The 10 Greatest Pieces of Dallas Vaporware

Trinity toll road ... CONFIRMED!

Hah. Not really. Relax. We're just tossing out a little hip 'net cultural reference for you to kick off our list of DFW's favorite all-time vaporware.

For those of you who have never played a PC game, let us 'splain: Vaporware is a product, usually a game or other tech gewgaw, that's announced but never produced and never canceled. It's neither live nor dead. (We'd make a cool geek reference to Schrödinger's cat here, but we don't really understand that kitty-in-a-box deal and don't want to start off Monday morning being called idiots in the comments by hyper-caffeinated physics students.)

The king of vaporware is perhaps Half Life 3, a PC Godot whose failure to appear for nearly a decade has so tortured its fans with countless rumors of its coming that the phrase "Half Life 3 confirmed" is a meme. Rough translation: What a sucker.  Other popular pieces of vaporware do sometimes come to life — a game called Duke Nukem Forever spent more than a decade in development before becoming "surfaced vaporware" (and a reminder to gamers to be careful what they wish for). Then there are products that just sort of do a General MacArthur.

With this in mind, we give you our list of the best in DFW vaporware — the wild ideas, unmet promises and utter bull crap that North Texas has been sold. The most obvious, of course, is the Trinity River project.  Twenty years have passed since Dallas voters OK'd bonds to put a park and/or road between the river's levees; that Duke Nukem of a deal hasn't happened, though that doesn't mean anyone in town is shutting up about it. But the Trinity Road isn't alone: Here are nine other baubles that stirred hopes and crushed dreams, for better or worse:

Waxahachie's Super Conducting Super Collider
OK this isn't precisely vaporware, seeing as it is in fact as dead as Nicolas Cage's reputation as an actor. Still, in the sheer size of hopes stirred vs. dreams crushed, you can't top something called the "super conducting super collider." It was planned to make CERN look like a potato battery and would have made Waxahachie one of the world's premier science destinations instead of a place you drive past before stopping for kolaches in West. It never had wide support, partly because the International Space Station was the science-y thing everyone was focused on and mainly because cost estimates for the project ballooned from an initial $4 billion to more than $12 billion. It only got off the ground at all thanks to it being a pet project of former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright of Fort Worth. When it was finally shut down in 1993, $2 billion had literally disappeared down a hole in the ground. The federal government deeded the shell of the super collider to Ellis County, which finally sold the property in 2006.

Crosstown Expressway
The battle over a proposed crosstown Dallas expressway in the early '80s was the Trinity toll road fight before anyone knew they wanted a Trinity toll road. East Dallas neighborhood defenders and their City Council representative, Lee Simpson, fought and killed a plan that would've driven a concrete stake through the heart on their community. The plan never fully died, though. When North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation wizard Michael Morris — chief proponent of the Trinity toll road, BTW — talks about creating an inner loop for the city as he did again this month, he means the old Crosstown Expressway plan. Some variations of this plan include tunneling under Mockingbird Lane, across the Park Cities. Too preposterously expensive to build, but it is fun to scare the crap out of Parkies with nightmares of Morlocks clambering up through their toilets.

The Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Fair Park
For the first half of the aughts, the Dallas Cowboys played in a dumpster fire of a stadium. Texas Stadium was located near a freeway intersection in Irving, was as ugly as it was uncomfortable and far too small to accommodate a Super Bowl or Jerry Jones' ego. It was only a matter of time before the Cowboys went stir crazy and tried to bilk a North Texas city into paying way too much money for a stadium. For a short period in 2004, it looked like Dallas might be the sucker. Jones met with then-Mayor Laura Miller about either building a new stadium near downtown or doing something with the Cotton Bowl at Fair Park. Nothing came of it, as Miller and Dallas County commissioners wouldn't bite on a massive hike in the county's hotel tax. Arlington did, though, which is why gorgeous, comfortable AT&T Stadium is located smack dab in the middle of a sea of asphalt and roller coasters. It's also why devoted Cowboys fans in Dallas hate Miller almost as much as they hate the Philadelphia Eagles.

