"There's not a bad seat in the house"
I overheard one Cowboys follower say this to another. And it's true.
When asked this about the viewing possibilities inside the stadium, one Cowboys player told The New York Times in the summer of 2009 that you can't miss the numerous TVs "unless you close your eyes and put a coat on your head." Not to mention the massive HD screen, which we'll get to later. Bottom line: No matter where you're seated, you'll have a great view of the action.
Take a look
Click here for video of the new stadium that we call the "Jerry Jones All-Access Tour."
But if you're buying one of the few game tickets left for sale, be ready to dish out. The cheapest season tickets, at $59 per game, weren't available as single-game tickets, according to Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels. The cheapest single-game seat, at $75, is higher than last year's average price for an NFL ticket, which was $72.20, according to the 2008 Team Marketing Report.
(According to the 2010 Team Marketing Report, an average Cowboys ticket was $110.20, while the league average was $76.47. Parking averaged a whopping $75 per space, almost triple the league average of $25.92. Only the beer and hot dogs held their opening-season cost, at $8 and $5.50 apiece. In 2010, the team still offered the $59 season ticket as well as the $29 standing party pass ticket referenced below. But, as noted by the Team Marketing Report, "JerryWorld" is still the most expensive place to watch a football game and check out some high-falutin' art. The average cost to take a family of four to Cowboys Stadium is $617.80, or about $20 more than the cost to take a family to the new Meadowlands stadium. The only thing more expensive will be Super Bowl Sunday game costs.)
But the Boys' new home is not without recession-minded options, including the $29 party pass for standing-room-only sections. With 180,000 square feet of free space, the stadium accommodates more SRO fans than any other NFL venue. Open areas for the standers are behind the seats of each end zone and on a series of platforms connected by stairways. These sections were definitely needed on this day, with the announced ticket sales at 75,720. The stadium seats 80,000 (mostly between the goal lines) and can accommodate an additional 20,000 people in its standing-room-only sections, according to the Houston Chronicle.
(For the Super Bowl game, the Cowboys have added bleachers to the standing-room-only sections just above the ground level, allowing for more people and also the comforts of sitting.)
I scoped out the standing sections before the game and talked with Brandon Leeson of Fort Worth and James Carlile of Lubbock, who'd bought their ducats online the day before.
"This is great because you're standing most of the game anyway," Leeson said from his spot on the second level. "We paid $30 to park, $29 per seat, and we'll probably spend just as much on food, beers, etc."
Postgame, Leeson offered this report:
"It's definitely worth the price of admission. The other fans in the area seemed to have a great time. We probably spent $80 on alcohol and food, and we walked around quite a bit to check out the other parts of the stadium. As for getting tired of standing, it wasn't that bad, but it wouldn't hurt to have some type of tables or bars for those who'd like to sit down and eat. The overall experience was great."
A family with children or older fans might have a tougher time standing for the whole game, but the views of the field and the HD screen, even four and five people deep, are almost as good as from a seat. The Cowboys also have added several stainless steel tables scattered throughout the standing-room-only sections.
"We just walked in and got this spot, which isn't bad," said Eddie Briggs, 48, of Frisco from his perch standing on the third level. "I won't get tired of standing because I've got too much adrenaline. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give my view a good 7."
But what about the fourth-level seats, high in the stadium sky? I walked up the seven flights of stairs (a good workout) to visit with Sheryl Lucas, seated in the stadium's third-highest row.
"I am really, really impressed," Lucas said. "In the seats up here I still have a complete view of the stadium, the field, the players, everything. You don't miss any of the plays, especially thanks to the screen."
Lucas and her husband, who are from nearby Keller, Texas, bought their single-game seats at $90 a pop. Asked whether she'd take in another tilt here, she said, "Yes, most definitely. And I will go back to work and brag that I was here for the inaugural new stadium game."
By being able to shoehorn in 100,000 people, Cowboys Stadium is the largest-capacity dome in the world. That's part of Jones' idea, fitting with his theme of wanting the biggest and the best, even if it costs the fan an arm and a leg. (Suites cost up to $150,000 per game and a single-game seat can be as much as $340.)
Perhaps what will entice the most curious (or controversy-following) fan is ...
The video board
Hanging over the field inside the largest domed stadium in the world is the largest video board in the world, according to its manufacturer, Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
One feels compelled to stare at the 73-foot-by-160-foot screen from the moment you enter. It's massive. The picture quality is impeccable. You can see the sweat on Tony Romo's brow or Miles Austin's pearly whites when he flashes a split-second smile.
As Caudill said, "I would give anything to play 'Madden' on that screen. It gives me goose bumps. That's a lot of technology."
This impressive box of technology already has caused controversy. The screen reaches from one 20-yard line to the other and is situated 90 feet above the field -- an easy target for punters.
In test runs before the screen was installed, Cowboys punter Mat McBriar cleared 100 feet; yet Jones kept the screen at 90, arguing that a punter's goal is to kick the ball up but also down the field, not high into the air.
In the Cowboys' locker room after the preseason opener, the media pointed out to Jones that the screen had been hit twice by punts that evening. His response: "How high is high if somebody just wants to sit there and kick straight up?"
The fans were mesmerized by the video board, saying they watched the screen as often as, if not more often than, the field action.
"The screen is amazing. And that side screen [two situated below the big screen], it's wonderful," Jeff Watts, 26, of Dallas, said at halftime.
Watts also noticed what many other fans did -- that the screen showed the Cowboys' cheerleaders as often as the game action. (I kept a first-half tally that totaled some 30 screen shots of the cheerleaders, sometimes lasting as long as a minute.)
"I think the fans appreciate it," Watts said. "The cheerleaders are beautiful. Why not show them on the big screen?"
Even the players couldn't help but notice the new mass above them.
"I was looking at the screen all day," linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "I don't know how big it is, but you can actually almost see the game better."
Quality, quality, quality -- the Arlington trifecta
If you shift focus away from the screen, you'll realize you're in very comfortable environs. That's because of the wonders of air conditioning, a luxury not offered at Texas Stadium. On this day, when the Boys prevailed 30-10 over Tennessee, it was 73 degrees inside and 96 degrees outside. Granted, AC won't be necessary as the weeks pass, but I'm sure fans will appreciate a heated facility in November and December.
Many other amenities are offered within the 3 million square feet of space: gorgeous suites, marble-tiled counters, concessions galore, tons of access and the pristine beauty of a new structure. No creaking bleachers, no broken stairways; each element stands ready for years of wear and tear.
The concessions are plentiful and offer a fun twist on the staples. Consider the Cowboyrita (their version of a margarita, priced at $14). Another unique addition is the "players' tunnel," within which fans can line up on either side to snap shots or reach a hand toward the players as they run onto the field.
And if you've always wanted to be on TV, standing in the tunnel and reaching out to give a player a high-five is your best bet. Close to 200 people can fit in the tunnel area on either side of the players, and typically those standing there also are ticket holders for the lower-area suites.
While in Arlington, you might also catch the Rangers or visit Six Flags Over Texas.
"You've got the ballpark, you've got Six Flags and you have this stadium. It's all right here," Lucas said. "What better place than in the middle of DFW?"
After witnessing the stadium's majesty, I wouldn't be surprised if it can even control the weather.