|Super Bowl XLV is coming to North Texas, as the NFL awarded the Cowboys new stadium the 2011 game.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mark the date down, Feb. 6, 2011, Super Bowl XLV is coming to North Texas.
And the NFL championship game will be coming with the bravado and grandeur you would expect of anything held in this state, and will be played in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium - a projected seating capacity of 100,000, and maybe more - that is being built in Arlington, Texas.
"This may be by that time the most visible Super Bowl we've ever had," said a jubilant Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose vision to build something bigger and better than any stadium in the NFL paid off in attracting the first Super Bowl to this area.
Do not doubt that.
But also do not doubt the tension that had been building all morning on Tuesday when North Texas, Indianapolis and Arizona made their final presentations to the NFL owners here at their meetings. You might never have been around a more nervous bunch of grownups, and that would include Roger Staubach, chairman of the North Texas Super Bowl Bid Committee who delivered his group's final message to the owners.
In fact, Staubach said the wait to find out if North Texas had outdistanced Indianapolis was worse and far more tense than waiting last week for the birth of his 12th grandchild.
Even Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, victorious in the past Super Bowl, said he "hadn't been this excited or nervous on the football field" after he made his pitch to the owners for Indy 2011 Inc.
"I really knew we would be nervous, but that was more tense than it's ever been," Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones admitted.
What made matters even more intense, aside from the competition and the amount of work so many people put into making this bid, was the fact the decision was not finalized until the fourth vote. With three areas in the running, a 75-percent majority was needed to win on the first two ballots, or 24 of the 32 votes.
But when that didn't happen during one of the few secret ballots conducted at these NFL meetings, the low man was out, and that became Arizona, which is playing host to the 2008 Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., where the Arizona Cardinals just opened last season their new stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium.
That meant it came down to North Texas and Indianapolis, which will complete construction of its new stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, in time for the start of the 2008 season. And when the third ballot between the two contenders didn't render a 75-percent majority, there would be one last vote.
No more 75-percent stuff for the fourth and final ballot. Simple majority wins, meaning at least 17 votes.
High-five North Texas.
"We wanted to bring that game to North Texas so bad," Jerry Jones said, "and I don't mind telling you it was an emotional time to hear we were going to play the game in Dallas' new stadium."
You thought Jones became emotional when he announced the hiring of Wade Phillips as his new head coach this year, and how committed he was to returning the Dallas Cowboys to their past glories? Well, he came extremely close to leaking a few tears during his press conference here Tuesday afternoon after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the initial announcement.
While Jones went out of his way to thank Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief, whose wife Rosie was a present member here on the North Texas committee, along with all the government and people of Dallas and all the surrounding municipalities, the first call he made after finding out a Super Bowl was coming to North Texas for the first time was to Arlington mayor Bob Cluck.
And rightfully so.
Because without Cluck's vision and driving support to not only convince the Cowboys to build their new stadium in his mid-city but also Arlington's residents to pass a tax referendum to help fund the city's half of what began as a $650 million project but has since ballooned to $1 billion - the run-over Jones' responsibility - this victory might not have been possible.
No matter how you slice or analyze this competition - some making this a Dallas-Forth Worth area vs. Indianapolis, some a Jones vs. Colts owner Jim Irsay debate, some a Staubach vs. Dungy competition and even others a video presentation competition between the hallowed NFL voice of Pat Summerall narrating the Cowboys presentation vs. Indy's homegrown David Letterman delivering the top 10 reasons to hold the Super Bowl Indianapolis - the bottom line, at least this time around, was the size of the stadium and the amount of revenue North Texas could generate for the NFL.
And, not to sound trite, but everyone knows everything is bigger in Texas.
Well, in this case, the Cowboys' new stadium will be bigger, expected to seat 80,000 fans for regular-season games, but expandable to 100,000 for special events, such as Super Bowl XLV. The Cowboys' capacity far exceeded what Indianapolis could house in Lucas Oil Stadium, expected to come in at around 65,000. And the stadium being built in Arlington will also exceed the 73,000-seat capacity of University of Phoenix Stadium.
But, on top of that, because of the outdoor plazas being built beyond the retractable doors at each end of the stadium, Jones points out another 20,000 ticketed fans watching on huge outdoor viewing screens can become a part of the Super Bowl game-day experience. Add it up, that's 120,000 people, which, depending how the attendance is counted, could obliterate the Super Bowl record crowd of 103,985, set at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., for Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XIV win over the then Los Angeles Rams in 1980.
That's a whole lot of revenue when it comes down to ticket sales, and it's been estimated a Super Bowl played to capacity at the Cowboys' new stadium would generate $23 million more for the NFL than either of the other two sites. After all, money counts, and these NFL owners didn't come into their fortunes by making bad business decisions when it comes to generating revenue.
There was another attractive factor, too, in North Texas' favor: That would be number of suites. The Indianapolis committee here on Monday was thanking Irsay for releasing more suites for NFL use to be included in its bid. That meant 120 of the 140 suites would be controlled by the NFL, meaning less direct revenue for the club.
Nice gesture, but bad point. The Cowboys new stadium will initially have 205 suites, and Stephen Jones says that's an expandable number, too, and that the Cowboys would make 150 of them available to the NFL. Further cha-ching.
"Seats and suites, they do look at the business end of it," Stephen Jones said, "and ours was really strong."
Or as Jerry Jones said of the role his new stadium's seating capacity played in the victory, "It played a significant role. This Super Bowl will be a major, major point for the North Texas area."
There is another aspect of the new stadium that made even the bid possible: The retractable roof, because without one to weather-proof the NFL's most visible world-wide event, there would not even have been a North Texas committee putting together a bid. The recalcitrant weather in North Texas the end of January-beginning of February would have continued to eliminate any possibility of playing host to a Super Bowl in an open air stadium.
In fact, very few Super Bowls have been held in open-air stadiums outside of the states of Florida, California or Arizona. Three have been played in Tulane Stadium in New Orleans and one at Rice Stadium in Houston. But that's about as far north as a Super Bowl has ventured without a dome stadium or geographical assurances of temperate weather.
"To put on a Super Bowl you have to have a world-class stadium," said Tara Green, director of sports marketing for the Dallas Convention and Business Bureau, who has been on loan to the North Texas bid committee, which by the way, suddenly becomes the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee.
But still, it doesn't hurt to have the largest seating capacity, either.
"Everyone has always told me, 'I wish we could get more fans in the Super Bowl,'" Jerry Jones said. "Everyone has always told me that," and went on to point out how those thoughts played into the plans when designing a stadium that could offer expanded seating for major events.
"Numbers are important."
But the Cowboys owner also was quick to point out the now host committee and his organization has a responsibility to put on one of the best, if not the best Super Bowl event ever held. He speaks of the fan experience, and the committee estimates while there might be 120,000 attending the game, as many as 250,000 are expected to infiltrate the four-county area during the week of the game for all the surrounding activities.
"Numbers are important," Jones explained, then went on to quote the franchise's initial president, saying, "Tex Schramm told me a long time ago, the NFL can not be a studio game - I can almost quote him on this. He said, this, it has to have the pageantry of stadiums, throngs of people, that's the NFL, that's what we have."
And that is what North Texas hopes to bring to Super Bowl lore.