Officials tweaking Cowboys Stadium for smoother second year
By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News
email@example.com Even without a trip to the Super Bowl, last year was one of the most dramatic ever for the Dallas Cowboys.
Their new $1.15 billion stadium – only the third in franchise history – opened in the summer, and headline-grabbing announcements stacked up as quickly as Tony Romo’s passing yards. In the stadium’s second year, expect changes to slow to a crawl but not stop.
“We are never opposed to change,” said CharlotteAnderson, Cowboys executive vice president. “I don’t think we ever like to say that this is the way it is, and it’s always going to be this way. … We are always looking for a new idea.”
In 2009, the stadium opening was just the start. The Cowboys started installing a contemporary art collection, added equipment to lower the video board when needed, bought devices to assist the blind and those with hearing impairments, and improved fans’ ability to get cellphone signals. And that doesn’t even include a long string of firsts and attendance records.
Stephen Jones, also a Cowboys executive vice president, said much of the focus this year, aside from preparing for the Super Bowl, will be tweaking the stadium operations and making everything run more smoothly.
“As we move forward here in the second year, [the fans] are not going to notice as many changes,” he said.
One of the biggest changes to Cowboys Stadium this year is what won’t open.
The planned Cowboys Hall of Fame and Museum was initially expected to open this year, but that time frame has been scrapped. Team officials said they are still planning the attraction, but there is no start or completion date.
“We definitely have the Hall of Fame in our plans, but we are still trying to figure out the best way to take full advantage of this,” said Brett Daniels, a Cowboys spokesman.
He said it wouldn’t be completed in time for Super Bowl XLV in February 2011.
Team executives have been touring sports halls of fame and nonsports museums nationwide to seek inspiration. They’ve visited the halls for the Green Bay Packersand Cincinnati Reds. They’ve toured the National Constitution Center in Philadelphiaand the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Daniels said they are looking to other museums for inspiration about making exhibits interactive and uses of technology in addition to less glamorous details such as tips for queuing and foot traffic flow.
The Cowboys have a large amount of space – although they wouldn’t say how much – available near the main pro shop. Daniels said much of that area is unfinished shell space that is off-limits to the public.
Stadium tours are likely to evolve during the Cowboys’ second year in Arlington.
Anderson said the team started experimenting last month with unguided tours as a potential addition to the traditional tours.
“You could possibly go unguided to the field and locker rooms and just experience being in the building,” she said. “They could spend 15 minutes or two hours there.”
Additions planned for the stadium tour also have influenced the Hall of Fame’s delay, Anderson said. She said she wants to add video elements that were initially planned as Hall of Fame features.
Anderson said she’d like to see a video screen in the locker room showing great Cowboys locker room speeches from the past. When the tour stops by the interview room, people would see interviews with past team greats. Instead of having a Hall of Fame screening room showing a film about Cowboys history, Anderson said it makes more sense to show that on the video boards above the field.
“We need to revisit the elements within the Hall of Fame,” Anderson said.
If all these features are stripped out, she said, new features need to be added. Anderson said the Cowboys had blueprints ready for the original Hall of Fame concept but set those aside so it could be reimagined.
A planned art tour of Cowboys Stadium that officials mentioned last year has been introduced, but it was done quietly. So far, it’s just by appointment only.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jonescommissioned contemporary, large-scale pieces from 14 artists. They are generally are internationally known and were chosen with the help of local art experts.
Anderson said most of the art tours have been for adults, but tours also will be tailored for children. She said there are plans for regular tours at least weekly, but there has been no decision about timing.
The Cowboys have been waiting for the installation of the last piece before making the tours a regular offering.
The last art work, a nearly 4,000-square-foot abstract “jigsaw puzzle” by Jim Isermann, was completed within the last two weeks.
One common complaint last year among fans was the lack of a traditional scoreboard. The center-hung video board was mostly filled with video, and game information such as the remaining time and team timeouts could be found on the much smaller ribbon boards along the seating decks.
Jones said LED screens with that scoreboard data have been added in each end zone for fans.
Fans with AT&Tsmart phones should find it easier to connect to social networking sites or e-mail photos to friends while at the stadium. The telecom giant is installing Wi-Fi access points in the stadium’s seating area.
That should be up and running next month, Daniels said.
During various events, cellphone networks have been overwhelmed by the number of people trying to access the networks at once. That was even after more capacity was added.