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Saturday, October 16, 2004
Arlington voters will see referendum on Nov. 2

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Saturday toured what may become the Dallas Cowboys' new home as part of his three-day visit to boost support for the stadium project.

Arlington officials showed off the city's attractions -- including the Texas Rangers' Ameriquest Field -- and the proposed site of the $650 million stadium that would be among the NFL's largest.

Voters in Arlington, the state's seventh-largest city with more than 355,000 residents, will decide Nov. 2 on a sales tax increase to pay for half of the 75,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium.

Tagliabue said the agreement between the city and the team would benefit both.

"To me that bodes well for the future because when you do have a balanced partnership, the chances of success are very great," said Tagliabue, who planned to attend Sunday's Cowboys home game and speak to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

He said the amount to be paid by Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones "may be the most significant, the largest commitment that any owner has made in a new stadium."

Arlington would pay no more than $325 million for the project. If approved by voters, the funding would come from a half-cent sales tax increase, a 2 percent increase in hotel-occupancy taxes and a 5 percent increase in car-rental taxes.

Arlington mayor Robert Cluck said he was thrilled with Tagliabue's visit.

"I think when the voters hear what he has to say over the next two days, they'll be very positive and inclined to vote for the stadium," Cluck said.

But members of Concerned Taxpayers of Arlington and a group called No Jones Tax are urging residents to reject the deal, which they say would not spur the economic development or bring the other benefits touted by the city and team. They say the Cowboys would get the better end of the deal.

The Cowboys have been looking for a new home to replace Texas Stadium in Irving, where they have played since 1971.

In July, after the team's talks with the city and county of Dallas apparently fell apart, Arlington officials announced they had been negotiating with the Cowboys for a stadium. A month later the Arlington City Council approved the deal and placed a referendum on the ballot.

In the past few months a grassroots group called Touchdown Arlington has raised nearly $1 million for television and radio ads, thousands of Vote Yes signs and mailouts.

"This issue is that important to the future of Arlington," Robert Rivera, Touchdown Arlington co-founder, said Saturday.

Neither Tagliabue nor Cowboys officials will say what may happen if Arlington voters reject the stadium.

"We're 100 percent sure it will pass. This is our plan right here," said Brett Daniels, a team spokesman.

Supporters say the project would add $3 million a year to pay for city services and would create 2,000 jobs. The Jones family charities would give $16.5 million to youth sports programs over the next 30 years.

The team -- which would retain its Dallas name -- would play home games for 30 years in Arlington; pay $2 million in rent annually at the new stadium, with two 10-year lease extensions allowed; and give the city 5 percent of any naming-rights deal.

Arlington officials said revenue from user fees, including a 10 percent ticket tax and a $3 parking tax, would go to the team.