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Is a North Texas sports commission viable?

Bill Lively has a vision and, in theory, it makes perfect sense.

The host committee president of Super Bowl XLV says that if North Texas can marshal its resources as it did for Super Bowl XLV and continue to demonstrate regional unity, it can be a player for major national and international sports events.

Attracting these events would potentially add hundreds of millions to the sales-tax coffers of cities in the region as well as lead to additional corporate relocation, tourism and convention business.

North Texas has the venues, among them Cowboys Stadium, American Airlines Center, the Cotton Bowl and Texas Motor Speedway.

It has deep corporate pockets, as was shown by the $25 million the host committee raised for Super Bowl XLV despite a deep recession.

And its ace in the hole is the Texas state comptroller's major events trust fund, which helps underwrite the cost of events for the cities involved, thus ensuring that taxpayers don't have to foot the bill.

No other state has a fund like this.

So, if the cities in North Texas will adopt the axiom that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the thinking goes, then the region can make strong pitches for future Super Bowls, as well as soccer's World Cup and the Summer Olympics.

The NCAA Final Four is already coming in 2014, and the NBA All-Star Game was played at Cowboys Stadium last year.

That's why Lively is pressing for a permanent sports commission that would provide continuity in the wake of Super Bowl XLV and expand and contract as warranted when major sports events come to the area.

He notes that North Texas is the only major market in the country without a sports commission.

History of distrust

There may be a good explanation for that.

What works on paper doesn't always translate when put into practice.

For starters, North Texas is probably the most distinctive major market in the U.S. The mind-set and culture of people in Dallas and Fort Worth reflect a greater divide than the 35 or so miles of interstate between them.

Arlington, another major city, and Irving, are often thought of as rest stops between Cowtown and Big D.

And despite the "legacy of unity," that Lively wants to leave behind as one of the host committee's accomplishments, there is a history of distrust among the cities, and little cooperation.

It could be back to business as usual.

There is also the looming presence of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner, who funded more than half the $1.2 billion cost of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and still has the stadium equivalent of new-car syndrome, which means he is very protective of his baby.

Jones probably had a bigger voice in the NFL's Cowboys Stadium build-out for the Super Bowl than any previous host team.

And that didn't work out so well in the end.

Ice falling off the roof injured six people on the Friday before the game. Jones didn't order up ice and snow, but how could NFL and stadium officials overlook melting ice as a potential hazard?

Then there was the Super Sunday fiasco, when a number of temporary seats were not fully installed in time and 1,250 fans were displaced. About 400 of them never got a seat, and now the NFL is facing a class-action lawsuit.

The domino effect was that four security entry points were closed as workers feverishly tried to install seats, which resulted in thousands of people -- among them VIPs -- standing in line for two hours or more to pass through NFL's Checkpoint Charlie.

Jones was held accountable by many in the national media for his obsession with breaking the Super Bowl attendance record and milking every last dollar in revenue from the stadium.

That should have been apparent as early as the spring of 2007 when the NFL awarded North Texas the bid, in part based on a seating capacity of 93,221. That would necessitate the installation of as many as 15,000 temporary seats for the game, about three times as many seats as were installed at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLII.

At the 11th hour, the NFL also acquiesced to the Cowboys' plan to sell $200 tickets to the party plaza, an area outside the stadium where fans would watch on video screens in the elements but still be counted as part of the attendance.

That just seemed absurd, but the NFL, like Jones, sees Cowboys Stadium as a cash cow, which may be why Jones exerted such influence.

So while Lively's plan calls for a commission board comprising corporate business leaders and fundraisers, what role would Jones play?

Would he work in concert with a sports commission?

As host committee chairman Roger Staubach said after a December host committee board meeting that discussed a sports commission proposal, "Jerry is his own sports commission."

The Indy model

Lively said that Indianapolis would be the sports commission model that North Texas would emulate. It is not political in nature, he said, with no mayors or city council members sitting on the board. And Sports Corp. Indiana has more than 30 years of experience in bringing events such as the Pan Am Games, NCAA Final Four and next year's Super Bowl to that city.

But the biggest reason why comparing it to North Texas is a matter of apples and oranges: the political structure.

Indianapolis has what is called a "Unigov" structure.

The city is also the county, so there is "one local jurisdiction," said Mark Miles, chairman of the Indianapolis host committee.

David Morton of Sunrise Sports Group in Indianapolis said that Unigov means "there is no disparity, agenda or infighting."

"There is a spirit of collectivism," he said, "that embraces the notion that what is good for us locally is good for the whole, and is a way of sharing our vision."

In contrast, North Texas has a "Multigov" political structure. The region comprises four counties -- Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collin, as well as the four major cities.

It is probably unrealistic to expect the entities to cooperate every time the region bids for an event, unless it is a mega-event such as the Olympics.

Lively even hinted in recent interviews that Fort Worth could be on the outside looking in since Arlington has the stadium and is looking to add venues, while Dallas has an abundance of hotel rooms, American Airlines Center and a massive convention center.

Add the Jerry factor, and North Texas may be resigned to "reinventing the wheel," as Lively put it, whenever it wants to attract a major sports event.

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