INDIANAPOLIS -- Other than the reading glasses hanging from the collar of his shirt, Jerry Jones was wearing an outfit that was all Johnny Cash as he walked around Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday morning.
Black slacks, black cowboy boots and a black long-sleeve shirt.
But Jones’ dark outfit belies is overall mood. He’s Tony Robbins, whether it’s talking about his team and especially about the new Cowboys stadium that is scheduled to open in June.
Jones envisions cameras separate from the network crews taking the paying fan into the locker room, on the sidelines and even into the training room.
He envisions the giant, massive Jumbotron atop the field that will meld into the fans’ vision to create seamless experience between watching the game on the field, and the larger-than-life close up on the board above.
And on the outskirts he and his planners have designed a way to turn the edges of the stadium into a giant indoor/outdoor tailgate.
It’s doubtful that the new stadium will affect professional sports the way Texas Stadium did when it opened in 1971. But to hear Jones talk/sell it sounds like the Cowboys are trying to complete the marriage between sports and entertainment.
Will this stadium have the type of wide-ranging impact Texas Stadium had on sports, or are you trying to perfect the wheel?
I think there are some things technology wise that will improve it. I think we’ve done some things relative to seat locations that are a step up. In other words, just look at it – say everything above ground level – our bowl is 50 feet in the ground, so we’ve got a ground area. Well the areas above that 50 feet, they’re pretty premium at that level and 40,000 above that. I spent approaching $50 million for them when they’re sitting here watching the field they’re also sitting the looking directly on 200 feet away players 70 feet tall … (moves eyes up and down) … There’s a case to be made the best seats in the house are going to be the ones where you look toward the angle of the big media board and look out at the field as opposed to sitting in the bowl looking up.
Has a virtual seat been completed?
No, but I think from the standpoint that we know that the competition of the living room or the entertainment center is tough. We want it that way because that’s one of the foundations of the NFL to make games special in the living room or entertainment center. But we also know that you can’t get the emotion and the feel of going to the event from your living room, OK? I might have mentioned this but I’ve got a great friend, Michael Ovitz, and he said in Hollywood they’ve built all these home entertainment centers and found out the great movies are not as good watching them there as they are watching them in a big movie theatre where you’ve got the sound of people crunching popcorn and whistling. It makes it more of an event.
My whole point is the concept is alive and well at a sport venue. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s a valid human interest to be around people and try to basically create an effective ingress and egress both from the general area as well as within the stadium, which is very important to our fans relative to the living room that when you get in here there’s a Super Bowl atmosphere. There’s a party going on. There’s action going on. You create the viewing experience, which again I think our digital board does that very uniquely.
Could the giant video board be in any way a distraction for the fan from the game itself?
It’s going to be a sense of the periphery that when you leave it’ll be hard to have recollected what between the two that I saw but all I know is that I saw it great. All I know is I saw that facemask and the expression on Barber’s face at the same time. I was looking at it as he made the cut up the field and I saw his head and then I saw that and when I stopped and thought about I’m not for sure if I saw it up there or down there. That happened to me with Celine Dion in Vegas. She had these huge screens behind her and she was entertaining right in front of you and all night you’re looking at her and where she was and right behind her was her only she was 30 foot tall. I saw the facial expressions and I was close enough to see them but at the end of the day it was all over. I walked out and it didn’t make a difference. All I knew is I saw her in a way I wouldn’t have had if she was just standing there alone. I know that happened the first time I had seen it. It’s been used a backdrop. In other words someone is signing and there’s mountains behind them or an ocean running behind them but never just them. That, to me, that’s conceptually the way we want to present the game and what we’re doing. In that sense I do not see it as a distraction.
So you’re a fan of Celine Dion?
Well, I guess I am.
How do you combine the living room experience to the stadium?
We’ve got to get good at that. That’s the trick there. When you go to section 211 and you’re sitting in row 5 and you come into this stadium from wherever you parked, you’re just about to see within a universe of coming in, sitting down and seeing the game. What I hope is when you’re sitting in 211 you’ve seen everything that went on at this stadium. You saw the action out in the plazas. You saw the action where the players walk through that club to the field. I want our fans to see that. I want them when they come on the field to see how that is. That’s an exclusive club but I’d like everybody to see that so when you sit in your seat we had more attention that what you’d see on TV.
