IRVING The former home of America's Team is about to become a pile of dust and rubble.
With the push of a button at 7 a.m. Sunday, more than a ton of dynamite will blow Texas Stadium into pieces.
In about one minute, down will go the building that was home to the Dallas Cowboys during all five of their Super Bowl championships and was the birthplace of those famous cheerleaders. It also hosted events ranging from a Billy Graham crusade to Von Erich brothers wrestling extravaganzas.
On Saturday, people pulled off the highway to take a final look at the stadium and pose for photographs in front of the building.
The city is expecting thousands of people to attend the blast. A parking lot has been designated as a viewing area; the cost per carload is $25, with proceeds going to charity. It will open at 2 a.m.
Officials are warningfans about the dust and noise from the blast. They suggest anyone with a respiratory problem bring a face mask.
A nearby motel ishosting one of several all-night parties being held near the stadium. An implosion brunch is planned for after the event.
Businessman Hal Spradling booked 22 rooms and three scissor lifts to give his friends and family a view like none other.
I don't see anybody with a view anywhere near it - it's the best, he said.
The city is calling this the last big tailgate for Texas Stadium.
It's going to be tough to see it tomorrow. But like all good things, it must come to an end, said Anthony Burris.
Robert Pierce is no different. The Cowboys fanatic grew up in Irving and his ice company served the stadium for more than 20 years.
And while business brought Pierce close to this piece of history, his curiosity as a child is what makes for his Texas Stadium memories.
We'd sneak in under the ramp that goes down to the field where the buses and players go. There was a gap like that, so we'd go down in there and play football on the field. Sometimes we'd get caught sometimes we wouldn't, it depended if the security guard was asleep or not, he said.
From graduation to playoff football games, much of Pierce's life was spent inside Texas Stadium. He says standing in the middle of the field were some of his best times.
Roy Heatley drove up from Austin with his friends to wave the flag he bought at the last Cowboy's game here.
I went and bought this metal pole. I made this flagpole and I thought I'm going to wave it when it comes down, he said.
A fan once caught fire at the stadium. It happened during the championship game between the Cowboys and Vikings in 1978.
Daniel Yoder's snowman costume caught on fire after he bumped into a flaming can ofliquid fuel being used by a girl selling hot chocolate in the stands.
Yoder panicked and ran but he was wrestled to the ground by two other men who helped to put out the fire.
They can blow it up, implode it, dynamite it -- but they can't take away the memories created there, former Cowboys star receiver Drew Pearson said Friday. He plans to watch the demolition from a nearby building, because I don't want anybody to see me tearing up.
For former running back Walt Garrison, it's just a building: The memories are not about where you played, but who you played with, he said.
The Cowboys played their last game at Texas Stadium in December 2008, then moved into the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington last season. The hole-in-the-roof stadium couldn't compete with its successor, or even area colleges and high schools, so leaders in Irving decided to clear the city-owned building for future development.
About 2,200 holes were drilled into the stadium's support columns and packed with dynamite. On Sunday, a series of 50 explosions on half-second delays will level the building. It will go boom, boom, boom, boom -- like dominoes falling, said Doug Janeway, an assistant director for the city.
Clint Murchison Jr., who founded the Cowboys in 1960, never liked their original home in the Cotton Bowl -- and he liked it less once Houston built the Astrodome. Dallas officials didn't want to build a stadium for a billionaire, so Murchison convinced suburban Irving to spend a then-whopping $25 million to build one. Murchison kicked in another $10 million.
When the team moved in midway through the 1971 season, during an era when players were paid about as much as ordinary fans, players were awed by a facility that would eventually change the world of professional sports.
When we got into Texas Stadium, it felt like, 'This is our new home. We've got to make the most out of it, ' said former star safety Cliff Harris.
And they did. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl that season. The cheerleaders started the next year, and more Super Bowl trips followed. Their glitzy image and a state-of-the-art stadium helped brand them as America's Team.
The nickname stuck as the club went from Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman to Tony Romo, Tony Dorsett to Emmitt Smith to Marion Barber, Bob Lilly to Randy White to DeMarcus Ware, Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson to Bill Parcells.
The hole-in-the-roof concept was to keep fans comfortable while exposing players to the elements, which didn't really catch on. But other concepts did -- for better or worse.
Personal seat licenses can be traced to Murchison forcing fans to buy bonds to buy season tickets. He also pioneered catering to the elite by building 176 luxury suites, billing them as a personalized penthouse. They became so popular, the stadium eventually had 360.
When Jerry Jones took over, he exploited a loophole in NFL revenue-sharing rules by getting companies to sponsor his stadium instead of his team. He ended up making big bucks from Pepsi and Nike at a time when Coke and Reebok were league sponsors.
The building deteriorated over the years, but it always looked great on television. Anyone flying into Dallas' two major airports probably heard a pilot pointing out the place below.
Texas Stadium just happened to bring out the Hollywood in people, said longtime tight end Billy Joe DuPree. It was always show time on Sundays.
The final show will come this Sunday.
The wireless button to trigger the detonation will be pushed by 11-year-old Casey Rogers of nearby Terrell. He won a nationwide essay contest by writing about his charity, Casey's Heart, which provides food and clothes to the homeless.
It's one of the few sentimental demolition jobs for Jim Rawson, the project manager for A&R Demolition who has been helping blow up buildings for 20 years. He grew up a Cowboys fan. But his field superintendent, Terry Tejada, is a lifelong 49ers fan.
When we brought in the first machine, I actually yanked my operator off of it and I got on it, Tejada said with a big smile. I was the first one to tear this building up. I loved it.
Dirt scooped up for a nearby highway construction project has been used to fill in the stadium's subterranean level. The state transportation department has a 10-year lease to use the land as a staging area for the project, with an escape clause if a development deal comes along.
A sense of fading nostalgia was already evident at a luncheon Friday, when Mayor Herbert Gears presented a key to the city of Irving to Alicia Landry, widow of the club's longtime coach. It was the city's last key featuring the stadium.
What will replace it?
We're still working on that, Gears said.