Monday, July 20, 2009

Latinos pack new Cowboy's Stadium, for soccer

Cowboys Stadium scores, fans say, as record Texas soccer crowd sees DH
By BARRY HORN / The Dallas Morning News, July 19, 2009

ARLINGTON – The view from Seat 1, Row 26 in Section 437, high above the field, was just fine, Susan Garcia reported midway through the historic first sporting event at Cowboys Stadium.

Certainly, no one was sitting farther from the action than Garcia and her last-row, upper-deck compadres who ringed the stadium Sunday.

"I can see just fine," said Garcia, a homemaker from Midlothian. "But all the climbing to get here ..."

Garcia and her construction worker husband, Teddy, paid $25 each for their tickets that allowed them to attend a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer doubleheader that featured Costa Rica's 5-1 pummeling of Guadeloupe and Mexico's 4-0 walkover over Haiti.

If the games weren't competitive, few seemed to mind.

Like most in the sellout crowd of 82,252, a Texas soccer attendance record, the Garcias were there to support Mexico. Costa Rica-Guadeloupe was only the warm-up act for the team that, for the moment, ranks as the most popular to ever play at Cowboys Stadium.

Whether Cowboys fans can exhibit as much passion for their team as the horn-tooting, green-clad Mexico fans remains to be seen.

For the record, the old Texas soccer attendance record was 70,550 for a 2006 doubleheader at Houston's Reliant Stadium that featured Mexico City's Club America. Coincidentally, Club America will be at Cowboys Stadium in six days to play Chelsea of the English Premier League in a World Football Challenge match.

The last time the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football visited North Texas was 1993. Three July dates at the Cotton Bowl drew a combined attendance of 43,940. But the big draw then was only the U.S. team.

While Susan Garcia chose to watch the players scampering up and down the field, Teddy Garcia spent most of his day watching the action on the can't-miss, state-of-the-art giant midfield video screen that measures 53 yards wide and 24 yards high. Sunday's picture in the climate-controlled, enclosed stadium was as crisp and clear as in any home media room.

Teddy shook his head in disagreement when asked if he might have been better off watching the game in the comfort of home.

"Mexico is my team," he said.

"And the air conditioning here is working just fine," Susan said. "We wouldn't have come if the stadium wasn't air-conditioned."

The air conditioning also was working fine in the luxury suite where Jake Spray and his family watched the game. Spray, 9, is a veteran of Cowboys games at Texas Stadium.

"This was awesome," said Spray, who lives in Rockwall. "I'd have to say this place is a little bit better. The air conditioning made it that way."

Gary Watson, a member of the event staff stationed on the wide concourse behind one of the goals, reported no problems with crowd control and no unusual requests.

"People just wanted to know how to find their seats," he said.

And if the gigantic TV screen, cool air and orderly crowd flow inside weren't enough, traffic flowed smoothly – or as smoothly as can be expected for such a sizable crowd at an event just down the road from the Rangers ballpark, where 27,204 fans watched a game that started at 7 p.m.

Arlington police reported only sporadic problems, including a jammed Collins Street just to the west of the stadium. The Rangers game against the Minnesota Twins was in the third inning when the soccer game ended.

If the players and coaches were in awe of playing in the historic first sporting event at the $1.15 billion stadium, they managed to conceal it.

"We usually play in smaller stadiums in front of smaller crowds," Guadeloupe coach Roger Salnot said. "But the size of the stadium didn't affect the way we played. We just gave up too many early goals."

Costa Rica's Celso Borges, who put the stadium's first score on the scoreboard, said he was just happy to be on the winning team.

"As long as the stats say we won, that's all that matters," he said.

And the stadium?

"I didn't think twice about it."

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