I’m not trying to be everything, but I’d like the fans to see things they can’t on the network and they can’t see in the normal stadium if they’re sitting in that section without moving away from it.
Lucas Oil Stadium has suites at field level as the new Cowboys stadium will; is that where you got the idea?
That actually was Seattle. That’s the first time I saw it. So we designed our building and the architect of ours is the same architect here (at Lucas Oil Stadium).
Jones then points to the large platforms at one end of the stadium that the new Cowboys stadium will have three. They will be large, almost open-concourse type of seating complete with concessions and tables.
Conceptually, what you can do with the platforms that’s where you get such huge flexibility in terms of seating and entertainment. They’ve got these little cocktail tables, but conceptually you put those all over an area like this and watch a game off the monitors. You can be sitting back like we are talking and every now and then step up there and look at the game a little bit. That’s basically how you do it. But you’ll have half the people do that and what we’ll have is right across there you have a huge monitor looking at you in the face this way and facing that way. You’ll have these cocktail tables on each level and you can put six or seven people around a table and put many more people there than you can in stands.
One particular platform that faces Texas Rangers Ballpark can open into a large area that will be like a giant tailgate area where fans with certain tickets can go in and out of the stadium. It will face a large landscaped area complete with greenery.
They can be a group of eight and four of them may have a seat and this four may not, then you can switch at the quarter or switch at the half. They’re going to have that and they can buy space here so to speak and buy seats there.
You’ll be ticketed when you come in that fenced area. That will be separate tickets out there than where we are. It’ll be a lesser ticket then you have if you’re in here and have a seat. You could have what we call a sponsorship type program where you could have 20 people involved with it and 10 of them out there and 10 seats in here, going back and forth.
What about a ticket price for those areas?
It will be different. We’ll be announcing that, but it will be different here than it is with the seats. It can be a season ticket. And you can expand that when you pull our doors back or you don’t have to pull the doors back. We’ve got doors that open within the glass doors.
Whether these doors are open or shut, but really when they’re open, it’ll be a free flow. This will be a big party and you’re fans have to come in here and come up here to the escalators to the staircases and the elevators going upstairs. You’ll have as many as 40 percent of the fans that will enter the building through the entrance here … We’ve got two grand staircases, really fabulous staircases with fabulous art as you walk in.
How are you going to decide the blackout number?
When we give a manifest we can include (the plaza area) or not include it. But you’re right in terms of having blackout, filling this up at let’s say six-square feet per person. … Filling this space and this crowd out here, wouldn’t black you out if you have less or more
What is the total capacity of the stadium for 2009?
We’re not there yet. I wouldn’t want to give you a number and we don’t have to give that number yet. It’ll fluctuate somewhere between 80-100,000. The difference in the 80 and 100 can be made up on a given day in squeezing the seats. There’s no difference in the seats. You’re in the same seat. … There’s not a bleacher seat in our stadium.
So the capacity for the Super Bowl, you’ve got to figure out how many we’re going to do, but I know that we can with the Super Bowl, conceptually, I believe we’ll sell 125,000 tickets for the Super Bowl.
Parking is a major concern, how will you address that?
We have 150 acres. The stadium figures about 25 of them, so there is your parking. So we have our own parking that we own, lock, stock and barrel. Then we’ve got 11,000 that will be parked by the Rangers. 11,000 cars parked by the Rangers, well, three per car and that’s conservative. But 30,000 spots will get you 90 at three per car. You’ve got that and that’s before you get into any kind of entrepreneurial or land around the park that probably will match what the Rangers have.
An even bigger concern is traffic to the parking.
