As the lone New Yorker on the Blue Star staff, it's fallen to me to discuss the architectural review of JerryWorld filed by Nicolai Ouroussoff in Friday's New York Times. While he credits Jerry Jones for avoiding the faux-retro, brick and iron look favored by so many new stadiums, there isn't much else he likes about the $1.15 billion dome looming in the middle of a charmless expanse of suburbia.
"Its enormous retractable roof, acres of parking and cavernous interiors are straight out of Eisenhower’s America, with its embrace of car culture and a grandiose, bigger-is-better mentality. The result is a somewhat crude reworking of old ideas, one that looks especially unoriginal when compared with the sophisticated and often dazzling stadiums that have been built in Europe and the Far East over the last few years. Worse for fans, its lounges and concourses are so sprawling that I suspect more than a few spectators will get lost and miss the second-half kickoff."
It's causing quite a ruckus on the Cowboys blogs at the Dallas Morning News, as Cowboy fans rush to defend their team's new digs from a heartless attack from a poncy Yankee critic looking down his monocle at the good people of Dallas. The thing about their defenses, though, is that very few of them have anything positive to say about the stadium. Most simply attack the Times, the very existence of architectural critics or, strangely, accuse Ouroussoff of jealousy for not living closer to a stadium he doesn't like very much.
Satisfying replies, perhaps, but the issue here isn't red state vs. blue state. It's not North vs. South, either, nor is it Good Ol' Boy vs. Ivory Tower Elitist. The issue here is what the point of a stadium is in the first place.
The idea that stadiums are supposed to have some greater function to society than a place to host sporting events is a relatively new and completely false one.
Nearly every American city has a bright, shiny (often taxpayer-financed) bauble to call its own. Few, if any, of them have actually done anything to improve the game on the field -- which is the only reason for the building to exist in the first place. All of them have done plenty to improve the financial situation of the guy who owns the team that plays there, though, and the way that those owners have leveraged the ideas of stadiums as more than playing fields is nothing short of brilliant.
Which brings us back to JerryWorld. Architectural merits are as important to it as culinary merits are to McDonald's. Ronald McDonald's aim is to provide relatively tasty food at relatively low prices, not to reimagine classical French recipes into something exciting and new. JerryWorld's aim is to host football games while providing a rationale for people to spend lavish amounts of money inside the building. Both do exactly that, which is the only design characteristic that matters in the end.