Dick Harmon: BYU opener in Arlington anticipated

Published: Saturday, May 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

At a recent TCU-BYU basketball game in Fort Worth, one of our sportswriters was so taken by the vista of the new Dallas Cowboy football stadium when his plane flew over Arlington, Texas, he vowed he'd pay some of his own expenses just to return in September and help cover the historic opening event — the Oklahoma-BYU game.

Seriously?

Absolutely.

And Jim Rayburn has been all over the country to events, including the Masters at Augusta National.

The hype has hardly started, but rumblings from Norman to Provo are already solidly in gear. It remains to be seen how many of the 80,000 seats will be sold for the Sooner-Cougar opener. Prices are steep, going for $50, $80, $100 and $150 (club seats). The Sooners expected 30,000 fans, but now they're talking 50,000.

BYU generally can push 12,000 to 15,000 in "elite" away games in the West, and 2,500 is a no-brainer to almost any venue. BYU sold out its allotment of 7,500 shortly after sales were announced, according to athletic director Tom Holmoe.

In a partnership with the Cowboys, BYU and Oklahoma, it was never three equal shares of 33 percent as far as the tickets go. OU was always going to sell the most, and a big chunk will go to Cowboy season ticket-holders.

The negotiated price for OU and BYU is significantly better than Arkansas and Texas A&M got for later in the fall ($85, $125, $475 for club seats).

In fact, it might be a good gamble to say the OU-BYU game will be among the best-bargain tickets we'll see at this new football castle.

It isn't Six Flags and it certainly isn't Disneyland, but for football, this will be the game's Taj Mahal.

Cowboy owner Jerry Jones labels it one of the most visible buildings in the world, and with the giant moving roof, he likens it to "almost a living entity."

The 300-foot span of steel arches that hold the retractable roof, which is moved by 128 electric motors, is the largest single span arch in the world, twice the length of the famed Arch in St. Louis.

If you were to lie down the Empire State Building beside one of the arches, it would fall 25 short of the famous building's spire. If the Statue of Liberty were placed at event level, the tip of the flame would "lick" the apex of the roof.

The giant video scoreboard hung above the field is the largest in the world, stretches between the 20-yard lines, and weighs 600 tons. Jones says it will give fans the same video experience as a 60-inch screen in their living room.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told one reporter fans can't think of this as a typical football game in a regular stadium.

And that's true, once you pay 30-plus bucks to park. But unlike old Texas Stadium that had just three entrance highways, this one has 14.

"People will realize once they see this stadium," Castiglione said, "they are not entering a traditional stadium layout. When you see the stadium, you're going to be blown away."

"More amenities than any stadium in the world," according to Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, who negotiated with Texas Tech to play in Arlington. Holder failed to reach an agreement. "There's not really anything to compare to it."

Evan Jacobson lives in nearby Southlake, and his son McKay is a receiver for the Cougars and is expected to play in that opening game. Evan said the new facility will take your breath away.

Evan has a friend connected with the contractor, Manhattan Construction, out of Kansas, as well as some Cowboy management, and has access to the site still under construction.

"It is an unbelievable place," said Evan. "I have been in it four times, the most recent just a few weeks ago. You walk in and the layout and feel is awesome, especially at the club level. It is outstanding. McKay is coming down this weekend and we'll take a tour."

"The above-field scoreboard and screen is so huge, you've never seen anything like it," Evan said. "It looks like a punter can hit it because it is so big, but they've had punters kick as high as they can and didn't come close."

Said Holmoe: "I haven't seen it, but those who have, say it is off the charts — the Eighth Wonder of the World.

"Jerry Jones has a lot of money and he's very passionate about his athletic facilities and the football team. This is an example of just how passionate he is about football."

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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