Arlington interested in luring Cowboys practice facility

Posted Saturday, May. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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It has been nearly four years since Cowboys Stadium opened, and city leaders continue to make it clear that they also want Arlington to be home to the team’s headquarters and practice facilities.

Though the Cowboys refuse to comment on speculation about whether the team is considering leaving Valley Ranch in Irving after nearly 28 years, recent media reports indicate Arlington and Frisco are both interested in being the football franchise’s new home.

Frisco city officials declined interview requests, with city spokeswoman Dana Baird-Hanks saying, “It is not our practice to confirm or deny any inquiries of this nature.”

But Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck confirmed that officials in his city have reached out to the team this year to find out what it might take to get the team to move its offices and practice facility closer to the stadium.

“We were interested in at least exploring that possibility,” said Cluck, who has been pushing for the total Cowboys package since 2004. “We have had a little bit of conversation with them but nothing extensive at this stage. We will continue to talk with them and see where we can go with it.”

Rich Dalrymple, Cowboys public relations vice president, said the team would not comment on reports about the practice facility potentially moving from Valley Ranch or whether cities such as Arlington and Frisco are vying to be chosen as a future location.

“We really don’t have anything to say other than it is very premature to discuss anything along the lines of potential options for our training headquarters,” Dalrymple said in a prepared statement.

Land available

The 110,000-square-foot Valley Ranch headquarters sits on about 30 acres, team officials said. The team has not rebuilt the indoor practice facility that collapsed in high winds and rain in May 2009.

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, aware of the media reports, said her city would work to convince the Cowboys not to leave their longtime home.

“While I can’t speculate on what the Cowboys will do or when, I can say the city of Irving has had a long and valued relationship with the franchise and we would like to see it continue. To that end, we are having ongoing discussions with them to make sure that happens,” Van Duyne said.

It’s not that Cowboys or Arlington officials haven’t considered the idea to locate the team’s headquarters and practice facility by the stadium.

Nearly 10 years ago, after Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ chief operating officer, negotiated the stadium deal, he said he didn’t add the facilities to the project because it would have meant another $50 million. At the time, Jones said he just wanted to nail down the stadium portion, a project that ended up costing $1.15 billion, of which $325 million was funded by sales taxes.

The stadium has been so successful since it opened in 2009 that city and civic leaders now see the need for hotel and retail developments to support it, or continue to lose visitor dollars to Fort Worth and Dallas.

Obtaining land close to the stadium shouldn’t be too difficult. The online commercial real estate listing service LoopNet shows more than a dozen tracts for sale near the stadium. Others may pop up now that word is out about a possible move from Valley Ranch.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ development company was once said to be interested in the former Eastern Star Home property on Division Street just south of the stadium, but a deal never materialized. Providence Bank in Missouri took over the property in January 2012 as part of a bankruptcy of the developer who owned the land.

Larry McCorkle, a broker with Jones Lang LaSalle listing the 28.5-acre Eastern Star property, said the site would have plenty of room for the Cowboys facilities.

“He’s someone we would like to bring into discussions,” McCorkle said of Jerry Jones. “We’d be foolish not to talk to them.”

McCorkle said the property is not under contract, but he has fielded some interest.

“We’re turning over every rock we can,” McCorkle said. “We’re putting our land listing in front of everyone we can.”

Touchdown Arlington

While Cluck said he is content that Arlington secured the stadium, being home to the practice facility would help draw more visitors and media attention to the city’s entertainment district.

“It would be nice to have them here, but the the most critical thing is the stadium,” Cluck said.

Arlington City Councilman Robert Rivera, who co-founded the Touchdown Arlington campaign to convince voters in 2004 to support the stadium, said “it isn’t a secret that the city would love to have” the team headquarters, too.

“It’s perpetually been on the city’s radar for years. It would be a perfect complement to the existing relationship we have with the Cowboys,” Rivera said. “The media spends an incredible amount of time daily at the training facility, more than actually at the stadium itself. That type of brand awareness for Arlington is invaluable.”

One of Arlington’s southern neighbors also has land to spare. Mansfield, which still has wide patches of undeveloped land, including in the northeast area along Texas 360, hasn’t officially considered making a pitch.

“We’ll take ‘em,” City Manager Clayton Chandler blurted when he picked up the phone, after a quick briefing from his secretary about the call.

He said Mansfield would be a good place for the facility, particularly because of the city’s prime location “with a straight shot to Cowboys Stadium and DFW Airport as well.”

Asked if the city might make a move to woo Jones, Chandler said, “I’m sure we would be glad to entertain anything like that. If it’s good for the city, we’ll find a place for it.”

Staff writers Sandra Baker and Robert Cadwallader contributed to this report.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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