The Palace In Dallas

ARLINGTON, Texas — As forklifts carried large rolls of artificial turf to be laid out on the concrete floor of Cowboys Stadium on Friday morning, images as tall as seven-story buildings flashed overhead.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed a pass. Running back Felix Jones showed on a short touchdown run the same elusiveness he displayed at Arkansas. And Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme had the football stripped from his hands.

With the first Southwest Classic between Arkansas and Texas A&M set to kick off in a little more than 30 hours — at 6:30 p.m. today — field crews worked to get the world's largest domed stadium ready for the game.

The $40 million high-definition video board, which is 160-feet wide and suspended 90 feet over the field, was tested. Arkansas' end zone had already been laid out, and the crews were starting on Texas A&M's end zone.

And as maintenance workers prepped the field, two female tour guides led a group of visitors around Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' $1.15 billion architectural masterpiece. It's his "Palace In Dallas," a stadium big enough to suit the Cowboys larger-than-life persona.

"My dream when I was building Cowboys Stadium was that the stadium could become Razorback Stadium West, and I think that's what it is," said Jones, who was a co-captain on Arkansas' 1964 national championship team.

"I'm so excited over our game that we have with Texas A&M because I envision one end of our stadium with the plazas and everything ... I want that to look just like Fayetteville, Ark. Now I know A&M has got the other end planned to look like College Station."

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. Cowboys Stadium dwarfs the Texas Rangers' nearby stadium, and at 3 million square feet, it resembles a glass alien structure from a science fiction film.

"We can't wait," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I've never been in the Taj Mahal before."

Or a stadium of this magnitude.

"I would think it's going to be pretty imposing when we walk in there on Saturday. We've all seen it on TV," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "The crowd is going to be massive."



Recruiting Dallas

When Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced in March that the school had agreed to play Texas A&M every year through 2018, the rational behind the deal was simple.

Each school is expected to net $4 to $5 million a year from the game. Just as important, the Southwest Classic gives the Razorbacks even more exposure in the talent-rich Dallas area, which already has a large Arkansas following.

Texas is regarded as perhaps the nation's most fertile territory for top high school recruits, and the attention that comes with playing the Aggies annually in Cowboys Stadium could help open doors for the Hogs.

"Probably as much as anything, it gives our coaches the opportunity to get into Dallas and recruit on Friday," said Arkansas recruiting coordinator Tim Horton, who also serves as the team's running backs coach. "At the same time, there's Arkansas Razorback stuff in The Dallas Morning News every day this week, I'm sure.

"It will put us in a market we need to be in and a market that we've gotten good players from in the past and hopefully can continue to do that."

The Razorbacks have made an emphasis on recruiting Texas, and as a sign of that, Horton said six Arkansas coaches were expected to spend Friday night attending high school football games throughout the state. A good showing in today's inaugural Southwest Classic could only help their cause.

"(Former Arkansas) Coach (Frank) Broyles told us that when they beat Texas, things changed in Texas as far as recruiting," Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said. "He said winning in Texas would help us recruit that state. Coach Broyles thinks winning this game is very important to our recruiting. We need to go win."

While Arkansas' 10-year series with Texas A&M kicks off today, Petrino said it's already helped in recruiting. Traditional powerhouses like Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia recruit the Dallas area hard, but the Razorbacks are trying to make more inroads and steal away some the state's top prospects.

"We have 20 players on our team right now from the state of Texas," Petrino said. "It's an area that we've said that we're going to make more of an emphasis and ... go in there and work hard to get some of the best players out of there."



Bright Lights

After Jones finalized the deal to purchase the Cowboys for then a record $160 million in 1989, he said he had the lights turned on inside Texas Stadium and laid down on the star in the middle of the field. The stadium was, as he put it, was "beyond anything I could have ever imagined."

Over the years, though, Jones felt the Cowboys outgrew the stadium, which was built for $35 million and opened in 1971 in Irving. He broke ground on Cowboys Stadium in May of 2006 in Arlington, and when it was unveiled for Dallas' home opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 20, an NFL record crowd of 105,121 was in attendance.

That included former Cowboys safety Cliff Harris, the father of Arkansas starting safety Matt Harris.

"It was so much bigger and more incredible than I expected. My imagination didn't allow me to grow the stadium that large," said Harris, who's name is enshrined in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor. "King Tut would've been proud to have been buried there."

And with so many cameras capturing multiple angles of the game, Harris admitted he couldn't have gotten away with any of the dirty tricks he did as a player known as "Captain Crash."

Everything about the stadium was over-the-top.

"It shouldn't have surprised me," Harris said. "Jerry does things in a big fashion."



Morning News sports writer Robbie Neiswanger contributed to this report.



Cowboys Stadium By The Numbers

$35 million — The estimated cost to build Texas Stadium, which was opened in 1971. It's now vacant.

$1.15 billion — The estimated cost to build Cowboys Stadium, the world's largest domed stadium.

72 feet — The height of the high-definition video board that's suspended over the stadium's field.

160 feet — The width of the video board, which is in the Guinness World Records as the largest video board.

3 million feet — The square footage of Cowboys Stadium.

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