Legislation that sets the stage for the Cowboys to build a taxpayer-supported sports, entertainment and business complex that could cost as much as $1 billion was sent to the governor's desk Thursday, where it is expected to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 1111 by Dallas Democrat Royce West would allow the voters of Dallas County to decide whether to raise the taxes levied on hotel rooms and rented automobiles to finance the project, which the Cowboys say will feature a retractable-roof stadium with seating for up to 100,000.
The complex would include stores, facilities for hotels and conventions and a youth athletic field, but Cowboys consultant Rob Allyn has said the team plans to use the tax revenue only for the stadium.
"This bill will ensure that the Cowboys will set the standard for all franchises when they set out to build new sports facilities," West said after his bill received the final approval of both houses of the Legislature. "It also makes sure that the voters of Dallas County will have the final say over whether they want tax dollars to help pay for the facility."
Although Dallas County does not levy a hotel occupancy tax, the bill would allow residents to vote on whether to raise the maximum hotel occupancy tax it could collect to three percent from two percent. The ceiling on a county car-rental tax would rise to six percent from five percent. Several area cities do levy a hotel occupancy tax.
The city of Dallas charges a 15 percent hotel occupancy tax, and it assesses a five percent tax on car rentals. Under West's bill, the total hotel tax would increase to 18 percent.
One of the looming issues for the stadium project concerns the creation of a sports authority to manage the endeavor. County commissioners don't want to create that type of governance body, but Cowboys officials want a sports authority that would include county representatives as well as representatives from the host city.
When the legislation was presented to a Senate committee this year, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones said the team is prepared to move ahead with the project swiftly, assuming the legislation is approved. But Allyn said the team wants to push back the proposed date for an election from November 2003 until a year later.
The stadium would cost an estimated $650 million, and as much as $1 billion could be spent to complete the entire project, which will likely be built near downtown Dallas or in Irving. Jones said the facility could be ready for pro football action by 2008, and he promised that the Cowboys would invest an undisclosed amount of money in the project.
* The Cowboys are going back to San Antonio for training camp. All that is left is the formal announcement.
The San Antonio City Council on Thursday approved a proposal 6-5 that would pay the Cowboys $400,000 and a portion of the proceeds from a proposed scrimmage with the Houston Texans in the Alamodome to keep training camp in the city.
"This is encouraging news, and we are looking forward to finalizing the details for what we know will be a very productive camp in San Antonio for the 2003 preseason," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We are grateful for the support of the fans and the city leaders in San Antonio, and we anticipate making a formal announcement regarding 2003 training camp plans in the near future."
Council opponents questioned the cost of bringing the Cowboys back, leading to the close vote.
* When it's time to work on punt returns, coach Bill Parcells gets a first hand look as the punt return coach.
"I've just always done it," Parcells said. "It's a courageous position. You have to have a brave heart back there. This Brian Mitchell, I don't even know the kid, but I admire him a lot."
Another one of his favorite punt return specialist will actually join the coaching staff during training camp.
"I'll have some help doing it this summer," Parcells said. "Because one of our fellowship coaches, coincidently will be Dave Meggett. He's been with me since he was a baby. He can demonstrate things to the players that I can't demonstrate."
Meggett is considered one of Parcells' all-time favorite players for his versatility as a return man and running back. Meggett played five years for the Giants, but just two for Parcells. He later rejoined the coach in New England for two more seasons.
Cowboys in the punt return mix include Terence Newman, Joey Galloway, Reggie Swinton, Woody Dantzler and Aveion Cason.
* Sixth-round pick B.J. Tucker is one player who was looking to make a big impact during his first weekend with the team. But he never got a chance.
Tucker, a sixth-round pick from Wisconsin, strained his hamstring during the 40-yard dash testing before the players even participated in the first practice.
"It's disappointing because I wanted to come out here and show what I could do," said Tucker, who ran the second-fastest 40-time at the scouting combine at 4.34. "But it's still early. I've got about four weeks to get healthy again for the next camp."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"He was a guy that I tried to get every ounce of information from, every time that I talked to him. He was a great encyclopedia for a young guy like me. Even though we were rivals, he had his way of not compromising his position, but yet acting in an advisory capacity. He could sense from me that I was genuinely interested in what he had to say. I asked him all sorts of things ... How many days do you practice in pads? How hard do you practice in your team on Fridays? What are your expectations on players? " -- Bill Parcells on the getting at advice from Tom Landry as a young coach.
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