You might have heard some mention that yesterday’s game was the last time the Redskins would be playing a regular season game at Texas Stadium. It came up one or two times in the run up to the game, and it’s POSSIBLE that someone might have alluded to it after the game.
So it was pretty exciting for me as a Redskins fan to get to see the old place before it closed. Lot of history there, I figured. Hole in the roof so God can watch, I figured. NFL landmark, I figured. Must be pretty impressive, I figured. Which made it pretty surprising when I found out just how shabby so much of the place was. Not hideous, not a disaster area, just … a little run down.
(Let me hurry to mention that the PEOPLE there — fans and employees alike — were all kind and pleasant, and the Dallas PR staff was attentive almost to the point of obsequiousness. No complaints about them whatsoever. These observations apply solely to infrastructure.)
Everyone else knew about this, apparently. Every time I mentioned to someone — in the press box, on the sidelines, on the bus to the airport — how beat-up the place looked, they cheerfully agreed. The word most commonly used was “dump”. But I didn’t know that going in, and since I didn’t know I’m going to guess that a lot of other people don’t know. So here’s a quick look at some of what I was able to see.
The press box, loose panes of glass aside, is more or less like the other press boxes I’ve seen, just somehow dingier. The chairs have a tendency to fall over loudly and suddenly, which seems like both a design flaw and something of a danger, especially since the press box gleefully serves beer after the game ends.
A staffer, veteran of a number of Dallas games, laughed when I observed this. “You think this is bad,” he said, “you should see where they stick the radio guys.”
And where is that? “Go out of the press box and find a little hidden stairway. Go up that stairway until you can’t go up any more, and turn left. It’s like a dungeon up there.” These directions — and the description — turned out to be completely accurate. The hallway to the radio booth was cramped, and appeared to be a complete afterthought to the rest of the building.
I passed Redskins Radio color guy Sam Huff heading up the stairs, and even he seemed to think the whole thing was a bit much, hoping that they’d make things make a bit more sense in the new building. And it certainly is strange. Even from the main press box, the quickest and most efficient way to get down to field level is to take the elevator to the mezzanine and walk down the aisle (between Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman on the ring of stars) between the fans to the field. This is, needless to say, somewhat impractical, which makes the auxiliary/radio press box impractical squared.
(ESPN 980 Redskins beat reporter Frank Hanrahan, getting ready for a broadcast, looked completely cheerful about the location, but Hanranhan’s just an upbeat kind of guy in general.)
The bathrooms in the press box were softly lit, but it was unclear whether this was mood lighting, or just an attempt to minimize the effects of the strangely patterned wallpaper.
The walk from the press box to the field is also oddly long … but ultimately worth it. The field in Texas Stadium is, at least visually, the most striking thing about the place, and the only thing that looks better in person than it does on TV. “The fans are right on top of you,” Pete Kendall told me, “I think they feel closer there than anywhere I’ve played besides maybe Notre Dame.” I didn’t have precisely the same feeling — in fact, I felt like the sideline areas were somehow MORE spacious, like the field was highlighted in the middle of space.
And one thing that contributes to this effect is, yes, the stupid hole in the roof. At least toward the start of the game, the sun comes through the hole focused like a stage spotlight, and everything on the field takes on an appearance of heightened reality.
It’s a good thing that the field is so nice, though, since not all the facilities match up. “I don’t know what the home locker room is like,” Jon Jansen said, “but the visitor’s locker room, there’s only two cans, no one wants to stand in line and no one wants to use ’em once someone’s been in there.” He laughs. “It’s a landmark, but it’s definitely an older stadium.”
One person with kind things to say about Texas Stadium is Santana Moss, though. “I love this stadium and the stadium loves me,” he said (more than once). “I don’t know why, but it’s the way it is.” But even he doesn’t get too sentimental about it. “Guess I’ll just have to start on over at the new place.”