Cowboys stadium soars in Arlington

March 01, 2008 |
  Massive twin trusses soar 292 feet over the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas. The trusses will support the complex’s retractable roof, as well as a 1.2 million-pound center-hung scoreboard—first of its kind in the NFL. PHOTO: MANHATTAN CONSTRUCTION  

W ith the first of two massive, quarter-mile-long arch trusses in place and the other scheduled to be completed late last month, the Dallas Cowboys' new billion-dollar stadium development in Arlington, Texas, is starting to take shape.

The mega-trusses, designed by Houston-based Walter P Moore and shipped piece-by-piece from a steel fabricator in Luxembourg, soar 292 feet above the playing field and span some 1,225 feet—more than twice the length of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. When completed in June 2009, the stadium will be the largest domed structure in the world, at 2.6 million sf, and will feature the largest single-span roof structure on the planet.

The trusses will eventually support twin, bi-parting roof panels, each measuring 63,000 sf and weighing some 1.7 million pounds, as well as a rack-and-pinion drive system consisting of 64 7.5 HP electric motors to operate the stadium's retractable roof.


Located a stone's throw (okay, maybe for Tony Romo) from the Texas Rangers Ballpark, the stadium will include several iconic features of the team's historic Texas Stadium in Irving. The Cowboys star will be placed at mid-field and the signature “hole in the roof” will be emulated with a patch of transparent fabric in the retractable roof.

“The hole in the retractable roof is essentially the same size as the hole at Texas Stadium,” says Jack Hill, director of stadium construction and owner's rep. for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Hill is no stranger to building large sports complexes. During his 29-year career in construction management, he served as owner's rep. for the Rangers ballpark next door, as well as Miller Park in Milwaukee and the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Hill says Jones, who is personally funding more than two-thirds of the development, wanted a dome structure to shield fans from Arlington's blistering heat, but did not want to give up the abundant daylight and “open and airy” feel of an open-air stadium.

“We visited other stadia and looked at both domes and open-air structures, and Jerry liked the openness of the open-air stadiums. He didn't want it to feel dungeon-like,” says Hill.

Dallas-based design architect HKS responded with a design scheme that incorporates clerestory windows, the retractable roof, 380,000 sf of glass curtain wall on the exterior, and massive, all-glass end-zone doors that measure 180 feet wide and 120 feet high.

Another signature feature of the stadium is a center-hung, four-sided video scoreboard that will be suspended 110 feet above the field. Custom manufactured by Mitsubishi, the 50-foot-tall scoreboard will span 120 feet along the sidelines and 70 feet along the end zones, providing more than 25,000 sf of high-definition video display.

“This building will operate as much like an arena as anything,” says Hill. “Typically in football stadiums, fans are looking 400 to 500 feet at video boards in the end zones. This is half the distance.”

In all, the stadium will have capacity for 80,000 fans and will feature more than 200 box suites on five levels, including a number of ultra-luxury suites that will bring fans closer to the action than any other box suite in the NFL—just 25 rows from the field.

The total development, which also includes outdoor concourses and vender areas, is designed to accommodate crowds in excess of 100,000 for big events like the Super Bowl (it will host Super Bowl XLV in 2011), the Cotton Bowl, and, of course, Cowboys games.

“Jerry wanted to create a place that is worthwhile to come and watch a game, even if you don't have tickets,” says Mark Penny, project executive with Manhattan Construction, general contractor on the project. “A lot of people just want to be part of the action on game day.”

The all-glass end-zone doors will be open on game days, allowing spectators to watch the action on the field. In addition, a pair of high-definition jumbotrons are planned for north and south exterior walls of the stadium, so people milling about outside can take in the action.

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