I'm not exactly sure what I expected when I chose to join other media folks this afternoon at the Dallas Convention Center for a tour of the NFL Experience, but let's just say I felt cheated even though I hadn't spent a dime. Promoted as an "interactive theme park" covering more than 850,000 square feet, the coolest part of the whole event was seeing the actual bronze busts of newly minted Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. And those aren't even inside the area where most of the activities are set up.
As you walk in, prepare to be unimpressed by casts showing off the muscular arms of former NFL players like Cortez Kennedy and a display of the biggest shoe in the league (Zach Pillar's size 17). How big is your hand compared to Troy Aikman's? A cast of his hand on a football allows you to find out.
You'll see that and more in our slide show.
As you click through our virtual tour, you'll notice there's also a display of all 44 different Super Bowl rings near the entrance, which would have been neat had it been set up for us to see. Massive cut-outs of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are hanging from the ceiling near an area where you can relive last year's Super Bowl. A Wilson Football Factory lets you see how footballs are made. Then enter a staged locker room with jerseys and gear from assorted players through a tunnel set up to look like the one at Cowboys Stadium, compete with cut-outs of Romo and others. (Strangely, Jason Witten's and Michael Vick's lockers are next to each other, as are Manning's and Tom Brady's.)
Oh, and there are also life-size cut-outs of this year's Cowboys roster so you can pose for the team photo. (Cut-outs are clearly a big player at the NFL Experience.) When you've exhausted the main area, head left toward the NFL Shop, which takes up more than 30,000 square feet, because surely you'll find items that aren't available anywhere else. Or you'll find a way to spend money. Either way, the NFL wins.
Before heading into the area where you can toss passes and kick field goals, you're forced to walk through the "NFL Sponsor Zone," where companies set up their own activities while selling you their products. I'm still trying to figure out the point of the Canon booth (see below).
When you finally reach the miniature football fields and Astroturf where you can run drills, throw passes and kick field goals, you figure out it's all over. And at $25 bucks for ages 13 and above, $20 for 3 to 12 and no charge for ages 2 and under, that adds up to one pricey outing ($90) for your typical family of four just to see a bunch of stuff you can mostly find on the Internet or do in your backyard.
But there will be thousands who disagree, starting at 5 p.m. tomorrow, when the doors open to the public. Drew Pearson officially kicks off the event when he delivers the Vince Lombardi Trophy around 6, joined by Mayor Tom Leppert, Rowdy and "a procession of local dignitaries and special guests."
A picture of Leppert with Rowdy? Hmm ... now that's worth 25 bucks.