We’re approaching 40 percent of our fans from Tarrant County. The Rangers are 50-50, Dallas and Tarrant. We’re approaching 40 percent. At Texas Stadium it was less than about six or seven percent … And we’re I think more like 40 from Tarrant County. It’s just more seats. What you’ve got with your traffic flow coming from the west, then you’ve got your traffic flow coming from the east, which would’ve been the traditional way. But then we’ve got 17 ways to ingress and egress plus we’ve got deals you may or may not be familiar with – the George Bush and all these ways to come … And if you’re out in Plano you’ve got two or three options to go. … We think we’ll be significantly improved with our fans getting to the game as opposed to Texas Stadium and I know getting away from it because we’ve got so many ways to get away from the stadium. Before, think about it, there were four ways out of the Texas Stadium circle. We’ve got 17 out of our stadium. The networking of neighborhoods, that’s why stadiums in mature areas clear out like they do because you’ve got all of these streets with different ways to go. They really clear out easier than when you have three or four exits on a freeways directly off stadiums.
Will there be some trial and error with this?
Our fans will be well-educated. As we’re selling our tickets and selling our suites, fans we think will get a good feel for what we think will be the optimum way to come to the stadium and get into the stadium.
At Texas Stadium you basically had the corral and that was it.
The corral concept will be what I just described to you here and upstairs and what’s going on out there. That is the corral. If you’ve got A&M and Arkansas it’ll look like a home game for Arkansas on this end and a home game for A&M on the other end.
You already have locked up several big events, what’s left?
There’s lots. Our stadium and not because it’s me but this is going to be distinctive. Distinctive because of the package, distinctive because of the market. This is a big deal, this market, especially when it comes to sports to other markets. … This thing really is going to have a ‘wow’ factor to how we’re going to present it as we get into our season and into our games with the networks and things like that we’ll really educate this country on the stadium.
Is the Cowboys Hall of Fame done?
Not when we open. Probably not when we open at this juncture. The answer is no. That will be a work in progress for us. We will have many of the things that will be in the Hall of Fame but it will not be ready for our opening.
Any addition to the Ring of Honor coming?
Right at this time it’s not under consideration. Is this new stadium your professional legacy?
I want it to be the Cowboys, I’m not trying to be modest. I don’t prefer the reference of Jerry’s Place or Jerry’s World. I really don’t. I don’t. Because it really is not what our commitment was made to do. Our commitment was made for the franchise of the Cowboys and all of the visibility of the Cowboys. I’ve never been under any illusion as to why I have visibility or any type of interest. It has to do with the Dallas Cowboys and my role with the Cowboys.
This shouldn’t be that. I really did up the investment in the stadium for one and one reason only - the visibility and the tradition and where I hope the Cowboys are 30, 40 and 50 years from now. And hope this enhances that. It would be misplaced. I don’t protest, it would be misplaced to have it associated that much with my individually. It needs to be associated with the franchise. Years later when we’re talking about this thing, boy th8e Cowboys were the country’s most visible team. They had a certain aura, a certain style. It was the glitz, glitter that type of style. Green Bay has their perception. Pittsburgh has theirs. The Cowboys have always been about, again, not about boots as much as this Cowboy mental picture is more about the city of Dallas. That type of thing. So that’s what I want this stadium, and everything we did on this stadium, we obviously we wanted to maintain the concept hole in the roof and that’s why it was designed to open and shut. All of the other stuff, the glass, some of the technology we’re using, the size, some of the glitz aspect of it. All of that was because of a vision what we want people to think about the franchise. Not about the individuals.
Do you ever worry that the people worry this team is more style than substance?
You have to dominate. You have to perform. You have to win.
Substance leads to style?
I don’t think it distracts. There is nothing in me that thinks it distracts. As a matter of fact, I think there are some plusses. At the end of the day you have to win football games. You have to win enough of them, not only material games, but at the end of the day and really my entire method is about winning a Super Bowl. That’s it.
That sounds trite, but that’s it. I can get as disappointed as losing or not winning … I’m not any more satisfied winning a playoff game and then getting eliminated as I am not winning a playoff game. That doesn’t satisfy me any different at all.
What satisfies me is if that were a sign if your arrow is pointed up that you had a better chance because you had won a playoff game and then got eliminated, that would be good. But as far as, the Cowboys, the vision or the expectation for them not to just go to a Super Bowl but win Super Bowls. From where that’s coming from is I think the effort to go all out in every way you can to try to do that.