The old stadium for America’s team is about to become a pile of dust and rubble.
With the push of a button at 7 a.m. Sunday, more than a ton of dynamite will blow Texas Stadium into pieces.
In about one minute, down will go the building that was home to the Dallas Cowboys during all five of their Super Bowl championships and was the birthplace of those famous cheerleaders. It also hosted events ranging from Billy Graham-led worship services to Von Erich brothers wrestling extravaganzas.
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"They can blow it up, implode it, dynamite it – but they can’t take away the memories created there," former star receiver Drew Pearson said Friday. He plans to watch the demolition from a nearby building, "because I don’t want anybody to see me tearing up."
For former running back Walt Garrison, it’s just a building: "The memories are not about where you played, but who you played with," he said.
The Cowboys played their last game at Texas Stadium in December 2008, then moved into the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington last season. The hole-in-the-roof stadium couldn’t compete with its successor, or even area colleges and high schools, so leaders in Irving decided to clear the city-owned building for future development. About 2,200 holes were drilled into the stadium’s support columns and packed with dynamite. On Sunday, a series of 50 explosions on half-second delays will level the building. "It will go boom, boom, boom, boom — like dominoes falling," said Doug Janeway, an assistant director for the city.
The city is charging $25 per car to attend what’s being billed as "the final tailgate party." The proceeds will go to charity.
Clint Murchison Jr., who founded the Cowboys in 1960, never liked their original home in the Cotton Bowl – and he liked it less once Houston built the Astrodome. Dallas officials didn’t want to build a stadium for a billionaire, so Murchison convinced suburban Irving to spend a then-whopping $25 million to build one. Murchison kicked in another $10 million.
When the team moved in midway through the 1971 season, during an era when players were paid about as much as ordinary fans, players were awed by a facility that would eventually change the world of professional sports.
"When we got into Texas Stadium, it felt like, ‘This is our new home. We’ve got to make the most out of it,"’ former star safety Cliff Harris said.
And they did. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl that season. The cheerleaders started the next year, and more Super Bowl trips followed. Their glitzy image and state-of-the-art stadium helped brand them as "America’s Team."
The nickname stuck as the club went from Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman to Tony Romo, Tony Dorsett to Emmitt Smith to Marion Barber, Bob Lilly to Randy White to DeMarcus Ware, Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson to Bill Parcells.
The hole-in-the-roof concept was to keep fans comfortable while exposing players to the elements, which didn’t really catch on. But other concepts did — for better or worse.
Personal seat licenses can be traced to Murchison forcing fans to buy bonds to buy season tickets. He also pioneered catering to the elite by building 176 luxury suites, billing them as a "personalized penthouse." They became so popular, the stadium eventually had 360.
When Jerry Jones took over, he exploited a loophole in NFL revenue-sharing rules by getting companies to sponsor his stadium instead of his team. He ended up making big bucks from Pepsi and Nike at a time when Coke and Reebok were league sponsors.
The building deteriorated over the years, but it always looked great on television. Anyone flying into Dallas’ two major airports probably heard a pilot pointing out the place below.
"Texas Stadium just happened to bring out the Hollywood in people," longtime tight end Billy Joe DuPree said. "It was always show time on Sundays."
The final show is scheduled for this Sunday.
The wireless button to trigger the detonation will be pushed by 11-year-old Casey Rogers of nearby Terrell. He won a nationwide essay contest by writing about his charity, Casey’s Heart, which provides food and clothes to the homeless.
It’s one of the few sentimental demolition jobs for Jim Rawson, the project manager for A&R Demolition who has been helping blow up buildings for 20 years. He grew up a Cowboys fan. But his field superintendent, Terry Tejada, is a lifelong 49ers fan.
"When we brought in the first machine, I actually yanked my operator off of it and I got on it," Tejada said with a big smile. "I was the first one to tear this building up. I loved it."
Dirt scooped up for a nearby highway construction project has been used to fill in the stadium’s subterranean level. The state transportation department has a 10-year lease to use the land as a staging area for the project, with an escape clause if a development deal comes along.
A sense of fading nostalgia was already evident at a luncheon Friday, when Mayor Herbert Gears presented a key to the city of Irving to Alicia Landry, widow of the club’s longtime coach. It was the city’s last key featuring the stadium.