Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones’s high hopes for his new stadium.

Evan Smith: The earliest instance I can find of your wanting a new home for the team is 1994. Here we are, fifteen years later, sitting in a suite overlooking the 50-yard line and this grand stadium. Did it turn out, in the end, the way you imagined it might back then?

Jerry Jones: It’s beyond the scope of what I imagined. I would have to say that, relative to where we were in ’94, we’re 200 percent more invested. I got caught up in it, and my family got caught up in it, and our organization got caught up in it. The more we saw other venues, the more we realized that if the Dallas Cowboys made this kind of commitment, the perception of that, regarding the franchise, would float all boats. I always said, “Don’t miss this opportunity. It doesn’t come to too many people. It doesn’t happen in too many lifetimes. Do it right.” Now, I didn’t anticipate that we would have a downturn in the economy, but it’s a credit to the Cowboys, to our stature, that in the times we’re in, we would be able to do this at the level we’ve done it.

ES: If there’s any evidence that you cut back because of the recession, I’m not seeing it.

JJ: When I bought the Cowboys, in 1989, it seemed like every bank in Dallas was going broke. Buildings downtown were half-empty and half-finished. It was a tough time. But you know, that’s why I got to buy the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve watched that downturn turn into an upturn, and I know that upturn helped impact where we are today with the team. What you’re seeing in the finish-out of this stadium is a real belief in the stability and the future of the National Football League. [Pro football is] the number-one-rated program in all of television, and the Cowboys are the number-one-rated brand in the NFL. So you’re right: I haven’t cut back. As a matter of fact, I’ve added. I’ve added because I can, and because this isn’t a dress rehearsal.

ES: This will be a billion-dollar expenditure by the time it’s over?

JJ: A billion two.

ES: Of which the City of Arlington provided $325 million?

JJ: Correct. The remainder came from four other sources. We have a plan in the NFL that allows other owners to waive their visiting team share of the “club seat premium” during the time you construct. Some came from that. Certainly a significant portion of it came from the owner source—from me. We did a ticket tax. And there was some debt. In December of last year, we had to step back into the credit market because the credit we had arranged became compromised, as did so much credit around the country. It says something tremendous about the Dallas Cowboys that at the height of sensitivity [in the banking sector], we were able to get a large line of credit, a total of $475 million. As it turns out, we’re only going to need about $350 million.

ES: In fairness, the banks knew where to find you if you didn’t make your payments.

JJ: I agree with you. But it was really about the recognition that the Cowboys are at the top of the sports world.

ES: How soon will you make back that $1.2 billion through ticket sales, suite sales, concessions, venue rentals, broadcast rights, and all the available sources of earned income?

JJ: You’d respect me more as a businessman if I knew. I don’t. That’s a product of the economy we’re in. But no one has ever tried to operate this kind of venue before. We have 3 million square feet of air-conditioned space. Texas Stadium had about 950,000 square feet, and it wasn’t enclosed. I know that in the new stadium, we’ll benefit from an uptick in revenues from traditional sources. We put 63,700 people in Texas Stadium. We’ll put close to 100,000 people in this stadium for our premium games. Do the math—that alone gives us a huge increase from tickets and concessions. There will also be tremendous appreciation over time in the price of seats and suites, and that will make us the highest-revenue team in sports. The verdict is out as to where we’ll be on expenses, but the bottom line is that having a place with this visibility for the Cowboys to play in was enough for me to spend the money.

ES: How dependent is the revenue picture on the success of the team? It would stand to reason that a 9-7 season would not be as much of a revenue producer as a 14-2 season.

JJ: The success of the team is very important in terms of our sources of revenue. Because of the fans we have and the makeup of the fan base, when the Cowboys have success, it’s like putting a match in a room filled with gasoline. It just explodes. When we don’t have success, we may flatten or dip, but not as much as teams that don’t have the tradition or don’t have the interest that we have. Having said that, the new stadium will improve our chances for success because it will create more revenue. The one thing I’m known for in the NFL after twenty years is, I will spend the money.

ES: If you make more, you can get better players.

JJ: We criticize a team like the New York Yankees because they do that, but it does help them compete.

ES: It would be hard not to want to have their record this year.

JJ: Exactly. Then again, in football, what you spend doesn’t necessarily equate to success. The first year I won the Super Bowl, I was next to last in the NFL in spending money. The thing that happens, though, is that when you win the Super Bowl, your players command more money.

ES: One of the things I notice is that you could have

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