with.

So, here we go with the myth busting. 

Myth No. 1: Dallas Mayor Laura Miller refused to meet with Jones and lost the stadium. Miller met with Jones and his team on numerous occasions. I know this for a fact because, as a member of her staff at the time, I was with her for many of those meetings. Not a fan of taxpayer-subsidized stadiums, Miller was indeed concerned about the cost of the stadium to Dallas taxpayers. But, few know that it was Miller who persuaded Jones to even look at Fair Park to begin with. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Jones ever seriously considered Fair Park as a viable location for his project.

Myth No. 2: Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher mucked up negotiations and lost the stadium. As the head of the County Commissioner’s Court, Keliher would have led negotiations with Jones. His proposal to raise the hotel-motel tax would have required county-wide voter approval and an election called by the commissioners. Jones never met with Keliher face to face.

Myth No. 3: Jones never intended to come to Dallas and merely used us to get a better deal in Arlington.  This is another extreme view and, while Jones did indeed get everything he asked for from Arlington, he and his team put too much time, energy, and money into their original Trinity stadium proposal for it simply to have been a charade. 

Here’s the bottom line, though: Whether you believe in taxpayer-subsidized stadium projects or not, no one can deny that having the Cowboys Stadium at Fair Park could have been great for Dallas. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jones wanted. As for Arlington, only time will tell whether its investment pays off long-term.

In the meantime, thanks to the new stadium, Super Bowl XLV is coming, bringing with it an economic boost of tens of millions of dollars to North Texas. Most of those Super Bowl visitors will stay at Dallas hotels and eat at Dallas restaurants. So, it’s time to move on and look forward—because the view from the Cowboys Stadium toward Dallas is looking pretty good right now.

Webb is director of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Mary Kay Inc. Previously, he was chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and an investigative reporter for CBS 11.

Amazing Arlington

Arlington was recently ranked No. 1 on a list of the nation’s most sports-obsessed cities by Men’s Health magazine. Here are some other facts and figures about the city that’s now home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys as well as MLB’s Texas Rangers.

Where visitors ranked Arlington, on a scale from 1-5, as a place to “revisit”

Approximate number of seats dedicated to professional sports venues

Number of hotel rooms

Number of amusement-park acres

Approximate number of amusement park rides less than 6 miles from the convention center

Source: Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau; research by Trevor Scott

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