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When the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide takes on Michigan Saturday night, the players will be playing in an entirely different venue; Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. WSFA 12 News reporter Bryan Henry and photojournalist Doug Gooden were given a tour of the facility.
Like most things in Texas, Cowboys Stadium is big. We're talking $1.2 billion big. It's almost overwheling if you ask fans Reggie and Rebecca Lancaster of Tuscaloosa. "It's something else," Mr. Lancaster admits, but make no mistake, they are impressed.
Our guide inside was Brett Daniels, senior director of corporate communications for the Dallas Cowboys. "Everything is about creating a great fan experience here from the time you arrive til the game is over," he says.
It took 3 and a half years to build Cowboys Stadium, and it opened only four years ago. The field is 50 feet below the ground, seats more than 100,000 at full capacity and even boasts ten, huge sliding doors on each end of the endzone.
When the weather is comfortable they open them up. Part of the roof is retractable. It takes 12 minutes for the ceiling doors to slide back. "It creates a 120 foot by 180 foot opening," Daniels explains. "The doors slide open almost like a hangar door."
The cowboys locker room is at field level, and even the cheerleaders have their own space. Coming through one of the tunnels to get on the field is nothing short of spectacular.
The remarkable thing about the structure is it's primarily supported by just two steel columns, arched in a way to support the weight of the stadium. Each column is a quarter of a mile long, deeply embedded in concrete outside, "And what that does is create a space behind us that is the largest column-free room in the world," Daniels says of the facility.
The monsterous video screen hanging over the field weighs around 600 tons, adding a little flare to the largest domed stadium in the world. It's price tag? About $38 million! That's the price it cost to build the old Texas stadium in 1971 where the Cowboys used to play.
Daniels says what he finds amusing is despite seeing Cowboys Stadium on television and reading about it, jaws still drop when people see it in person for the first time. 'We hosted the NBA All Star Game in here a few years ago," Daniels recounts. They were taking a lot of pictures too.
This is where Alabama and Michigan will square off. Each team beginning their own season in Cowboys Stadium, Texas style.