Stadium Scores Big with Cowboys' Fans

September 13, 2010 |

Jerry Jones, controversial billionaire owner of the Dallas Cowboys, wanted the team's new stadium in Arlington, Texas, to really amp up the fan experience. The organization spent $1.2 billion building a massive three-million-sf arena that seats 80,000 (with room for another 20,000) and has more than 300 private suites, some at field level-a first for an NFL stadium.

Jones was aware that only about 7% of NFL fans ever set foot in a stadium-even in football-mad Texas. So when planning began on the Cowboys' new digs in 2003, Jones tasked the Building Team of HKS (architect), Walter P Moore (structural engineer), and Manhattan Construction Co. (GC) with creating a facility that wooed fans with an exceptional game-day experience.

The owner wanted every seat in the house to offer a spectacular view, so the Building Team ruled out super-column supports that would have blocked the action for a few fans. Structural support is instead provided by two steel arches that, at 1,225 feet each, form the world's longest single-span roof structure. The mega-arches' 14,000 tons of steel create 19 million pounds of thrust and necessitated construction of massive subterranean concrete abutments. Each steel arch is anchored to the abutments with custom-cast, 64,000-pound solid-steel pin-bearing assemblies.

The stadium's retractable roof consists of two translucent panels, each measuring 290 feet by 220 feet; it utilizes the first rack and pinion retractable roof drive system in the U.S. The panels are made of a Teflon-coated fiberglass tensile membrane with a photocatalytic titanium dioxide coating that uses sunlight to break down dirt. Each panel travels the length of the arches and then meets at the 50-yard line; when retracted, they create a giant 104,960-sf opening. (The Cowboy's iconic doughnut hole in the roof is evident when panels are closed.) The entire operation takes 12 minutes. Operating at a 23-degree angle, it represents the steepest incline of any retractable roof in the world.

A massive four-sided video scoreboard suspended above the field also bumps up the fan experience a few notches. The custom super-high-def Mitsubishi unit measures 158 feet wide by 71 feet tall-extending from 20-yard line to 20-yard line. The $40 million unit weighs 600 tons and is suspended from the twin arch supports by 11/2-inch-diameter steel wire rope cables.

Utilizing BIM, the Building Team managed 1,500 design change requests from Jones and 300 design revisions with 5,500 drawing clarifications before the stadium opened in June 2009. A thousand visitors a day show up just to tour the facility, which will host Super Bowl XLV next February 6. BD+C


Special Recognition
Dallas Cowboys Stadium
Arlington, Texas

Building Team
Submitting firm: Manhattan Construction Co. (GC)
Owner/developer: Blue Star Development
Architect: HKS
Structural engineer: Walter P Moore
MEP engineer: M-E Engineers Inc.

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