“How long does the guided tour last?” asked the man in the queue ahead of me at the ticket booth.
“About four hours. Is that good for you?” replied the guy in the booth.
“…err… I’m not sure I have that much time. I’ll have to check with my group” replied the man, rather taken aback.
“No, just kiddin’…it’s about an hour and a half” smiled the guy, and took a rather relieved sale. The same guy turned out to be the tour guide, which boded well for the very good tour that followed.
It’s just as well it was an hour an a half, as that was pretty much the exact maximum time I could spare. Unlike the Minute Maid Park tour that I could walk to, the AT&T Stadium is 20 miles from Dallas, and only just reachable by a regional public transport network which envies the hairs on Bobby Charlton’s head for the extent of their coverage.
While Dallas does feel more like a proper city than Houston, it’s still not over blessed with tourist attractions. No.1, without a doubt, is the Book Depository. And while it might be slightly macabre that a murder scene is a city’s biggest attraction, there is a certain detached thrill to walking round Dealey Plaza and the “grassy knoll”, and picking out the Xs painted on the road, marking where the bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald hit their mark. With not enough in the city to justify spending the whole of my last day there, I combined a trip to Fort Worth in the afternoon with a trek out to AT&T Stadium in the morning.
A near two-hour train and bus trip dumped me about a km from the stadium, but even from there, you can’t help be impressed by the sheer bulk of this $1.3 billion edifice, as it towers over the low-rise district it dominates.
The place doesn’t disappoint inside either. It’s just huge. Four tiers of seating rise up at the sides, and although the ends have only small seating decks for their third and fourth tiers, the place still holds 80000. Also inescapably vast are the video screens hung from the roof of this fully a/c dome. At a staggering 60 yards wide, brushing limitations of gravity aside, its surface is only 3 yards short of being able to host a full size ice hockey rink.
Another thrill for many male members of the tour group was being allowed into the (sadly not being used at the time) changing room of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. One of the skimpy outfits was on display in one of the personalised changing areas – each with the name and picture of the cheerleader in question. One guy got slightly perturbed, or excited – it was hard to tell, by the information that this was the very area where these 35 or so women would be in a state of undress before and after every game.
Even bigger was the players’ changing room, and from there you went out through the players’ tunnel, under the giant star meant to put fear into visiting teams, albeit not too successfully of late it seems.
And then, onto the pitch, to wander round on at your leisure. Sadly for many, the real Dallas Cowboys field wasn’t down. Instead a college football one was down instead. For someone like myself though, this just meant a lack of “COWBOYS” painted in blue and silver in the end zones, and well as a “Cowboys showdown” badge in the centre of the field rather than the usual blue “lone star” – the lone star obviously being the symbol of Texas, rather than indicating sponsorship by Newcastle Brown Ale.
Annoyingly, my 12.17 bus, and the prospect of a two hour delay if I missed it, meant I had little more than a five minute rush round its spongy surface. As much as I enjoy that special joy of being “on the pitch”, I didn’t want to have to run back to the bus stop in muggy 90 degree heat, nor miss that bus. An afternoon in Fort Worth, and a date with a herd of cattle (no, not that kind of date) awaited.