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Thursday, March 11, 2010

A first look at Cowboys Stadium, which is a really impressive fight club

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By John Katsilometes · March 10, 2010 · 10:02 PM

What type of praise would be appropriate for Cowboys Stadium? You enter this gleaming, domed enormity after having been exposed to such unrelenting hype you almost want to hate it just to be different. Or, if you will, “dif’rnt.”

But Cowboys Stadium is as staggeringly impressive as advertised, even as it advertises itself with an LED screen that is as big as, well, Boulder City. This stadium is so brilliantly over-the-top, with its mirrored exterior, let-the-sunshine-in retractable roof and 110,000-seat capacity, that if CityCenter were to incorporate a sports venue, Cowboys Stadium would be that place.

At a cost of $1.2 billion, it would just about put the cost of CityCenter to an even $10 billion. So when Jerry Jones asks, “What do you think of the place?” complaining that the rest rooms are a little difficult to locate seems pointless.

“Amazing,” is all you can say, shaking your head. “Love the screen.”

Like a Manny Pacquiao right jab, the stadium’s signature effect nearly knocks you off your spindles as you enter. The famous high-def video board spans to each 20-yard line of a football field, when a football field is actually unrolled along the floor of the big beast. But today, staging crews on the ground and operating very tall cranes cranked away on the metal skeleton that would be the ring and seating for Saturday night’s Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey WBO world welterweight title bout.

These guys pack a punch, but they are not big, and never seemed more diminutive as they were as they were engulfed by the splendor of the stadium they will half-fill on Saturday.

“I want to thank Jerry Jones for bringing this fight to this stadium,” Pacquiao said in his brief comments from the glass podium. “Without Jerry Jones, there would be no fight here. It wouldn’t happen.”

Top Rank chief Bob Arum made note of a pair of startling names on the guest list for Saturday’s fight card: UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and the organization’s president, Dana White. As Arum said, the two are encouraging UFC fans to buy into the fight’s pay-per-view package, an impressive diplomatic move considering Arum once compared UFC fights to gay erotica (as a means of criticism, not praise, mind you). “We want to thank Dana and Lorenzo for crossing sports to help promote this fight,” Arum said, as Jones, the guy who helped make that unlikely visit happen, nodded from the dais.

For sure, Jones is entering the fight game – and in the process competing with Las Vegas for some of boxing's premier events – with all the delicacy of a Walt Garrison off-tackle blast. His approach is simple: build a the largest domed facility in the world, throw a saddlebag full of cash across the table and say, “Do we have us a deal, or not?”

Jones is nothing if not eager to fill seats and finance this billion-dollar bowl o’ fun, which was financed largely through credit.

“We want all events here, any events that will fill seats,” he said after the news conference. “The Dallas Cowboys only play a set amount of games, but boxing you can do many, many times, and I’m interested in putting as many fights as possible in here. How many? I can’t yet say. But we are interested.”

Ever a showman who often seems to have learned the art of promotion from the knee of P.T. Barnum, Jones secured a flag team and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders today to usher the fighters into the stadium. For a press conference.

Of Jones, Arum has said it’s a good thing the Cowboys owner wasn’t around a generation ago when Arum and Don King were kings of dueling empires in the fight game. Jones might have taken the whole sport for himself.

Luckily for Arum, the Jerry Jones of today is all too happy to share the wealth.


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