Texas Rangers' Downtown Ballpark
Periodically — see this fall for the most recent example — baseball fans in the Dallas media get all worked up about the possibility of moving the Rangers in from the sticks to a cozy bandbox in someplace like the Farmers Market. There have been renderings and reported informal conversations between city staff and the team. The whole thing, at a certain level, makes sense. Globe Life Park is unbearably hot in the summer. (Well, yes, we do realize we're in Texas, wiseguy, but the ballpark stews in the same asphalt ocean as AT&T Stadium.) Nobody who lives east of Arlington particularly likes going there, and a baseball stadium downtown could give the central business district some of the mythical nighttime population everyone seems to want for it. Still, it's hard to see it happening. The Rangers, more than the Cowboys even, are Arlington's team. Since the club moved to the old Turnpike Stadium in 1972, it has been a suburban franchise. Even putting the Dallas skyline on a Rangers T-shirt is enough to get everybody real upset. The team's 30-year lease on the park ends in 2024. We'll see what happens then, but Dallas just doesn't seem like the kind of place that would chuck a bunch of money at a sports franchise, at least not since the Perot family sold out its share of the Mavs.

Navigable Trinity River
For the first 70 or so years of the city's existence, the thing people thought would turn Dallas into a world-class city was making the Trinity River navigable. The idea was to make Dallas a port for the Gulf of Mexico, which is 300 miles away as the crow flies and about twice that distance when you account for the river's meanders. It never happened, but the city did divert the river around downtown, leading to the stench-ridden bog we now think of when we think of the Trinity. When DFW Airport opened in 1974, the whole thing became a moot point, but the dream's effect lives on in today's vaporware. Part of the plan for the Trinity Project involves putting the river back into parts of its original channel.

Frontier Disney
Another deal that's not quite vaporware, but too deliciously dumb to overlook, Frontier Disney was more good ol' scam than project that couldn't get off the ground. Thomas W. Lucas Jr. told investors that Disney was dead-set on building a park near Celina. Lucas, who claimed to have been tipped by an insider at Disney, bilked investors from as far away as China out of about $14 million by tricking them into buying land that would supposedly later be sold to Disney. Lucas was paid heavy commissions on each sale. Disney had no plans for any park, and Lucas was sentenced to 17 and a half years in federal prison in September.

Grand Prairie Ski Resort
It was only around for four months, but the idea that The Grand Alps Group was going to build the United States' first indoor ski resort in a place called Grand Prairie was an ironic treat. (If anyone out there ever designs a Ski Grand Prairie T-shirt, let us know.) Slated to be accompanied by a Hard Rock Hotel and built near Lone Star Park and the Verizon Theatre, the project died an ignoble death when developers said in February they had run into cost troubles acquiring the property for the resort. But the snowbunnies still bounce on in our dreams: The company behind the project insists it wants to build an indoor ski resort here. It's just going to somewhere else in DFW. Ski Arlington, anyone?

Fort Worth Theme Park That Had Something to Do With Thomas Kinkade
Thomas Kinkade is your least favorite relative's favorite artist. He painted sofa-matching saccharine scenes of an America that never existed — unless Smurfs are real. They're licensed to terrible "galleries" where workers will even touch your ruinously expensive print up with some acrylic if you pay a little more. His work also reportedly serves as the inspiration behind a $3.5 billion, 5,000-acre hellscape of a theme park that a company called DreamVision says it's going to drop on Fort Worth. As The Dallas Morning News reported in August, there are no signs that the park — which, along with a sister park in Alabama, is expected to cost about $7 billion — is making any progress.

Main Street River Walk
It seemed to be one of those things that former Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway just said: Let's just put Main Street under water and give Dallas its own river walk, one that's even better than San Antonio's. When the Morning News' Robert Wilonsky looked into Caraway's suggestion, it turned out that Downtown Dallas Inc. had actually considered the idea at the behest of another former City Council member, Ron Natinsky. Unfortunately, for Natinsky and anyone with a sense of whimsy, DDI deemed putting Main Street beneath the current to be unfeasible. But we're not giving up hope just yet. We believe in our hearts that one day Main Street may very well be under water, provided Dallas ever gets cracking on that Trinity toll road project.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young