Going Deep

The Cowboys want to move back to Fair Park--so, there goes the neighborhood?

"The romanticism of going back to Fair Park is fine," Price told reporters, "but romance without finance won't get us there." Price is also opposed to the Cowboys moving to Fair Park because there will be no promised economic development around the stadium. It's an odd stance, though, considering that the American Airlines Center was sold to voters with the promise of retail development, yet none has materialized; the same has often been said of Ameriquest Field in Arlington (formerly The Ballpark), which has seen some commercial development around its fringes but little on the site itself.

"I think the public feels burned over having not gotten development from things, rightfully or wrongfully so," says Keliher, who insists that negotiations with the Cowboys are far from contentious. "Commissioner Price was sorry to see it coming without the economic development piece of it, which I can certainly understand, but it's...much cleaner to be selling nothing but a stadium when that's really all anybody can guarantee."

Two weeks ago, the county commissioned California-based Barrett Sports Group to study the economic feasibility of the Cowboys' plans; its report is expected within the next 120 days, far beyond the team's deadline.

In South Dallas he trusts: Leo Hicks, the administrator of the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund, wants to rebuild the neighborhood one retailer at a time.
Mark Graham
In South Dallas he trusts: Leo Hicks, the administrator of the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund, wants to rebuild the neighborhood one retailer at a time.
Mayor Laura Miller says the Cowboys would help execute a new Fair Park master plan--and without the team it won't happen in her lifetime.
Mark Graham
Mayor Laura Miller says the Cowboys would help execute a new Fair Park master plan--and without the team it won't happen in her lifetime.

At the moment, the Cowboys and the county are about as close to agreement as Donald Rumsfeld is to resigning as secretary of defense. Two weeks ago, the county was still waiting on the Cowboys' response to questions about funding; the county wants the team to pay for the site with user fees, meaning those who use the place pay for it, but the team wants to increase car-rental and hotel taxes, which Keliher and Miller insist they oppose, especially since so many of the people who rent cars in Dallas County are Dallas County residents. (The county doesn't get a cent from cars rented at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.) The Cowboys, of course, disagree, insisting that Dallas' hotel rooms are relatively cheap and a few extra pennies won't matter.

It promises to be a long, hot summer of bickering and bartering.

"We certainly don't expect people just to say, 'Here, let's go do it. Let's all be happy,'" Jones says. "It's hard work to do these. I know we're not going to get discouraged. We're going to continue to be positive, continue to roll up our sleeves and continue to work hard at it, because I believe that this is a very worthy project."


Right now, part of you is probably thinking that this is a bad deal. That we're getting screwed by a sports franchise (again). That the thousandaires are once more being asked to foot the bill for a multimillionaire, whom we've already made rich by buying his tickets and his T-shirts. You're probably saying what virtually every economist in America says: Building a stadium with taxpayer scratch is a great way for a city or a county to lose a fortune while someone else makes another fortune.

But then there's another part of you, just maybe, that's thinking: Why not build the Cowboys a new home in their old one? Fair Park certainly needs the help; city officials estimate we've already spent more than $150 million over the past 20 years keeping the place from falling apart. The Cowboys being there all but guarantees we will never again have to worry about Fair Park, which is empty most days save for the occasional in-line skater or school group taking a field trip to the Science Place or Museum of Natural History. Consider this statistic: Some 3.5 million people visit the State Fair of Texas for one month each year. Some 3.5 million people visit Fair Park during the other 11 months combined.

If the Cowboys come, the buildings will remain beautiful, and at last they will be used more than a few days annually. The midway will open its gates in the spring and summer, when the team holds its training camp. The aquarium, a diamond that's reverted to a lump of coal, will be overhauled. Grass will be planted, trails will be laid, and a park will finally look like a park 100 years after coming into existence. And there probably will be some economic development around the park. The shriveled arteries, such as Second and Fitzhugh and East Grand and Haskell, will flow with new blood.

"I think it would be fantastic for downtown Dallas to get the Cowboys' stadium," says Richard Greene, who not so long ago showed Jerry Jones some land in Arlington that would hold a stadium and then some. "That would be a bonanza for the city to get the Cowboys back home and get all the things that go with the rejuvenation of the fair. It might be a turning point that would spark the beginning of a whole new era for Dallas. Right now, the proposal is too one-sided; there has to be restructuring. But there's an unknown: There's a magic about the Cowboys and an intangible that goes into the equation no pollster can project with much accuracy. The lure of that blue-and-silver logo is a very powerful image here...and there are an awful lot of people come election day who...will vote yes just because they will want it."

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