Cowboys to change practice facilities
OXNARD, Calif. (AP)
Goodbye, Valley Ranch. Hello, Frisco.
The Dallas Cowboys got final approval Monday on a deal that will end a four-decade affiliation with Irving and move the team's practice facility to another Dallas suburb.
The Frisco City Council and the city's school board voted to approve a $115 million agreement to build a complex that will include an indoor stadium and new headquarters for the Cowboys about 30 miles north of Dallas.
The school district is contributing $30 million, and its high schools will play games in the stadium. The Cowboys aren't putting any money up front but will have to pay any extra costs. The team also has agreed to develop the remaining land on the 91-acre tract.
Frisco officials want to have the facility ready for the 2016 season.
''We're pleased of course with what they've done so far in the meetings,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said before the school board vote. ''It's a plus.''
Jones later declined comment before leaving practice at training camp to fly to back to the Dallas area for a news conference scheduled for Tuesday.
The Cowboys were entirely a Dallas operation until 1971, when Texas Stadium in Irving opened. They played their first 11 seasons at the Cotton Bowl and had a training facility in Dallas.
Irving added the Valley Ranch headquarters in 1985, but the facility is showing its age as other NFL teams have been building fancier training homes.
''It sounds great,'' said tight end Jason Witten, the franchise leader in receptions. ''I think as players you don't really have any control over that. It's a new facility, and you always appreciate everything about this organization is first-class. I'm sure that won't be any different.''
In 2009, the Cowboys left Texas Stadium for $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a modern marvel with a retractable roof, a huge video screen hanging over the field and more than 300 luxury suites.
That was the first blow for Irving, which now is losing its lone connection to the NFL about the same time the city got word that the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson Classic would move to Dallas in 2018.
''I wouldn't say it's a sad day,'' Irving City Councilman Gerald Farris said. ''Irving is a very robust city, and we have a lot to be proud of.''
Farris said Irving was involved in discussions to keep the training facility, and one of the possible locations was the old Texas Stadium site. It's now a staging area for road construction while Irving decides what to do next.
''I think Irving works well with corporate America as well as anyone, including the Dallas Cowboys,'' Farris said of a city that's still home to Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company. ''They've just chosen to do something different, and we're still great fans of the Cowboys and have been for many years.''
The move to Frisco, home to FC Dallas of the MLS, also could have implications for Oxnard and any other potential training camp homes for the Cowboys. The indoor field gives the Cowboys the flexibility of holding summer practices out of the heat without having to bus to their stadium.
The area also has the infrastructure in place for thousands of fans to attend, with plenty of parking a short shuttle ride from the fields. The parking facilities are part of the baseball stadium that's home to the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers and the arena complex where the NHL's Dallas Stars train.
Jones has said he likes the mild climate in Oxnard and calls training in California part of the team's legacy. Dallas has held camp off and on in California for 50 years.
''My thinking as we worked through it is this will be a model for the rest of the NFL,'' Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said. ''Knowing how great the Cowboys organization is, knowing the way we do things in Frisco and Frisco ISD, I think this will be a model similar to the other things we've done out here.'''
Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn said he spoke to Jones at the start of this year's camp about taking ''this thing to the next level.'' To Flynn, that means trying to attract crowds of more than 10,000 - they max out at close to that, but with not nearly enough seating for everyone - and finding ways to make the deal more financially attractive for the Cowboys.
Flynn says he would also like to explore ways to build a permanent facility for NFL camps and other sports teams looking for a training base. He says the city gets inquiries from soccer franchises in other countries.
The Cowboys train on a pair of city-owned fields next to a hotel, and undeveloped land on the site is used for parking and an area for fans that includes merchandise trailers and concession stands.
''I think the fact that they're looking to do something like this in Texas makes it ever more important that we begin to sit down and seriously look at what would be a mutual benefit for both the city and the Dallas Cowboys for the future,'' Flynn said. ''Whether it's this site or another site, we need to begin that dialogue.''
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this report.
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