Covering more than 9,200 square miles, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex spans an area that is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Made up of more than a dozen cities and over 7 million residents, it is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. As the old saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas and nothing and nowhere exemplifies that state of mind quite like the Big D.
Everything that the Metroplex does is big, flashy and over-the-top. In no other area is this sense of grandeur witnessed than in their sports franchises. For more than 60 years, the Metroplex has been at the front and center of sports in the United States. The area is home to six major league franchises and has been the host site to a Super Bowl, two NCAA men’s Final Fours and multiple championship boxing matches. It also annually hosts two NASCAR races and two PGA Tour stops and is home to a score of minor league franchises and dozens more college teams in dozens more sports.
The stadiums built to house the big league franchises are some of the largest and most opulent palaces for professional sports in the world. The uninitiated might be asking what sets these venues apart from other such arenas in the country. Read on for the answer.
Big-time pro sports made its debut in the Metroplex in 1960 with the birth of the Dallas Cowboys. The team that became synonymous with style and flash would earn the moniker of “America’s Team” in the 1970s. A parade of legendary all-time greats have worn the star of the Cowboys; Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin have led the boys to five Super Bowl titles since the team’s debut.
After calling the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and Texas Stadium in Irving home, owner Jerry Jones moved his team to the Taj Mahal of the NFL, AT&T Stadium, in Arlington in 2009. Home to one of the world’s largest high-definition video screens (measuring a staggering 11,520 square feet), “Jerry’s World,” as it is colloquially known, hosted the Super Bowl in 2011, the College Football National Championship Game in 2015 and Wrestlemania 32 in 2016. It has become the gold standard against which all other football stadiums in the country are measured.
“AT&T Stadium could be considered the mecca of sports stadiums over the last decade,” said Michael James, the North Texas regional correspondent for Stadium Journey, a site that specializes in reviewing sporting venues from the fan perspective. “I moved to the DFW Metroplex in 1999, so I have been following Dallas sports teams, regularly, for the last 20 years. [The Metroplex] is Dallas Cowboys country. The city thrives on the Cowboys.”
In 1972, the Cowboys were joined on the local sports scene by Texas’s second entrant into Major League Baseball when the latest incarnation of the Washington Senators moved to Arlington, becoming the Texas Rangers. For 20 years, the Rangers called Arlington Stadium home. Aside from being the final stop in the Hall of Fame career of the great Nolan Ryan and the beginning of the career of the great Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the Rangers proved to be more of a frustration to their fans than a delight for the bulk of their early history.
The team moved to their current home, Globe Life Park, in 1994 and their fortunes changed almost overnight. Division titles began in 1995 and the Rangers made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. In 2020, the Rangers will move into a new stadium, Globe Life Field, the first closed-roof stadium in Rangers history.
“Arlington is always referred to as the sports and entertainment capital of Texas,” said Decima Mullen, senior director of marketing and public relations with the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We will soon have three world-class facilities adjacent to each other: AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park and the new billion-dollar Globe Life Field, which is currently under construction. Beyond that, we are now home to the No. 1 eSports stadium in the United States with the introduction of eSports Stadium Arlington. Our fans are the best in the nation and we are dedicated to providing the best possible venues and experiences for both traditional and nontraditional sporting events.”
Dallas Mavericks and Stars
The NBA made its debut in Dallas in 1980 (the city was previously home to the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals from 1967-1973, now the San Antonio Spurs) with the arrival of the Dallas Mavericks. In 1993, the NHL came to town with the arrival of the former Minnesota North Stars. With their installation in Big D, the name morphed to the Dallas Stars.
“The access to professional and amateur sports in North Texas is phenomenal,” said Marla Roe, Visit Frisco’s executive director. “Sports is a major pillar of our metropolitan economy and I think most people enjoy a better quality of life from having all of these venues and teams in their backyard. Being centrally located also allows us to have fans from all over the country easily travel here. For Sports City, USA, having eight professional teams headquartered or playing here in Frisco, our residents never have to stray very far from home to enjoy exciting sports experiences.”
The Mavericks and the Stars have enjoyed periods of success, bringing championships to the city. The Mavs made the NBA Finals in 2006 and brought home the prize in 2011, led by future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. The Stars made back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 and 2000, thanks to NHL greats Mike Modano and Brett Hull, and took home the Stanley Cup in 1999. In 2001, the teams moved into the American Airlines Center in the middle of downtown Dallas. Built on the site of an old power plant in Victory Park, the unique design resembles an airplane hangar.
In 1996, Major League Soccer (MLS) arrived on the scene with the Dallas Burn. Owned and operated by one of the first families of Texas sports, the Hunts, the team changed its name to FC Dallas in 2005 in time for its move to Toyota Stadium in Frisco and has been a hit with fans ever since.
“Toyota Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and set the bar for professional soccer,” said Roe. “The addition of the National Soccer Hall of Fame provides a unique and immersive experience that I think visitors really appreciate.”
The Dallas sports scene would be complete with the arrival of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings in 2016. The former Detroit/ Tulsa Shock brought with them three WNBA championships when they moved into College Park Center on the campus of the University of Texas—Arlington.
“The best way to describe why DFW is great for sports is ‘availability,’” said James. “The American Airlines Center is one of the most fan-friendly arenas in the country. Globe Life Park, although in its final season, is still a great place to watch baseball. AT&T Stadium [in Arlington] could be considered the mecca of sports stadiums over the last decade. Toyota Stadium in Frisco is now the home to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.”
“The best way to describe sports fans in North Texas is ‘blessed,’” said Josh Dill, the director of sports and events for Visit Frisco. “There are a limited number of metropolitan areas in the U.S. that have teams from [all of ] the major sports leagues, and we are very lucky to have that here. All the teams enjoy strong support from their fan bases, which continue to drive the teams to reinvest in the community.”