May 16, 2013

Jerry the architect deserves major props for Cowboys Stadium

Cuss him all you want about the team, but he got it really, really right on his Big Yard.

Fair warning: The following dispatch may contain adult subject matter you will consider offensive and not suitable for publication. Jerry Jones will be heavily praised. Please, no rioting.

When he got it right, he got it really, really right.

And I don’t know if anyone locally has ever gotten it more right when it comes to an entrepreneurial decision involving a billion-dollar venture.

Jerry Jones’ Big Yard, with a minority investor being the taxpayers of Arlington, just keeps on giving and giving and giving. And the stadium continues to give back to its home city, and to Fort Worth and to Dallas and to the entire region.

Test me on this one, but in a mere four years has any local institution except for Dallas/Fort Worth Airport delivered more people from national and worldwide locations to North Texas?

And the influx of visitors keeps on coming. Ten days ago there was the announcement of the first college national football championship game under a playoff format. That’s yet another one of the biggies Arlington has landed, with the 2014 college season deciding who plays in the first one.

Smaller, but no less noteworthy, is Notre Dame last week promoting its moving a home game out of South Bend in early October to play Arizona State in Arlington. That’s a guaranteed 90,000 fans coming from all over, and if coach Brian Kelly has his way, another 10,000 local high school recruits will watch from a very crowded sideline.

There’s not a major sporting event in the country — or in some cases, the world — that hasn’t been here, or will be here, or doesn’t plan to be here.

Nothing can match that thing in Arlington. Houston has a fine stadium, one of the best, but for recognition, that city has been forced to outdo, size-wise, the Jerry Jumbotron just to say it has something bigger.

The city of Atlanta is going to build a new stadium, and is already claiming it will out-Jerry Jerry.

We’ll see.

Dog-cussing Jerry over the ongoing state of the Cowboys is a way of life, and rightfully so. Lately, he’s been talking crazy ever since the NFL Draft. Drives me nuts. Drives you nuts.

But this other thing, his other major business venture, this $1.2 billion cash cow on Randol Mill Road, is actually worth more than the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, and outside of a soccer team in England and maybe the New York Yankees, there’s no sports team in the world that can challenge the Cowboys in the financial giant department.

(Yeah, I know, the worth of the team is actually tied to the stadium where it plays. But the Cowboys, as a team, were a world financial giant when they played in Texas Stadium.)

Ten years ago, longtime Arlington resident Dr. Robert Cluck believed what he read in the newspaper. Yes, that’s still possible to do. Because he did, The Big Yard stands in Arlington.

“I noticed in the Dallas paper one morning that city officials over there were saying it didn’t look like the stadium issue would get done,” Cluck said last week. “I had assumed all along, despite all the bickering that was happening, that Dallas would never let this thing get away.

“But if Dallas couldn’t get it done, I was thinking, ‘Why not Arlington?’”

That same morning he basically cold-called Valley Ranch and asked to speak to Jerry.

One Valley Ranch official who took the initial call admitted he was skeptical: “All hell is breaking loose over the Dallas stuff, and now a baby doctor on the city council in Arlington wants to talk about building the stadium there. Well, OK.”

Jerry, however, was open-minded.

“I didn’t have to wait long for an answer,” said Cluck, who was actually the newly elected mayor of Arlington while still serving out the final month of his council post. “I was asked, ‘Can you be here in 30 minutes?’”

Amazingly, Jerry and Cluck cut a deal that day, pending a citywide vote on the sales tax issues. Cluck: “I asked Jerry how much he was going to spend on the stadium. He said $650 million. I said we will assume half of it. Jerry said, ‘Done deal.’”

Yes, Cluck admitted he had a strong notion that Jerry would not stop at $650 million, the same thought many of us had, particularly if you know Jerry. The city capped its investment at $325 million, meaning the city has a one-fourth interest after the bill was finally in at $1.2 billion.

“Jerry wanted this to be a family thing, and he wanted it to be extremely special,” Cluck said. “I didn’t really know Jerry, but I trusted him.

“There hasn’t been one thing he said he’d do that day that he hasn’t done. But there have been countless things he’s done that by the contract he didn’t have to do.”

Cluck, who remains the mayor and is running for re-election this month, took some heat 10 years ago in Arlington for tying the city to Jerry, but when the citywide sales tax vote was held in 2004, the issue passed easily.

“I don’t think anyone can say Arlington hasn’t benefited greatly,” he said. “One of the reasons I got involved was I thought Arlington needed a kick in the butt. Jerry, along with our voters approving the sales tax, gave us something that has made our city a focal point and something that is now recognized around the country, and around the world.”

The past week or so proved once again that when Jerry gets it right, he really, really makes it right for everyone, even Dallas.

But then there’s his football team, of course.

Gawd help us on that one.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

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