Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Cowboys Stadium Readies For Their One, and Only, Super Bowl

When the NFL awarded Jerry Jones and Cowboys Stadium Super Bowl XLV, the cities of Dallas, Forth Worth, and Arlington especially were ecstatic. They were ready to show they could be the best host city that's ever been.

The restaurants, bars, and clubs knew they be packed with patrons and celebrities alike. They didn't want to disappoint, they wanted to be ready.

Jones told the media just weeks prior to the big game that he wanted this to be the biggest Super Bowl party that anyone had ever seen. He wanted to break records and be remembered for the most attendance every in a Super Bowl game.

One week prior to the game, there was a buzz in the air and you could feel it. This town was ready.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to intervene and throw the biggest curveball that this area had seen in more than a decade.

On Tuesday, ice, sleet, and snow made roads treacherous to drive on and it closed the two major airports in town. Delaying fans and NFL workers alike coming in from out of town.

The temperatures stayed below freezing through Wednesday and Thursday. Media members and players staying in Dallas and Fort Worth found it hard to impossible to get from where their hotels to Cowboys Stadium for any media events. But that wasn't the worst of it.

According to a source I spoke to on Wednesday told me the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, the team hotel for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was losing power every 15 minutes, making it difficult for anyone to keep their laptops or phones charged and available for anyone to contact them.

They weren't the only ones having problems.

Marty Caswell of 1090 AM in San Diego tweeted on Friday, "the NFL Media hotel in Dallas is canceling their own shuttles to airport & impossible to get a cab. Getting out will be futile." When I asked Caswell where exactly they were saying she responded, "we are in Dallas. I think. Or the North Pole."

She's not the only member of the media who's experienced problems since coming in to town. I talked to CBS Sports' Mike Freeman who had plenty of complaints about the roadways around the Dallas area.

At one point, though sarcastic, Freeman said "let's have the Super Bowl in Green Bay. Seriously. Green Bay knows what a snow plow looks like."

But the roads weren't the only problem the visiting media, as well as the teams playing in the big game, were having. Freeman told me the heat in the hotel he was staying at, though he didn't disclose the name of the hotel, had lost power as well as heat more than a few times on Friday. To top that out, the elevators quit working as well.

The conversation between he and I turned to the city refusing to use salt to melt the ice on the roads to make them a little safer for those traveling on them. A response to that popular question was given by a spokesperson from Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) who said, "it's corrosive and it's bad for the environment."

Out of all the answers that could have been given, that one was probably the worst.

Drivers in Dallas, Fort Worth, and points in between found it difficult to gain any traction on the freeways as well as the side streets which were virtually ignored by any of the sand trucks being used in the area.

This city was supposed to put on a good show for those coming in from out of town. What they did was fail miserably and the ones left to blame is TxDOT themselves. While the argument can be made that the state of Texas will not invest in snow plows that would never be used more than one or two times a year, there's no excuse to at least not be ready for a weather system we all knew was coming.

A week prior to the arctic cold front was to move through the area, meteorologists warned that it was very possible this was going to come in and it was going to make driving conditions difficult to say the least.

This was a weather system that was predicted and yet there was no effort made by the city to be ready for it. The Super Bowl was the biggest event this town had seen in quite some time, next to the American League Championship series that featured the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

Restaurants and other business were counting on big crowds and a large influx of cash from out of town visitors to the area. Because of the slow timed response from the city crews, some of those businesses either had to shut down or saw a very small number of customers. What was supposed to be an economic boom for this town because an economic drop through the floor.

So, the heavy snow fell just 48 hours prior to Super Bowl Sunday, cabs and hotel shuttles ground to a halt. The media who were expected to gain audio quotes to be transcribed for print, instead were stuck in their hotels unable to do anything at all.

The talk at that point centered around whether Dallas would ever get another Super Bowl because of the failure of the city to make absolutely sure they were ready for anything.

As the sun finally made an appearance and the snow on the ground began to slowly melt, it finally started to look like things were looking up. The roads were beginning to thaw out and the driving conditions started to become a little better than the last 72 hours.

But just when you thought all might be well leading up to Sunday, insult was added to an already devastating injury.

Snow and ice that was melting from the roof of Cowboys Stadium, came sliding off and fell to the ground below, injuring seven contracted workers from the NFL.

If there ever was a straw to break the camel's back, this was it. If their fate wasn't sealed for ever getting a Super Bowl, this freak event most likely might have done the trick.

While TxDOT finally did bring more than 50 snow plow trucks into the area from west Texas, it was too little too late. The damage was already done and the reputation of Dallas as host city was already more than tarnished.

For those that believe Jerry Jones has enough pull to bring the Super Bowl back to his stadium and the city of Arlington, what has transpired over the last five days might be enough for them to turn him down before Jones ever gets his full speech out.

This city failed and did so miserably. It's no fault to Jones or Cowboys Stadium, or even the city crews who were called upon to work around the clock to try and clear the roadways. They received their marching orders far too late.

There is absolutely no excuse to not at least have the trucks in and ready for whatever showed up. They had ample time and ample warning of this storm system and yet they didn't respond until it was already too late.

As far as not throwing salt down to melt the ice before bad became worse, the environment was a bigger issue to them than the safety of their citizens or to ensure safe passage for those that traveled here to work on the biggest game of the NFL season.

To wrap up all of this in a neat little bow, I think I'll let Mike Freeman say exactly what a lot of the media, and out of town fans, think of Dallas after this past week.

"New motto for Dallas Super Bowl: rolling blackouts, unpaved roads, and falling ice...We Are Dallas. Come see us!"

You better enjoy this Super Bowl while it's here, because it's highly unlikely this city will ever see one again.

Follow CBS Sports' Mike Freeman on Twitter

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