Last week my wife and I visited our youngest son now living in Dallas, Texas.  (It’s really nice to have them gainfully employed and off the “payroll”.)    He is an MIS graduate from the University of Georgia and works for AT&T in their 401K area as a quality control specialist.   Monday was a tough day for him with multiple meetings so we decided to take the day and visit Dallas Cowboy Stadium.   Let me mention right now that I am a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and I went only to observe and not to praise.  The stadium is located in Arlington about forty-five minutes west of Dallas.   Fairly easy drive even with traffic.   I was not disappointed.  It is an absolutely fabulous stadium.  The architecture is stunning; the engineering is remarkable.  I’m not saying it is one of the ten wonders of the modern world, but maybe eleventh.  What I would like to do now is give you an engineer’s viewpoint relative to the structure with several observations along the way.   Let’s look at the stadium itself.

  The picture does not really do justice to the size or basic configuration.  By that I mean you cannot tell the walls are canted outward 14 degrees to enhance the mechanical design and support the massive movable panels located in the dome itself.   This structure replaced the Texas Stadium which opened in 1971 and served as the Cowboys’ home through the 2008 season.   The new stadium was completed on May 27, 2009 and seats 80,000, making it the third largest stadium in the NFL.  The maximum capacity, including standing room, is 110,000. The Party Pass (open areas) sections are behind seats in each end zone and on a series of six elevated platforms connected by stairways. The cost for “standing room only” is about $29.00 with sell-outs every game.   The original estimated cost to build the structure was $650 million dollars but the actual costs was $1.15 billion, making it one of the most expensive sports venues ever built.  The city of Arlington, the state of Texas and the NFL contributed to overall financing which made construction possible.      It is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the 2nd largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. The screen assembly is absolutely massive.  Our tour guide indicated that when the screen was positioned, the supporting beams dropped four inches due to the weight.  (The maximum calculated drop possible was eight inches.)   These screens hang ninety feet above the playing field.   Two video screens facing the sidelines each measure 72 feet high by 160 feet wide, roughly equivalent to 4,920 52-inch flat panel television screens.    LEDs serve as individual pixels for viewing and, of course, they all work in unison when operating.  That alone is an engineering marvel in my opinion. 

During a game with the Tennessee Titans, the very first year, the Tennessee kicker actually hit the screen during a forth-down punt.  This generated some concern but not enough to necessitate any real changes to elevation or positioning.   In addition to the magnificent screen, there are 3200 HD TVs located throughout the stadium for the benefit of the fans. 

The facility can also be used for a variety of other activities outside of its main purpose (professional football) such as concerts, basketball games, boxing matches, college football and high school football contests, soccer matches, and motocross races.  We were told that the previous week, there were three weddings, all on the fifty yard line and right on the Texas star.  That’s devotion.

Before we go much further, let’s give credit where credits due and look at the companies performing the work.  These are as follows:

General Contractor: Manhattan Construction, Dallas, Texas
Architect: HKS, Dallas, Texas
Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore & Assoc, Dallas, TX
Concrete Contractor: TXI Operations, LP, Dallas, Texas
Consulting Architect: Cooper Robertson & Partners, New York, NY
Contractor: Bencor Corporation of America, Dallas, TX
Contractor (steel): Desert Steel, Irving, Texas
General Contractor: 31 Construction, Dallas, Texas
Grouting/Millwrights: Derr Steel Erectors & GroutTech, Inc, Hurst, TX

You will note that all of the work, with one exception, was performed by firms within the state.  I personally think this is very admirable.  Now for interesting specifications:

Site Size: 135 Acres
Total Sq. Footage: 2.3 million
Project Est. Completion Date: June, 2009
Fixed Seating: 80,000 people
Total Capacity: 100,000 people
Total Yards, Concrete: 200,000 cu. yds.
Total Reinforced Steel: 21,000 tons
Size Moveable Roof: 661,000 sq. ft.
Ea. Mechanized Roof Panel: 63,000 sq. ft.
Ea. (2) Arched Roof Supports: 1224.5 ft. long x17 ft x 35ft
Max. Roof Height: 292 ft.
Arched Truss Weight (ea.): 3,255 tons
Video Score Board Size: 20,000 sq. ft.
Grouts Used On Arch Footers: L&M EPOGROUT 758
Total Epogrout 758 Used: 440 Cubic Feet (880 units)

The field you see below is actually three stories DOWN.  It’s subterranean.  96,000 truck loads of earth were removed prior to starting the foundation work.    Can you imagine the time it took to remove and haul that number of loads? 

The “carpet” is laid in ten yard widths with the yard-line markings stitched into the backing then adhered onto one inch open cell foam padding.  There is no “painting” on the surface at all—just stitched into the composite.  I thought this was very interesting.  If you look closely, you can see two stars in the picture.  One indicating the Cowboys’ locker room and one indicating the Cheerleader locker room.  The visiting team does not get a star to run through.   I might mention the wood used for the individual lockers is made from the same material as the wood trim in Ms. Jerry Jones’s Bentley.

The stadium’s 660,800-square-foot retractable roof can be open or closed, depending on weather conditions.  It takes 12 minutes to open or close each roof panel and the roof opening is visible from an elevation of five miles. The roof is supported by two enormous arches, soaring 292 feet and weighing 3,255 tons each.   Please go back and take a look at the first picture of the stadium and you can see the huge beams supporting the roof panels.   The roof isn’t the only thing that can be opened when the weather is nice. Cowboys Stadium has the largest retractable end zone doors in the world, measuring 120 feet high by 180 feet wide and made of glass.   You can see one end zone section below.                              

These doors allow entry for special events, such as “monster truck” demonstrations, motocross races, etc etc.

 I certainly recommend that if you are in the Dallas area you take a look at the Cowboy’s stadium.    We took the self-guided tour but there are audio tours and tour guides for visiting groups.  It truly is an engineering marvel.

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