With the extreme weather situation here in Buffalo last week, we figured there was no way
they would get our airport open in time for us to catch a plane and make it to Dallas for our
weekend slate of games. Would 82 inches of snow stop the Ultimate Sports Road Trip? NOT
A CHANCE! Undaunted, we tanked up the car, challenged the driving bans, and pointed our
way south. We made it to Cleveland/Hopkins Airport, made our connecting flight, and got
down to Dallas in time to keep our plans intact. Whew! We haven't even started yet and
already another story to tell!
Dallas' sparkling new arena just opened in late summer of 2001, and is the new home for
the NHL Dallas Stars and NBA Dallas Mavericks, and will also be the home venue of the
Arena Football expansion Desperados come 2002. Built at a jumbo cost of $420 million, the
money spent here really shows in terms of aesthetics, opulence, technology and is clearly a
marvel to see and experience.
Getting to the venue
The American Airlines Center is located on the northern fringes of downtown, and is
accessible via several expressway spurs, including I-30, I-35E, US 75 and the Tollway, all
converging downtown. Most of the parking immediately surrounding the arena, including a
huge parking ramp, is sold on a permit basis only, but plentiful cash parking can be found 2
blocks south at a cost of $8-$10. DART, the area's light rail line, runs service from the center
of downtown right to the arena.
Outside the venue
The Center is part of a 72 acre north end redevelopment site, which will include housing,
office and retail and in effect create an entire neighborhood for the arena. At this point,
one new condo complex is open directly to the south. Other parcels are marked off with
blue fencing. Despite the openness of surrounding lands, the grounds around the building
are beautiful, especially on the south side with a huge public plaza/walkway, complete with
fountains, benches, mood lighting. The arena itself makes a bold architectural statement,
with its light brick facade, dramatic arches and entry ways on all four sides, plenty of glass
and a castle like appearance. The building denotes sheer size and strength and emulates
those qualities which personify the state of Texas.
Plenty to do in downtown Dallas, with the historic West End entertainment district about a
10 minute walk from the arena, with restaurants, nightclubs and shops offering many
choices. Of course, no trip to Dallas is complete without a visit to the JFK Sixth Floor
Museum and Dealey Plaza, site of a moment of time which forever changed our history.
The minute you walk into this arena you will be instantly mesmerized. At each of the four
entrances is a magnificent atrium/lobby, extending to the very top of the building, and each
of them has its own corporate sponsor and is decorated in that sponsor's logos. The most
dramatic lobby is the south entrance, where American Airlines is the sponsor, and model
airplanes dangle from the ceiling, mixed with flags of their logos and huge jumbotron
screens show their corporate ads done to their theme music which plays softly in the
The concourses are octagon shaped, and colors are done in soft whites and beiges with
grey and white mosaic tile flooring. Between the lobbies in each corner are four rotundas,
again reaching to the top level, and beautiful mosaic artwork is laid into the flooring. The
art can best be enjoyed from the top level, where one can look straight down and see the
floor from up high. By the way, TV monitors are everywhere, but not the ordinary TV sets -
instead, flat screen, HDTV plasma monitors offering the newest in video technology.
Escalator towers are located on each side of the building, with separate escalators for the
upper concourse and another for the club/suite levels. The concourses are spacious,
bright, and easy to navigate. If there is one commentary we would like to make, the
concourses here do not look like those you would find in a sports arena. Indeed, the
hallways in this place have more a feel of a symphony hall or opera house. Whether that is a
good or bad thing is for you to experience and judge, and we will leave it at that.
The seating bowl
If the building itself and the concourses are not enough, this arena's seating bowl will blow
you away. The most distinctive feature here is the arched roof, with steel supports painted
kelly green and cream colored piping and baffles, the ceiling of the bowl just adds to the
ambience. The seating area is divided into three levels, a lower and an upper level, and in
between, three "mini levels" of combined Platinum Club seating and a total of 182 suites.
The seats, all padded, are colored grey with a subtle pattern of American Airlines logos.
Along the club level balcony is a 360 degree surround digital effects LED board, with
companion LED boards on each of the 8 panels of the main scoreboard. The scoreboard
itself is 8 sided, but unlike most configurations, 4 viewing screens and 4 dot matrix boards,
this board can display video, LED graphics and cool special effects on ALL EIGHT SIDES.
