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Fri June 5, 2009
New Cowboys Stadium's First Big Show is Saturday
By Bill Zeeble, KERA News
Dallas, TX – Arlington's gleaming new Dallas Cowboys Stadium hosts its first event tomorrow night; a big George Straight/Reba McEntire concert. Officials hope it'll be unforgettable. But they also fear that getting in and out may prove memorable in a bad way. KERA's Bill Zeeble offers some tips for drivers.
The giant, silver-gray stadium seems to hover in the open like a sleekly round movie-set spaceship. Some 60 thousand people are expected to show up Saturday night for an evening of country music. Getting there could be a challenge, not just because of the crowd. Serious construction has been underway on the East-West I-30 Highway in Arlington for a year now. And even though the Texas Department of Transportation's Val Lopez says the expansion project is a month ahead of schedule, there's still another year to go.
Val Lopez, Public Information Officer, Fort Worth District, TxDOT: We've maintained 3 lanes in each direction. Now essentially what we're doing, we're turning an old turnpike into a modern highway. In doing that some of the access is impacted. Now when we're done, the access will be much improved over what it was before.
But meanwhile, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck asks drivers to be patient.
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck: It won't get better immediately but it won't get worse.
Cluck bought tickets for Saturday night, so he'll be there. He says on the plus side, the new stadium has nearly 4 times the number of roads leading to parking lots as the old Texas Stadium, in Irving. Fourteen, compared to four.
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck: We have a traffic plan. Understand of course it'll have to be refined some as we see where the pot holes are. We're going to use this experience, Saturday night, as an introduction to how we should do things differently.
Cluck says that's what officials did last summer, after the big Independence Day festivities.
Cluck: Last year on July 4th we had a great crowd at Ranger Stadium, but they couldn't get out. We had road blocks that were self imposed really. We understood how to avoid that in the future.
Cluck says what they learned was that slow moving, exiting drivers went through red lights, forcing cars in opposing lanes to a complete stop. Tomorrow, he says there'll be 260 police out around the stadium, to keep traffic flowing, and the event safe. What's more, for Saturday's concert only, TxDot says I-30 westbound off of Center will be open. He urges concert goers to check online sites for the best recommended routes. You can find those sites at KERA.org.
Cluck: We don't want everyone going to the stadium the same way. So change it around depending what part of the metroplex you're coming from.
Online direction sites are operated by the Cowboys, the city of Arlington, and TxDot. They all pretty much offer the best route based on the drivers zip code. Cluck says the secret message for tomorrow night and other events may be to arrive early, and leave late. Arlington police say parking lots open at 2. Doors open at 4, and the first act takes the stage at 5:30. The concert should end around 11. Police also say if you can avoid driving through the area at that time, it might be a good idea.