100,000 Seat Stadium on the Horizon?

Sites in Las Colinas and just south of downtown Dallas have emerged as the front-runners for a new Cowboys stadium complex that could cost more than $1 billion, team Vice President Stephen Jones said earlier this week.

Jones said the Cowboys haven't given up on sites in Arlington and Grapevine, but he acknowledged that the Las Colinas and Dallas locations are the focal points for the vast project.

"We are looking where it has the best chance to be viable," Jones said. "And that includes a lot of things like funding and land. Those areas give us the best chance to pull off the project."

The complex would feature a 100,000-seat retractable-roof stadium plus residential, retail, recreational and hotel development for year-round use, Jones said.

The Cowboys have been talking for more than three years about replacing Texas Stadium and possibly leaving Irving, but team officials had not released details of their proposed facility.

Jones said it's time to move toward making "the finest stadium and entertainment complex in all of sports" a reality.

The team's lease at Texas Stadium expires in 2008, and the Cowboys would like to be in a new facility by then.

As the Cowboys envision it, the project would require about 200 acres to 300 acres, which are available in both Dallas County areas.

Financing, however, would be key. Jones estimates that the stadium would cost roughly $650 million. The other parts of the project would easily take the cost to more than $1 billion, a source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Cowboys are researching several avenues for funding, including lobbying the Legislature to raise the limits on hotel and rental-car taxes for sports facilities. An initial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before a Senate committee in Austin.

The team is also working on a financing package with Dallas County. The Cowboys would like the county to establish a sports authority and levy the hotel and rental-car taxes to provide public funding. Jones said he would like Dallas County voters to see a tax referendum in November.

Dallas Councilman Alan Walne said he likes the idea of having the Cowboys move back to Dallas, although he said the proposed financing plan would need to be further analyzed.

A new stadium would be ideal for the annual game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma instead of the aging Cotton Bowl, and the site would be close to the Dallas Convention Center and the city's central business district, he said.

"I just think you're creating the kind of energy we need to have down in that area," he said.

Walne said he does not know whether the Dallas City Council will be asked to take a position on the stadium's financing, because it would be a county initiative.

Mayor Laura Miller, while she was a member of the City Council, was an opponent of using tax dollars to fund the American Airlines Center, but other council members have been warmer to the idea.

Walne said: "My impression would be you would have a majority of the council that would be favorable to it."

Dallas voters might be a harder sell, especially if the Cowboys decide to build the stadium in Las Colinas, Walne said.

"I think it has a more difficult row to hoe," he said.

The stadium would be the cornerstone of the project, seating about 80,000 people and with the ability to accommodate another 20,000 people in the end zones. The open end zones or pedestrian areas would allow fans to watch the game on big-screen TVs or engage in other entertainment and recreational activities. The areas would have bars, restaurants, a touch-football field, skating half-pipes and interactive games.

The complex would include Cowboys-themed developments outside the stadium, with bars, nightclubs, restaurants, office buildings, a hotel and convention center, golf courses, recreational fields for youth- and adult-league sports, and a recreation center housing bowling, basketball and volleyball venues.

The proposed all-weather stadium would put North Texas in line to host a number of big events that could potentially be a boost to the Dallas-Fort Worth economy, including the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and college football's championship game.

Jones said the Cowboys, their fans and the Metroplex deserve a first-class facility, and it's their aim to build one.

"It's real important to us all," Jones said. "Obviously, the Cowboys brand is one of the most recognizable in all of sports. "We want to have a facility that is the finest in all of sports. That's our goal."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's difficult for me, because I came in right at the tail end. They had this agreement to work this thing out. I sure didn't want to get in the middle of it. I'm very respectful for him as a player, and I think anybody who knows me, knows I would be. I didn't really know what was best, but it looked like there was a situation where the timing was I would say appropriate. I think it would have been fine with me either way. But certainly you have to look at the future of the franchise and at each position and make a determination of, well, is the player that's currently there what you're going to build with? I think probably now is as good a time as any to try to move on." -- Bill Parcells on his role in the departure of Emmitt Smith

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