Home > NFL > The Stage: The Colosseum to Cowboys Stadium

The Stage: The Colosseum to Cowboys Stadium

It is Super Bowl week.  More than just a national past time it has become a global phenomenon and regularly the single most watched sporting event in the world every year.  Over 100 million people tune in to the biggest show on earth and the biggest show certainly needs the biggest stage.  This year it will have exactly that.  Pittsburgh and Green bay, two of the NFL’s oldest teams will square off inside a brand new and bigger than life product of technology and engineering.  I for one have no horse in the race this year so I have chosen a different route to lend my support to.  I am hoping for an amazing game hosted by my Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry in his Jones Mahal.

Since its grand opening in 2009 it has widely been considered the pinnacle venue for sports entertainment, already hosting the Cotton Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, and a pair of Manny Pacquiao fights.  It’s hard to argue that we have ever seen such an arena in modern day sports, which is why I thought it would be interesting this week to examine it alongside the most famous stadium ever built; Rome’s Colosseum

Old School

At the time of its completed construction in 80 A.D. it was the largest arena in history.  It featured a radical new design as most theatres of the time were built into the side of a hill as a semicircular structure viewing the show from only one side.  The design of the Colosseum was to take two of these semicircles and put them together to create an elliptical bowl capable of viewing action from all angles.  Naturally you can see how this gave birth to all stadiums we see today including Cowboys Stadium which is shaped more or less like a football which allows the length of the field to run down the middle rather than a perfect circle.

The Colosseum itself covers about 6 acres while Cowboys Stadium covers 73 which is really an incredible figure when you consider that the Roman stadium still managed to hold about half the amount of people (50,000) that will be on hand for the Super Bowl.  One of the main features of the Colosseum that has become a focal point in present day arenas, particularly Cowboys Stadium, was the arch structure.  The entire construction is centered around the design with row after row of very basic arches providing the support needed while keeping the building relatively light and spacious.  While it is widely known that many stadiums of today have retractable roofs that can provide the best conditions to play in, this idea was not lost on the Romans.  It surprised me to learn that on extremely sunny days an enormous canopy could be drawn across the top to provide shade. 

 New School

For the lucky few (or maybe not as there will be over 110,000) who get to be inside Cowboys Stadium on February 6 for kickoff there will be countless ways to enjoy the game.  The stadium boasts 200 private suites, 80,000 seats and 3000 LCD televisions throughout the concourse, and with a total construction cost of 1.3 billion dollars there should be.  The stadium holds numerous world records but perhaps the most famous aspect of the building is the pair of high definition video boards that hang above the center of the field spanning from one 20 yard line to the next.  When the NBA All-Star Game was played in the arena last year the TV was actually larger than the court.  Instead of employing outside services a new company was created upon completion which would act as a joint venture between Yankees Stadium and Cowboys simply to run and supply the restaurants and food stands operated at both venues.  As I mentioned earlier the arch structure is a borrowed design from the Romans incorporated in the building although it has changed a bit.  The stadium is supported by two primary arches each spanning a quarter mile in length.

Did I mention power?  One thing that can’t be compared between the two arenas is of course electricity.  That big TV doesn’t run on its own.  According to Oncor electric who powers the stadium and much of North Texas, the building’s electrical system is the most advanced of its kind and took a team of 45 engineers three years to design and build.  Due to the recent winter storm hitting North Texas leading up to this week’s big game, rolling blackouts were scheduled to relieve the area’s maxed out power grid.  Not to worry though, Homeland Security and the FBI requested Cowboys Stadium receive an exemption.  After all, it was media day on Tuesday.

It is the largest dome structure on the planet and has many nicknames including Jerry World and (I kid you not) God’s Theatre, and while even I will admit this may be a tad bit over the top it still makes me smile in admiration.

The Show

Whether it be 50,000 in a stone amphitheatre or 110,000 in a modern day gridiron palace, it is difficult to gather as many people for any other event but the thrill of competition.  It is safe to say that the competitions themselves have changed greatly over 2000 years.  No longer do we gather to watch men slay each other with swords and shields but while the athletics may have been tamed the places we see them have only become bigger, brighter, and louder.

Personally it pains me this week to see the disappointment in Jerry Jones’s eyes as he tours media around the great stadium he built in hopes that his team would be playing in it this Sunday.  However, I don’t believe Jones has anything to be ashamed of.  When he proposed a new 750 million dollar arena he told the city of Arlington that if they put forth 325 million he would pay the difference from his pocket no matter what the cost ran up to and he built a theatre for the ages.

The world’s best competitors went to war two-thousand years ago in the grandest theatre there was, built by the most dominant empire in the world.  Now it is the NFL that reigns as the most prodigious empire in terms of athletics as it is globally the richest and most watched league, bar none.  On Sunday it will present its climactic finale on the greatest stage it has to offer.  The way it should be.

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