SBJ/20090419/Building for the Future

New scoreboard a pretty big deal

No design element defines the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium as much as Mitsubishi Electric’s monstrous center-hung scoreboard, the first of its kind in the NFL.

The massive display required a careful plan
to raise and secure it to the roof structure.
SCOREBOARD/VIDEO SCREEN
The scoreboard’s cost, $40 million, is more than what it cost to build all of Texas Stadium ($35 million).
The two large screens facing the sidelines are 159 feet, 7 inches wide and 71 feet, 4 inches tall. The two smaller screens facing the end zones are 50 feet, 5 inches wide and 28 feet, 6 inches tall. All told, there is more than 25,000 square feet of display area.
It would take 1,230 52-inch flat-screen televisions to equal the size of each of the sideline screens or, going smaller, 2,145 40-inch flat-panels.
The structural design team developed a 72-foot-tall steel structure with a 10-level network of catwalks to operate the board.
Three-inch-diameter steel cables grip each end of the video board structure’s I-shaped grid and extend vertically toward the opening in the roof. The cables are tethered to large steel box trusses that span the 256 feet between the stadium’s twin arches.
Compiled by Don Muret
Source: Dallas Cowboys

HKS design principal Bryan Trubey always wanted to develop such a showpiece in a stadium setting, but he never had the opportunity until his firm won the job to design the Cowboys venue. Team owner Jerry Jones loved the idea of making a dramatic statement with the board.

“We’re lucky that Jerry grabbed onto it and wanted to run with it when we proposed it to him,” Trubey said.

The board’s immensity, weighing 1.2 million pounds and stretching from one 20-yard line to the other, is unparalleled in big league sports, and there was a time during stadium development that the Cowboys wanted an even larger unit.

“We looked at it in three or four different scales,” Trubey said. “It increased in size dramatically from what we had been proposing originally. Jerry wanted it bigger and bigger and bigger, until we actually came down a bit in size because it was too big for the room.”

Its location, 90 feet above the field in the center of the stadium, will not block views of the game — nor be a threat to punts and kickoffs — and frees up real estate in the open end zones, where the Cowboys can set up portable seating for events such as the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2014 Final Four.

“We didn’t want to block anything,” Trubey said. “We wanted all our seats on the sidelines, and we wanted the end zone platforms open so you could see in and out of the building real easily.”

AN ARCHITECTURAL ICON
Each of the retractable doors in the stadium’s end zones has five glass panels that slide to the side to create entryways into the stadium. When those doors are fully retracted, the open spaces measure 120 feet high by 180 feet wide. The doors take 18 minutes to open and close.
The 86-foot-high glass wall ringing the stadium’s exterior slopes outward at a 14-degree angle to create a luminescent glow. Nice Airport in France and the Bloomberg Tower in New York were influences.
Tiny holes in the exterior wall — fritted glass — gradually get larger toward the top of the structure, creating the dynamic light pattern depending on the time of day.
The Cowboys, taking inspiration from Raymond James Stadium’s pirate ship and University of Phoenix Stadium’s extravaganza seating mode, developed platforms in each end zone for portable seating.
Millennium Park in Chicago was an influence for the landscaped plazas outside the stadium, drawing on its ability to accommodate a large number of people flowing through an open space.
The end zone suites at Qwest Field in Seattle were the model for the Cowboys’ 48 field-level suites. The NFL’s first sideline suites, 33 total, were adapted from Tom Hicks’ baseball bunker box at Rangers Ballpark.
Compiled by Don Muret
Sources: Dallas Cowboys, HKS
RETRACTABLE ROOF
The retractable roof is the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 661,000 square feet. When it’s closed, the roof caps a space that’s 104 million cubic feet in volume, making it the NFL’s largest enclosed stadium.
Each of the roof’s 128 motors powers a pinion, moving the operable panels down 328 feet of rack that is permanently attached to the arch trusses. Twelve minutes later, the two roof panels are locked in the open position to create the iconic “hole in the roof” that’s been adopted from Texas Stadium. Uni-Systems designed the roof mechanization.
The rack-and-pinion system must also power the retractable panels back into the closed position, overcoming a 23-degree slope in the opposite direction. The 128 motors together produce an amount of power that’s roughly equivalent to that of four Ford Mustang engines.
From directly above, when the roof is open, the entire playing field can be seen, and the opening itself is visible from an elevation of five miles.
Compiled by Don Muret
Source: Dallas Cowboys
STRUCTURAL ARCHES
The two monumental arches are the key structural elements that hold everything together at the new Cowboys Stadium. They rise 292 feet above the playing field and support the retractable roof, forming the largest column-free interior space in the world.
Each of the arches weighs 6.5 million pounds and stretches 1,225 feet in length, nearly a quarter mile.
A total of 50,000 bolts were used to fasten the arches together.
South arch truss construction began in July 2007 and was completed in October 2007. Building for the north arch truss started in November 2007 and was finished in February 2008.
Each of the four truss foundations withstands the force of 19 million pounds of pressure. The 25-by-11-foot concrete columns are large above ground, but the real enormity lies underground. They are anchored to a series of concrete walls, creating a buried box that measures 18 feet wide, 176 feet long and 71 feet deep.
Compiled by Don Muret
Source: Dallas Cowboys

Trubey also thinks the sight lines work better for a center-hung board in a stadium than in an arena because a football field is much wider and longer than a basketball court or hockey rink, so fans don’t have to crane their necks to see the screens.

The Cowboys are marketing the behemoth as a premium amenity for the 50,000-plus fans paying for the least-expensive seats in the upper deck, where they’ll be sitting at eye level with the giant screens. Jones said those fans might spend more time watching the board than the action down below.

“Your mind may not be able to differentiate when you’ve left the stadium, ‘Did I see the game on the board or on the field?’” he said.

Cowboys personnel plan to use eight in-house cameras, separate from national network feeds, to roam the stadium in search of what’s happening in places fans don’t have time to get to or have access to on game days.

“If your quarterback’s being X-rayed in the dressing room, you’ll be able to see that,” Jones said. “The idea is, as opposed to sitting at home watching it on television, when you come here, you will experience what goes on with being at an event.”

It’s an edge the center-hung board provides in teams’ escalating fight against consumers’ high-definition home theater systems, said Mark Williams, an HKS associate principal.

“The biggest competition for why you wouldn’t want to come here is you could sit at home and watch the Cowboys play on a 50-inch flat-screen TV in your living room, sitting in your favorite chair,” Williams said. “That’s a pretty serious option we looked at.”

Hanging the gigantic structure from the retractable roof provided a complex exercise in design engineering because of the sheer weight of the board and the risk of putting too much pressure on the two arch trusses that hold everything in the stadium together.

“Recognize that when you put all that weight on top of the roof, it will cause those arches to drop,” said project manager Jack Hill. “For us to be able to complete the tie-in of the roof at the perimeter, we had to fully weight the roof to simulate what it’s going to be under normal conditions.”

The board’s engineers laid 5,000 sandbags on the structure, each weighing 50 pounds, to simulate the weight of the video panels, removing them as each panel was installed. They considered using 55-gallon drums of water but decided against it because of all the electrical work involved, Hill said.

“Give HKS and [structural engineer] Walter P Moore all the credit,” he said. “It was a tremendous engineering effort in close coordination with the construction team.”

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