December 28, 2019

Cotton Bowl shows off what Texas Live! entertainment district in Arlington is all about

Texas Live! was made for days like this.

The entertainment and restaurant venue in Arlington, which opened in August 2018, was packed Friday, the day before Penn State and Memphis kick off in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.

This is the second year for the $250 million fan hub to host Cotton Bowl revelers, and the place was filled with Nittany Lions and Tigers on Friday. The adjacent hotel Live! by Loews, which opened in August, was teeming with fans from both schools here for the game.

“A lot of the events are even bigger than I even imagined there,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said. “It’s a lot of fun to see everybody else having fun, and it’s also an amazing thing to watch somebody go in there for the very first time. Their eyes get very large when they see that 100-foot digital screen.”

Both school bands were part of a Cotton Bowl pep rally in the backyard portion of Texas Live! Friday afternoon. The venue will open at 8 a.m. Saturday -- three hours earlier than normal. Jim Watry, chief operating officer of Texas Live!, expects to serve more than 30,000 people on game day.

“We’ve always had a real strong relationship with the Cotton Bowl guys. We’ve got the infrastructure for the fanfest, whether it’s a high-volume, large-scale food and beverage operation or stages and bathrooms,” he said. “The days of a pep rally in a parking lot are almost done because this is so much better.”

Lines for Lockhart Smokehouse and Guy Fieri’s Taco Joint were long. The wait at Sports and Social Arlington was 30 minutes early in the day Friday.

A year ago, the pep rally was held the morning of the game. Now fans can sleep in a little longer before the 11 a.m. kickoff and got fired up the day before.

“It’s a free show. It just extends the weekend,” said Watry, who helped open similar venues, including the successful venture in Kansas City called the Power and Light District.

The announcement earlier this month that the Arlington city council approved a $550 million hotel and convention center across the street from Texas Live! was always part of the master plan. The Loews hotel will have 888 rooms and 150,000 square feet of convention space.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2023. When it’s finished, Texas Live! will be at the center of it all, with Globe Life Field to its south, Globe Life Park to its northeast and AT&T Stadium to its west. The entire development encompasses 58 acres and will cost an estimated $4 billion, Watry said. The Texas Rangers begin play in the $1.2 billion, retractable-roof Globe Life Field in March.

“It’s designed to flow this way [towards AT&T Stadium],” Watry said, motioning to the expansive glass wall that gives Texas Live! patrons a perfect view of the Dallas Cowboys’ home. “It’s an amenity to those other buildings that are going up. This is the leading edge of the whole development.”

Arlington hopes to keep hotel business in town when major sporting or concert events come to AT&T Stadium or Globe Life Field. Several months ago the city announced that the National Medal of Honor Museum will open on the north side of the lake from Globe Life Park in 2023.

When Mayor Williams took office in 2015, one of the first things he did was approach the Texas Rangers about going in as partners with the city to create the entertainment district.

“It is definitely exceeding expectations,” Williams said. “We needed it very badly because we needed more to do around the stadiums, especially within walkable distance. It’s a great catalyst, too. A lot of people are spilling over into downtown Arlington.”

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