Blogs are normally pretty short and to the point, but this is no normal blog. Through a few strokes of good luck, News-Telegram News Editor Faith Huffman, Photographer Luis Noble and I were part of sport and entertainment history Saturday.
If we put this in print, it'd take up space until July 4th, so I decided to blog our story. Get a cup of coffee or your favorite adult beverage and settle in. Or not. While this might seem a long blog to you, imagine what the day felt like to my 57-year old feet!The three of us were invited to the opening of the new Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington. Working out the logistics of it all proved hilarious, but the three of us arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule and way ahead of most of the 60,000 people who were also invited to the party. Well, invited probably isn't the best word, since the seats around us were listed on e-Bay for $1,500 EACH, and parking spots were reportedly being scalped for as much as $150.
We arrived early because we were to be part of a media tour prior to the show, which was set to begin at 5:30 p.m.
The scheduled entertainment for this grand opening party were Julianne Hough, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire and the King of Country Music, George Strait.
Getting to the spectacular venue was a snap compared to what happened once we were given our press credentials. It was at that point that things seemed to unravel.
According to the detailed e-mail we received from Strait's people, all media was supposed to congregate at the "players entrance," which must be the best kept secret in stadium-land, because no one inside, including security, event staff and guest relations, knew where "the players entrance" was.
The three of us had a complete self-guided tour of the main level, all the while looking for the ever-so-elusive "players entrance."
After walking the entire peremeter of the building, we realized we were back where we started from. There was other media there, too, looking about as lost as we were. Everyone seemed relieved to (1) find others of their species and (2) to learn they weren't the only ones who had been wandering aimlessly through the cavernous halls of the venue, asking "Do you know where the players entrance is?"
As if on cue, members of the Cowboys organization showed up and the official tour was on. We saw much of the same real estate we'd covered while trying to find the "players entrance," (which, for obvious reasons is unmarked - but for not-so-obvious reasons was a total mystery to event staff), plus we got a "walk by" of the sky suites area. By "walk by," I mean just that. We were not allowed to peek into any of the suites, so we had to be satisfied with glimpses of sumptuous buffet lines through open doors as we were whisked by.
It is a beautiful place, looking more like a corporate headquarters than a football stadium, but I'll leave the rest of the building details to Faith, who's doing a review of the space and to Luis, who shot photos all day.
After the media tour, the real hilarity began.
Faith and I had seats on the floor. Luis didn't.
According to the guidelines from Strait's people, Luis could shoot still photos during the first 2 songs of each act. Then, he would be escorted out of the venue to wait for the next performer. Once he had his "Strait" shots, he was to leave the building. That's the main reason he took his vehicle and paid $40 to park at a small restaurant near the building.
So, we split up. Luis was taken to a temporary media room while Faith and I were told to go our seats.
"Take a right in front of the T-shirt store and go until you see a sign on the wall that says 'Floor Seating,'" said the nice guest relations lady. "It will take you to a ramp that goes down to the floor."
We walked 1/2 around the stadium (our third trip of the day), without any hint of "Floor Seating."
So we asked someone to direct us.
"They closed that ramp," said a member of the event staff. "You'll have to take an elevator. Go right around the corner. The elevator's there."
We encountered another event staffer at the elevator who says, "This elevator is for suite owners only. You'll have to take the ramp."
"The ramp's closed," we told him. I'm sure we sounded pretty pitiful at this point.
"Okay," he said. "Wait here."
The line was so long, but there was a freight elevator right next to it.
After waiting several minutes, I asked if we could please use the freight elevator.
"Yes, but don't tell anyone I said you could."
We rode down with pallets of water bottles and cases of Miller Lite.
When the doors opened, Faith and I realized we were in the backstage area (since we had been through the black curtains twice already on our quest for the players entrance).
Several staffers scurried up to help us.
"We have tickets on the floor," I said. "We've been sent 1/2 way around the building to a closed ramp and an elevator full of beer. Can you help us?"
"You're backstage, but I'll get someone to escort you."
Another staffer volunteered to take us to our seats and off we went.
