Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farewell to the Hole in the Roof

After 38 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys will play their final game at Texas Stadium tonight, and there's a whole lotta reminiscin' goin' on. I'll add briefly to the collection here.

The building is best known, of course, for what isn't there: the famous hole in the roof. Architecture critic David Dillon puts it best when he says, "It's odd to think of negative space as iconic, but that's what the hole in the roof has become – absence as presence." And he also adds,
That probably wasn't what Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. had in mind in 1969, when he chose a half-dome design for his new stadium in Irving. More likely he was calculating all the money he'd save on heating and air conditioning, which even in the days of $15-a-barrel oil was a bunch. Plus this was football, gladiatorial combat; fans were entitled to a bit of shelter, but players belonged out in the elements, regardless of consequences.
It's interesting to see how things have changed in the intervening decades; in the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington, the roof will probably close at the slightest hint of snow.

The Dallas Morning News has put together a special section of Texas Stadium stories, the Web version of which is here. Among other things, the section features reminiscences by the original architect and the longtime general manager of the stadium, as well as lists of some of the top pro, college and high school games played there (it was a highlight of many high schoolers' careers to play under the famous open roof). And one of the best articles in the collection is this one, told from the perspective of the stadium itself, "as told to" writer Brad Townsend.

As for my own memories? I marched there a few times as a member of the UNT Green Brigade marching band (among the things that surprised me the first time I was there: The field is set up in a convex pattern, presumably to aid in drainage during rainy conditions, so it feels like you're marching uphill as you approach the midfield; also, the stars along the sideline are of different sizes, depending on where you are on the field, though they look identical on TV), saw a number of Cowboys games there, including the one that would end up being Tom Landry's final game as head coach, though we didn't know it at the time), and a number of concerts, most notably Pink Floyd (it was weird to see the famous inflatable pig used on the cover of Animals floating in the air juxtaposed against the Ring of Honor in the background). And I also remember the concert I didn't get to see: Billy Joel and Elton John. We made it all the way to the box office, only to find out that the tickets were "cash only," and my friend who drove us only had plastic. D'oh.

It's been said that the two things most people do when they take a stadium tour are look up through the hole in the roof and stand on the star. I don't know if I did that on that first college game day or not, but I'll make it a point to try that at the new place, whatever circumstances might bring me on the field.

I've watched the new stadium go up in Arlington during the past year, and it certainly looks impressive, and in due time, a lot of memories will be made there as well. But for now, it's time to pause and remember a local icon that brought so much enjoyment to so many. With any luck, the "Boys will win the game and send the building out in fine fashion.

UPDATE: Oops. That didn't work so well, did it?

Blowing out the candles: Happy Birthday Dad! As has been the case recently, I don't get to see him on the actual day, but we'll all meet up for Christmas.

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