There are also two huge companion display boards hanging high above each end zone.
Adding to the regular fare are such local favorites as the "Edge of Texas", offering mexican
cuisine, Hot Popped and Twisted with gourmet cookies, pretzels and specialty popcorn, and
Sonny Bryan's BBQ with, what else, Texas Barbecue. On the main concourse is a restaurant
and bar named the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 club, offering full bar service, pregame buffet
and a la carte menu. High up in the top level are the Miller Lite SkyBar and the Dr. Pepper
Bottling Plant, two nooks with plenty of memorabilia to look at as well as food and
The Platinum Club level offers many of the amenities available in similar facilities, and the
Breakways Restaurant here offers a wide item of specialty foods and desserts served
market style, similar to our 200 level Harbour Club in Buffalo. At the other end is the Club
restaurant itself, offering fine dining, a well stocked wine cellar and breathtaking views of
the Dallas skyline. The club concourse itself is a bit bland and austere - much in need of
some color, displays etc.
The Mavericks have had little success in their franchise history - only one divisional title
and two retired numbers, those of Brad Davis and Rolando Blackman from the 80's. The
Stars display their various divisional and conference championships, and of course, the
one banner that strikes a dagger in the heart of us Buffalo fans --- the 1999 Stanley Cup
championship banner. The Stars had some success when they played in Bloomington as the
Minnesota North Stars, making 2 trips to the Cup finals. The folks here must have had a
case of amnesia since no mention is made of these accomplishments.
Curiously, all the Stars banners are colored white save one - that being the 1999 Stanley
Cup banner which has a black background. We can only deduce that this banner is black to
better mask the stain and taint of this questionable accomplishment - the "No Goal"
debacle and NHL officiating in its most shameful and disgusting moment. OK, enough about
Slam dunks, assists, fouls
Slam dunk - to the Stars fans who shout the word "STARS" twice during the playing of our
National Anthem.... a uniquely Dallas thing and a cool one at that.
Slam dunk - to AM 1310 "The Ticket", namely producer Rick Arnett and hosts Dan McDowell,
Brad Sturm and Wally Lamm for inviting us in studio for a terrific interview. We were also
given a mentions on both the Mavs and the Stars post game shows done from the Miller
Like Sky Bar. Incredibly, Wally Lamm remembered us from 1999, when we visited Reunion
Arena for game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals and we had met him back then. Thanks to
everybody and you are all inducted into the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame!
Foul - to the Stars, for dropping the cool "Let's --- Go --- Dal ---las --- Stars" chant done at
Reunion Arena to the cool music of hometown rock group Pantera. What happened to the
Slam Dunk- The amazing run of the USRT karma reaches an epic length with the Stars 2-1
win over the Bruins, as the roadtrippers witness a victory by the home club for the
fourteenth consecutive time!!!! Look out Green Bay!!
Foul- To the management of TGIF at the Ballpark at Arlington. The restaurant is three
quarters empty yet patrons have to wait 20-30 minutes for a table. WHO'S RUNNING THIS
Slam Dunk- the Mavs win over the Hawks was a historic one for Dallas as head coach Don
Nelson earned his 1000th career victory, joining only Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkens as the
only coaches who have won that many games. Nice job Nellie!!!
Foul- Unfortunately on this night, Mavericks point guard Michael Finley did not play due to
a lame hamstring. This ended his impressive consecutive games played streak at 490. We
guess that sometimes the USRT karma works in mysterious ways.....
The design, ambience, finishing touches, artwork and superior technological
enhancements makes the American Airlines Center one of the premier venues in the NHL
and NBA, if not among the four major sports. Our expectations going in were high, and we
were not disappointed. About the only thing we would recommend is a better sports motif
in the concourses and more decor and color in the club concourses. Otherwise there is
little more that we could suggest. Awesome job, Dallas!
Food and team store 8.5
Scoreboard and electronics 9
Fan support 7
Location and neighborhood 6.5
Banners and history 5
In game entertainment 6
Concourses/fan comfort 8.5
Bonus: 3 for Mark Cuban, funky Mavs owner