NBA expects record turnout in Dallas

Updated: December 19, 2009, 6:38 PM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jerry Jones is still hoping to have more than 100,000 people in Cowboys Stadium for the NBA All-Star game in February.

The league is less optimistic, but still expecting to shatter its attendance record of 62,046. The world record for a basketball game is 78,129 for a college game between Michigan State and Kentucky in December 2003.

"I know we'll be over 80," NBA executive vice president Ski Austin said Saturday.

Austin was among about 150 people involved with the All-Star game who spent this week watching the $1.2 billion stadium go from hosting a Cowboys game to becoming a basketball venue for the first time as No. 2 Texas played No. 10 North Carolina before a crowd of 38,052 on Saturday. The Longhorns won 103-90.

Everything from the height of the court to the arrangements of the seats was done according to the plans for the All-Star Game on Feb. 14. Depending on how things go, maybe they'll find room for more seats, perhaps even several thousand more.

"We'll get through this weekend, we'll get all the feedback and we'll see how close we can get to Jerry's number," Austin said.

The stadium drew an 105,121 for the Cowboys' opener, setting an NFL record for a regular-season game. The college basketball game had about 8,600 seats added on the floor, although some of the permanent seats had to be off limits.

Ever the hypester, Jones keeps talking about pushing "the magical number ... one-double-oh."

"I think we'll have the opportunity to," Jones said. "Instinctively, if you can say, one-oh-oh, it slides out better than nine-oh."

Jones visited the stadium about two hours before tip-off, then left to fly to New Orleans for the Cowboys-Saints game. Although he didn't get to see what the atmosphere was like in person, he had an idea of what it would be like.

"It'll have an energy that is hard to replicate for basketball," he said. "It's something that's been planned on and hoped for."

As with all things in this building, the overhead video boards are the center of attention. The screens stretch 160 feet -- or, 24 feet longer than the raised platform that hold the court. That's why so many people can be here and still see everything, one way or another.

"It brings the action to the people," he said.

Austin was here for the Cowboys' opener and another game. He called it "a little staggering" to imagine a basketball court in the middle of the football field.

"But it turns out to be a perfectly viable viewing experience," said Austin, who spent two days going from section to section, especially in the highest level, to get a look at the court from every angle.

"We've seen a lot of work over the last few months on paper. It's good to see it with real seats on the field."

Austin said it was a "leap of faith" for the league to put the game here before the stadium was even built.

"The chance to be in the world's newest, premier venue with your premier event, it's an opportunity you can't pass up," he said.

Cowboys Stadium already has been chosen to host a regional round of the NCAA tournament in 2013 and the Final Four in 2014. The previous basketball attendance record was also set in an NFL stadium, Detroit's Ford Field.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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