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Chris Chase

Cowboys Stadium opens tonight, early reviews are mixed

Chris Chase
Shutdown Corner

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If you listen to Jerry Jones, the new Cowboys Stadium is the eighth wonder of the world, a massive, state-of-the-art structure built with the populist masses in mind.

Others haven't been so kind.

The New York Times blasted the new stadium in an architectural review published Friday:

With a $1.15 billion price tag and a flying saucer-like form, the stadium's design mercifully avoids the aw-shucks, small-town look that has become common in many American stadiums over the years. There's no brick cladding, no fake wrought ironwork, no infantilizing theme restaurants that seem as if they had been commissioned by Uncle Walt for the Happiest Place on Earth.

Still, Cowboys Stadium suffers from its own form of nostalgia: its enormous retractable roof, acres of parking and cavernous interiors are straight out of Eisenhower's America, with its embrace of car culture and a grandiose, bigger-is-better mentality.

Having a building critic rip Jones for making this stadium too big is like The New Yorker criticizing Transformers 2 for having too many explosions and special effects. That's sort of the point. Jones didn't set out to please critics with his 100,000 seat boheameath, he built a stadium for the masses with a few flourishes thrown in to make it somewhat aesthetically pleasing.

(Lest you think Ouroussoff is an architectural snob who automatically decries all edifices dedicated to sport, he showered accolades upon the new Arizona Cardinals stadium in 2006.)

The Los Angeles Times agrees:

For all the spaciousness and grandeur -- after all, everything's supposed to be big in Texas, right? -- the interior is surprisingly understated and welcoming. In fact, you can see it all and get in half a mile of pre-game exercise by walking around its upper level.

The palette is a sophisticated mix of silvery steel, charcoal and navy blue punctuated by colorful murals splashing the concourses and ramp ways. Contrary to expectation, Cowboys' stuff is not plastered everywhere; it's largely confined to more than 400 small video screens dotting posts, pillars and food stands.

In the words of Cole Porter, a man not usually associated with the gridion: The place is swellegant.

Some Cowboys players are already turning against the stadium too. Ed Werder reports (via PFT) that at least one player prefers old, antiquated Texas Stadium:

"[The team thinks it's] in the entertainment business rather than playing football."

Cry me a river. Would this unnamed player prefer to be playing on a dusty sandlot encircled by cars providing the only light? Is the locker room too big and spacious? Plus, the team is in the entertainment industry, bro. You don't get paid money to tackle somebody, you get paid money because people are entertained by you tackling somebody.

In the end, though, it doesn't matter what architectural critics say or whether players would prefer something less lavish. It's the opinions of fans and the quality of the play on the field that matters. Thus, the success of Cowboys Stadium is contingent on the success of the Dallas Cowboys. Massive video boards, field level seats and Gehry-inspired glass walls won't matter a lick if the team doesn't play well. Football fans go to stadiums to watch games, not to admire commissioned works of art that line the building's interiors.

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