Mac Engel

Arlington gets the events, but should have married the Cowboys

Boos rocked AT&T Stadium when NFL Commissioner took the stage for the first time.
Boos rocked AT&T Stadium when NFL Commissioner took the stage for the first time.

Arlington and AT&T Stadium are hosting another giant event, which means we should all brace for an earthquake. Maybe a swarm of killer bees. A piranha attack. Perhaps a Tsunami. Don't rule out an avalanche.

Any time we host one of these big deals - the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, Wrestlemania, etc. - a power stronger than Jerry Jones intervenes to make sure the event goes as smooth as a dirty diaper.

Maybe Luck will kiss our foreheads and give us a pass this time and the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington will get rave reviews. Let us not forget, because this is important, AT&T Stadium is in Arlington. Not Dallas. Not Fort Worth. Not Irving.

Arlington voters agreed to spend the cash, so Arlington deserves the title and the credit, and yet ...

"I appreciate having this draft here in Dallas," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday.

If anyone in the entire universe should not screw this one up, it's Jerry. He eagerly took Arlington's $300 million, sold the idea how much this stadium would help the children of Arlington to its voters, and now the NFL Draft is "in Dallas?"

A press release trumping a $1.85 million donation from the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation, NFL Foundation and Hellas Construction to Arlington ISD reads, "the legacy of the NFL Draft in Dallas ..."

The stadium is roughly one-third through its life expectancy (not kidding), and it's now apparent while the stadium has worked, Arlington missed on two things: It should have hammered the Cowboys on using "Arlington" everywhere possible, and it should have made sure the team's "world headquarters" and a Hall of Fame were in the city, too.

The Star should be in Arlington, not in Frisco. A Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame, much like the Green Bay Packers have at Lambeau Field, should be in Arlington.

When the Cowboys wanted to move out of its offices in Valley Ranch into a new headquarters, Arlington approached them about potentially using land near AT&T Stadium to do just that.

City leaders in Frisco, who were eager to make their growing area a destination for businesses and relocating families, basically gave the Cowboys whatever they wanted. In the words of Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, Frisco "blew away" the Cowboys with their plan, their design, and their offer.

This offer should never have been a possibility. When the Cowboys were in negotiations with Arlington about this stadium well over a decade ago, the city should have made housing the Cowboys' year-round a priority.

Because, as Frisco has seen since it opened The Star, the complex is about far more than just a football practice facility. If Arlington was going to have a relationship with the Cowboys, they needed to be married, rather than merely see each other on the weekends.

Arlington still needs more hotel space to fully capitalize on having both AT&T Stadium and the Ballpark. The lack of hotels and night life still allows Dallas, and Fort Worth, to steal away business that should go almost exclusively to Arlington around events, such as the NFL Draft.

The construction of Texas Live! and the hotel space adjacent to it will help, but won't completely close the considerable gap.

What AT&T Stadium has done is to pretty much follow the script, according to sports economists who research tax-payer funded stadium projects. The surrounding area of AT&T Stadium has gone through a growth spurt as new building projects pop up, while outside of that radius life remains mostly the same.

At least visually, the area around AT&T Stadium has done just that.

Has the stadium benefited the "children of Arlington" as Jerry promised the night of Nov. 2004 when the Arlington voters passed the measure to build the place?

Ask the teachers of Arlington, and they will tell you flatly "N-O."

What the stadium has done is attract major events to Arlington, and to be so successful the bond was paid off nearly 10 years early. That allowed Arlington to easily pass yet another measure to allow for the construction of the new (needless) stadium for the Texas Rangers.

Since Jerry World opened in 2009, the venue has lived up to the hype and now will be the first stadium to host an NFL Draft. About the only two events missing from its calendar of events are an NHL game as part of the league's Winter Classic series, and a Republican National Convention (don't think dem darn Dems' will get a convention in DFW).

Nearly 10 years after AT&T Stadium opened, what we see is the around around Randol Mill Road has improved, and Arlington left a few things on the table.

The Cowboys should have been in Arlington year-round, because although their name says Dallas nothing about them actually is.

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