Not as dome as you think

Dallas attorney Darrell Jordan wants to cover the Cotton Bowl--anyone got $150 million to spare?

Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison wanted out of the Cotton Bowl four years later, when the Cowboys and Packers drew a sell-out crowd to the 1966 NFL title game in the Cotton Bowl. Murchison and team president Tex Schramm felt the club had outgrown the cramped, antiquated facility, and in 1966, Murchison insisted the city build him a new $55 million stadium in downtown, a place where he could develop the land (sound familiar?). The city balked and told Murchison that Dallas would only pay to refurbish the Cotton Bowl--hence, the turquoise and white seats present today. (The new seats reduced capacity to around 68,000.) Murchison tried to bluff the city fathers by purchasing 90 acres in Irving for a million bucks, but it didn't work. Mayor J. Erik Jonsson stood firm...and watched the Cowboys leave for Irving in 1971, which some locals still haven't forgotten or forgiven.

"I can't say there was anything wrong about what the Cowboys did," Hunt says. "Clint took the initiative and built a facility that's proven to be an outstanding facility. Of course, I was sorry they didn't stay there."

The move upset players and fans alike: Texas Stadium (which currently holds 65,675) was the antithesis of the blue-collar Cotton Bowl. It was an arrogant monument to greed, from the luxury boxes to the hole in the roof that, uh, allowed God to watch His Team, and it all but forced the die-hard Cowboys fans to watch their team on TV. They couldn't afford the steep ticket prices; the beer folks had been traded up for the champagne crowd. Black players were particularly incensed because they believed the move to the new digs in Irving priced out the South Dallas regulars who could afford tickets to the regular-joe Cotton Bowl.

"Texas Stadium was a king's lair, with fans who belonged in a king's court," wrote John Eisenberg in last year's Cotton Bowl Days, a history of the glory years spent growing up with the young Cowboys. "Home games were no longer emotional outpourings; they were social occasions marked by reserved, 'tasteful' cheering from a crowd that felt it was above traditional football rabble-rousing...It was so quiet in there. It was bizarre."

There was more talk of doming the Cotton Bowl in 1983--it was dismissed as "financially unfeasible" at the time, says former State Fair marketing director Bob Halford--but it would remain untouched till 1993, when the city decided to spent $14 million to upgrade the stadium to host six 1994 World Cup games. Even then, the alterations were minor: A grass field replaced the artificial turf, wiring was updated, restrooms were cleaned and fixed, concession stands were revamped, and some work was done to the exterior. But it was like using a Band-Aid to fix the hole in the Titanic. Look at the stadium now, and it's still a throwback--about as modern as the Edsel.

"Like everything, it does wear out and has to be refurbished," Hunt says. "It has great sightlines and great history and recollections, but it also has other things that aren't so good. Still, if you look back at the history of the stadium, think of all the things it has meant to Dallas.

"There would be no Texas-OU game here without it. There would be no New Year's Day game here. And what about all those great SMU-Notre Dame games? Without that stadium, this city wouldn't have been a part of professional football. The World Cup clearly would not have been played in Dallas without the Cotton Bowl. I am certainly interested in the Cotton Bowl's history--and its future."

"1999: The 81,000-seat Cotton Dome gives Dallas a world-class domed stadium, at the dawn of the 21st Century."

--Cotton Dome promotional materials

Don't hold your breath.
Still needing $122 million, Darrell Jordan knows there won't be a Cotton Dome next year. Or, most likely, the year after that. Or--be realistic--the year after that. But the man is stubborn, insisting to this very moment that he can and will have the necessary money by the middle of this year.

He and Berger hint at substantial corporate donations they expect to come their way as soon as the Cotton Dome Foundation and the city sign a master agreement, which the two parties have been hammering out for several months.

According to Paul Dyer, the agreement maintains that construction will take place over the course of two State Fair periods, with construction pausing during the fair. The Cotton Dome people must also leave the stadium in playing condition during the State Fair, for the Texas-OU game and the Lipscomb Classic, and for the New Year's Day game.

The city is also working out details about who will manage the facility: The Cotton Dome Foundation wants control of the stadium for 40 years, during which time it can pay off what's likely to be substantial debt service. The foundation also will bring in an outside party to manage the facility--say, someone like SMG, which has worked with the NFL and NCAA to bring Super Bowls and Final Fours to its other facilities. But it's not a done deal: Jordan insists that there will be outside bidding, and that the city will have some (but not final) say in the selection process.

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