Commentary

Jones goes where no owner has gone

Non-football events at Cowboys Stadium are another way for Jerry to market his team

Updated: April 1, 2010, 11:00 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Cowboys Cheerleading Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesThree Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders sang the national anthem, helping promote the team, before the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium.

It seems Jerry Jones wants to bring the world to Cowboys Stadium.

An international soccer match. The NBA All-Star Game. A boxing card featuring main event fighters from the Philippines and Ghana. The Super Bowl. All will dance or have danced on the big stage of Cowboys Stadium.

And Jerry Jones is planning more.

He wants to bring NHL hockey, an Olympic swimming qualifier and who knows what else to the $1.2 billion palace in Arlington.

Traditionally, NFL owners don't completely own their stadiums, and the buildings aren't equipped to host events outside of NFL and college football games and an occasional concert.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones & Manny Pacquiao
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCowboys Stadium has paved the way for Jerry Jones to get into the boxing business, hosting the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight on March 13 that drew more than 50,000 fans.

Jones is doing more.

"When you do it, our interest is doing it as a venue," Jones said of hosting events at Cowboys Stadium. "I have always been reluctant to associate with another sport because my love is football. But I'm interested in other sports ... but my love is football. "

It's a delicate balance for Jones because the NFL is so conservative, controlling everything from how high players' socks are to what coaches wear on the sidelines. But Jones' situation is unique. He has a stadium with a retractable roof and the biggest HD video board in the world. He can showcase a variety of events in his stadium and isn't afraid to cross-promote with other sports.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Jones teamed up to do the NBA All-Star Game, and promoter Bob Arum reached out to do the boxing match. Jones said he wants another fight, a big one, featuring Manny Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather. Jones said he would have to pack 100,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium to make it economically feasible.

For the March 13 Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight, New York Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson sat ringside and marveled.

"Amazing facility, I love Pacquiao, a really amazing fighter," Johnson said. "Jerry runs a good show. He's trying to pay for the stadium, and I admire people who do that. He has to be creative and be a good marketer, and he's doing a good job so far."

The Jets and New York Giants open a new stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., this year, and Johnson said his team has taken note of what Jones is doing with his stadium. In fact, the New York/New Jersey area is a prospective site for a future Super Bowl, though the game is usually played in warm-weather cities or domes.

The NFL is not holding Jones back from making money on his investment. He spent over $700 million for his stadium, with the city of Arlington taxpayers approving a bill to help with more costs. The NFL also gave the Cowboys roughly $150 million for the project.

"Everybody puts a lot of resources into these buildings," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones (Jerry's son). "You do it. That was our thought when we built it.

"We started deciding that it would be better to make the building bigger and we put more of our resources into it, and we said it would have to be more than just a home for the Dallas Cowboys, although that's the primary purpose."

Stephen Jones also said the organization felt an obligation to the taxpayers of Arlington to make sure they got a return on their investment.

Many NFL executives admire Jerry Jones' ability to market his team and keep the Cowboys in the national spotlight. However, the way he does things is not for everybody.

Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints since 1985, doesn't own the Superdome, so he has no incentive to get extra events. Yet, the Superdome hosts events such as Final Fours, Super Bowls and the Sugar Bowl.

"For Jerry that's fine, but it wouldn't be my style," Benson said. "But he really enjoys this and he likes to be involved. He has a tremendous stadium with a lot of costs. Today he sort of has to do some of this stuff to catch up a little bit."

Jones keeps moving without worrying about what people think because he knows more and more people want to see Cowboys Stadium. And when that happens, more and more people talk about his football team.

Jones understood that from the late Tex Schramm, who marketed the Cowboys in the 1960s and '70s as America's Team. Jones expanded on it, using the Cowboys' star and famed cheerleaders as versatile promotional tools.

Three Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders sang the national anthem before the Pacquiao-Clottey fight, and Jones isn't afraid to try different things for his stadium. Jones said he was impressed with how HBO pay-per-view showed shots of Cowboys Stadium during the fight.

"We are helping create a lot of visibility and a lot of exposure," Jones said. "I really had a lot of compliments [from fellow NFL owners], and that is rewarding. You want your peers who helped you do the stadium in a big way, you want them to feel good about that venue, and they do."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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