Arguably the greatest sporting venue in the world will host the Final Four as college basketball's biggest weekend hits AT&T Stadium from April 5-7.
Jerry's World, as it is known by many given Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' involvement with the project, is quite the venue. The initial budget was expected to be in the neighborhood of $650 million, but it was quickly realized that was going to be unattainable given all of the bells and whistles included inside and outside the stadium. Once the stadium opened in May 2009, most estimates had the cost being about $1.3 billion. Yes, billion with a 'B'.
So what comes with $1.3 billion? For one, there is the biggest video board you've ever seen. It's bigger than a regulation size basketball court. It's so big that a punter in a football game can drill one of his kicks off the bottom of the board. The screen runs 72 feet high and 160 feet wide; for comparisons sake, you would need 4,920 regular 52-inch televisions to equal the size. All four screens run beautiful 1080p HD video, so there shouldn't be any doubt on replays. The board needs 30,000 light bulbs to run weighs 1.2 million tons.
The base seating capacity is 80,000, but it can be extended to as high as 110,000 for huge events. It isn't clear just how many seats will be filled for the Final Four, but given how well the fan bases of the four remaining teams travel, it certainly won't be easy finding a great seat in Arlington. Jerry's World has already hosted a few basketball games, including a showdown between North Carolina and Texas in 2009. Here is a great look at how the field was converted into a basketball court:
While fans are certainly free to walk around and explore the stadium on gameday, many who have visited recommend going on guided tour of Jerry's World. It's a little pricey, but a tour guide will take you to every corner of the monstrosity and show the attendees things they would've never seen if they went alone.
Are you hungry yet? They sell just about every kind of ballpark food and beverage at Cowboys Stadium, and there are also a ton of great options around the stadium. Just be prepared to pay a little (or a lot) more than you normally would. Hot dogs will run about $7. A small beer will set you back anywhere from $8-10 bucks. Even a bottle of water will go for $5. If you're really hungry, the better bet is to probably stop somewhere along the way and get some food before heading into the stadium.
All of these amenities, of course, did not come cheap. Voters in the city of Arlington approved a 0.5 percent spike in the city's sales tax to help pay for construction costs. Staying in a hotel or renting a car for the week of the Final Four? Taxes are going to be much higher than usual.
The city of Arlington shelled out over $325 million to help construct Jerry's World. The NFL also gave the Cowboys some money. This truly is Jerry Jones' baby, though, as he footed almost all of the expense for anything that went over the initial budget.
For as grand of a spectacle as the Final Four is, the folks in Arlington are already well-versed in putting on a show for big events. The stadium hosted the 2011 Super Bowl and is now the annual host to the Cotton Bowl. Some of the biggest musicians in the world have performed at the stadium, as well. Mix in about 90,000 screaming Cowboys fans packing the place every Sunday, and we should be in for a terrific time this week before a team cuts down the nets.
This will be the first time Cowboys Stadium will host the Final Four since it opened in 2009. This will also be the first national championship played in Texas since the Connecticut Huskies cut the nets down in Houston in 2011.
With four great teams ready to descend on Dallas, Cowboys Stadium is uniquely equipped to handle the party. For one of the biggest events in sports, there is no more appropriate setting.