“Blinded by the light” isn't just a song title, it's also the recurring theme at AT&T Stadium. Despite over $1 billion spent there are games during which players are blinded by the sun. Why?
Known by some as Jerry World and simply as Cowboys Stadium by others, the 8-year-old home of Cowboys is considered one of the world's superstadiums. With retractable roof, opening glass facades in the east/west and record-breaking features like the giant screens and roof arches, AT&T Stadium can indeed be a project to be proud of.
And even with all this in mind, even after well over $1 billion being spent on its construction, the stadium has one significant downside that keeps coming back on a couple occasions per year. During late afternoon games players facing the west can get blinded by the sun entering through the western glass walls.
It's an outcome of the stadium's west-to-east orientation and the semi-open layout. In order to ensure that fans feel like at an open-air venue, vast spaces behind each goal are almost transparent, which in one case last year was widely considered to contribute to Cowboys losing against the Giants.
Now one of the stadium creators took to the media to explain how this could have happened. Vice-president of HKS Architects Bryan Trubey has publicly stated that the unfortunate sunlight access is actually a planned feature of AT&T Stadium.
"So when we were laying out the stadium one thing we wanted to do was make sure the end zones were completely open. It was one of the keys to making sure the stadium did something that no other stadium has ever done before or done since. It transforms from an indoor, 80,000-seat arena to what feels like an outdoor stadium.
"That's the reason the end zones are open and the orientation is the way it is because that's the absolute best alignment to play out the final master plan and in creating the most value in the land around the stadium itself.''
According to Trubey, the master plan envisions potential high-rise buildings (14-15 floors) built west of the stadium, which would entirely block the sun in afternoon games. Meanwhile the selected orientation gives by far the largest commercial potential for the entire site. However, since the buildings haven't been built so far, it's an issue resurfacing every time there's controversy with crucial elements of a game.
Interestingly, AT&T Stadium has ways to mitigate the effects of sunlight by special curtains. They've been used before for concerts but not for football games. Why? NFL demands that waether conditions have to be unchanged throughout the game, which means the curtains would have to be covered ahead of the game and kept in their positions for all of its duration.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last year suggested he doesn't wish to change the natural conditions on matchdays. Which is why the sunlight issue resurfaces again and again every several months...