Itinerant Fan

AT&T Stadium

In its short lifetime (since 2009), AT&T Stadium has become a veritable sports mecca, serving as home for a Super Bowl, a Final Four, an NBA All-Star Gamechampionship boxing matches and college football’s championship game. Oh, and don’t forget the “regular” events held there — Cowboys games, regular-season college football games and college basketball games. It’s an increasingly ambitious slate of events, but who’d expect any less from a massive 80,000-seat facility known by many as Jerry World?

And Jerry Jones’ creation, the former Cowboys Stadium, is really a sight to behold. Pretty much every time it’s shown on TV, a big deal is made of its size, its unique roof and architecture, and its giant scoreboard hanging over the playing surface. Those things are all pretty awe-inspiring on TV, but you really do have to go there to get the true feeling of how massive everything is. And then you start to understand why so many things get scheduled there.

Because such a variety of events are held at AT&T Stadium, the opportunity exists for many more fans to find their way to Arlington whether they like the NFL or not. But me personally, when I visit a stadium for the first time I like to do so for its original intended purpose, and that means the Cowboys. And I picked a good one to attend, the season opener against the 49ers.

  •   The Approach

    Like most locales in the Dallas Metroplex, Arlington is not an easy place to get to if you don’t have access to a car. The city is situated between Dallas and Fort Worth (though slightly closer to Fort Worth), and while Dallas has a light-rail system, it goes nowhere near Arlington. (A fun fact I stumbled across while researching this trip: Arlington is the largest city in the country population-wise without its own public transportation system.)

    So if you’re flying in from out of town, you’re left with either renting a car or taking a cab. The stadium sits about a mile south of Interstate 30, aptly named the Tom Landry Freeway, with exits at Collins Street or Ballpark Way. And it’s difficult to get lost as long as the day is clear, because the stadium is visible for miles. I took a cab directly from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a journey of almost 15 miles, and as soon as we exited the airport grounds heading south, I could already see the stadium in the distance. It’s that big.

    Once you’re there, there are many lots around, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny for parking — up to $75 depending on the lot. The stadium is surrounded by neighborhoods, strip malls and a Walmart, and some of those residences and businesses offer up parking for a little cheaper — but still expensive as far as sports event parking goes.

  •   The Build-Up

    Booking.com

    The tailgate scene is strong at AT&T Stadium, and the vast parking lots that surround the venue give people ample room to spread out. So if you’ve got an RV or just a portable grill, have a few friends ready to join you and don’t mind ponying up the money, the opportunity is there for you. On this particular day, with a 3:25 p.m. Central time kickoff, there was ample time to tailgate, too. (Of course, this meant a huge logjam at the turnstiles in the final half-hour before kickoff as folks scrambled to get inside in time.)

    If that’s not your thing, there are more than a few restaurants nearby — particularly across Collins Street to the west of the stadium, while a handful of restaurants a little farther away offer shuttle service to the game if you choose their establishments. If you’ve got kids in tow, you can also hit up Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park about a mile away (just at the edge of reasonable walking distance to the stadium).

    Because of the proximity of AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park, Six Flags and various restaurants in what is essentially Arlington’s entertainment district, there are a number of hotels in the area that many fans were emerging from as game time approached. Depending on the weather (on this day, the first Sunday in September, it was hot and humid but not unbearably so), the walk to the stadium can actually be quite pleasant, with pathways from the northeast passing through a park and alongside a lake.

  •   The Ambiance

    When you’re attending an event with 80,000 of your closest friends, you can’t help but get caught up in the atmosphere. And it’s easy to be festive at AT&T Stadium, with wide concourses and large plazas both inside and outside the stadium for fans to congregate without it feeling too claustrophobic. The ends of the stadium are particularly good spots to just hang out — particularly on the west end, there’s a huge bar and big TVs for fans to sit, imbibe and watch other games. With all those amenities, why even go inside?

    I make that last point because the Cowboys do take advantage of all these amenities. If you’re looking for tickets, whether they be on the primary or secondary markets, you will no doubt notice that the cheapest tickets are for something called a “Party Pass.” Know that those are basically standing-room only tickets, and like most NFL stadiums, standing-room areas are limited and typically only advantageous to fans who enter right when the stadium opens and stake out the best spots. These may work out for some people, but the anecdotal evidence I’ve gotten is that the experience is usually negative. So if you’re looking for a bargain, buy at your own risk.

    Me, I was not willing to take that risk, so I went ahead and spent a fistful of cash for a seat. And this one, in section 404, was not too bad. It was only six rows up, at the same level as the concourse (meaning, I didn’t have to climb up steps to get to the row), and offered me a reasonable view of the game and the giant videoboard. And oh, what a glorious view the giant videoboard affords you — it is likely the first thing you heard about the stadium from people you have been there, and it truly is worth a visit to see how humongous and crystal-clear the thing is. It stretches from 20-yard-line to 20-yard-line, and when the game isn’t in progress it sure shows a lot of commercials and other nonsense. But just try peeling your eyes off it for more than 30 seconds at a time, no matter where in the stadium you’re sitting. It’s pretty difficult.

    If you’re looking for interesting food options, there’s a few to be had at AT&T Stadium — though to be honest, I didn’t seek them out, only going for a soda around the second quarter. And by that point, the game was already getting out of hand, the 49ers jumping to a big lead on their way to a Week 1 victory and delighting the VERY sizable 49ers fan contingent that made their way to Arlington. I’m not good at estimating crowds, but I really thought as much as 40 percent of the crowd was wearing red. The Cowboys fans who were still around at game’s end seemed to take the defeat in good humor as they exited the big stadium. Traffic was, not surprisingly, a nightmare getting out, but at least that huge bar in the plaza was still open.

The Particulars

Home Teams
Dallas Cowboys

Address
1 AT&T Way
Arlington, TX 76011

Year Opened
2009

Capacity
80,000

Upcoming Events
All times local
Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, November 5, 2017
3:25 pm
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Texas Tech Red Raiders at Baylor Bears Football
Saturday, November 11, 2017
12:00 pm
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Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, November 19, 2017
7:30 pm
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Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys
Thursday, November 23, 2017
3:30 pm
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Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
Thursday, November 30, 2017
7:25 pm
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