As we rounded a corner, our little party was spotted by security, who yelled something about this being backstage and no one was supposed to be back there and someone was going to hear about this.
Our sweet escort made some apologetic noises, but kept on walking, with us in tow.
She walked us to another elevator - I can't make this up - and told us to get on it and go up to the "main level, take a left" and we could get to our seats, even though we could SEE people on the floor through a set of double glass doors.
While it made no sense to either Faith or me to go UP, since our seats were on the FLOOR and we were already at FLOOR level and could see other FLOOR people and could hear Lee Ann singing, we did as we were told and got on an elevator that looked like the others - except it had a live operator. Apparently, this lift is for suite owners. They get a driver, while the rest of us push buttons.
The doors opened to the main level. That's when Faith and I told the young man who was punching the buttons and opening the doors that we needed to go back down to the floor.
An older woman who had obviously made several trips to the bar got in with us. She was holding a small order of nachos and was trying to get back down to her seat on the floor.
When the elevator guy told her she couldn't ride down, she went postal.
"I'm old," she wailed. "My legs are about to blow up. If I have to get out up here again, I'm going to hurt someone."
The doors closed and down we went in complete silence, three people and a grumpy woman who was cradling her food like it was the Baby Jesus.
The woman must have had a healing on the ride, because when the elevator doors opened, she took off running like a scalded dog, nachos pressed close to her chest.
The young elevator operator (who reminded me of a taller, skinnier Damon Wayans) looked like his head was about to spin right off his body. He said, "Just go through those glass doors. Hurry."
We were home free. On the third row, just right of center, no less.
All the confusion, misdirection, dead ends, closed ramps, cramped elevators and grumpy old women we had encountered since 2 p.m. just melted away.
Jerry Jones knows how to put on a show, I'll give him that. The entertainment was top notch.
Lee Ann Womack was a surprise replacement for Julianne Hough who either has strep throat or laryngitis, depending on what blog/news report you read. The Jacksonville native was in great voice, even though the sound was muddy. She can really sing.
Blake Shelton took the stage next and did a solid set of country rock, including a hilarious cover of the irritating "FreeCreditReport.com" song. I loved his arrangement of Michael Buble's "Home," and the homage to a dog named "Old Red."
Reba McEntire was in her element. She strutted, two-stepped and sang her way through her a number of her many hits and even shared the about-to-be-released single, "I Want a Cowboy," which was a real hit with the crowd.
George Strait was every bit as amazing as I remembered. Cool, calm, collected - he stood at the mike and performed as if he were singing to each and every one of the 60,000 fans. He walked the stage from side to side a bit between songs, or while his fabulous band, Ace in the Hole, wailed, but for the most part, it was just him, his guitar and a mike stand - and his fans loved it.
Getting out of the venue was a snap. Faith and I waited around for the masses to clear and then we walked straight those infamous glass doors, to the freight elevator, got on, rode up, stepped off and walked out of the unmarked "players entrance" like seasoned veterans. We joined the throngs of concert-goers trying to get home.
Once we got in the car, it took about 30 minutes to get as far as from the News-Telegram parking lot to the courthouse square, but after that it was pretty smooth sailing. I crawled into my bed at 4:19 Sunday morning.
Today is Luis' day off. I can't wait to hear his take on the 2-song drill and relive stories from our excellent adventure.
If you consider that Saturday was opening day for Jerry Jones' monument to his team, and when you stop to think about the planning and preparation needed to get ready for a crowd of 60,000 - I think the Cowboys staff did a great job - even if the concession stands had no drinking straws and ran out of food before the evening was over. Everyone was pleasant, tried to be helpful and security made its presence known, escorting two rowdy fans out near us during the show.
I hope they work out the issues with the sound. It was pretty garbled near the front - maybe it improved the further back and higher up you went. I don't go to stadium shows expecting to find opera house acoustics, but I would like to be able to understand the words and appreciate the quality of a singer's voice.
I would also suggest that corporate headquarters send out a memo letting staff know (1) the location of the "players entrance" and (2) how to get fans to their floor seats before the Jonas Brothers hit town on June 20.
Can't you just imagine the confusion of 60,000 teen-age girls trying to find the floor?
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