The Arlington City Council has called a news conference for 5 p.m. today, and council members are expected to announce a plan to pursue a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.
Officials from Arlington and the Cowboys have held several meetings in the past few weeks, and Mayor Robert Cluck said he wanted to meet with the City Council in executive session to make sure the council wants to proceed with a plan to attract the team.
The council's executive session was scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers, entered the picture after negotiations to return the team to Dallas in a new Fair Park stadium faltered in June. Dallas city leaders balked at the proposed price tag in public funds. The club had asked Dallas County to raise $425 million in public money for the stadium.
Earlier today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the Arlington entertainment district, with Ameriquest Field and Six Flags Over Texas, is an attractive place for a football stadium. Neither the Cowboys nor the city have publicly identified a possible stadium location.
"The accessibility to that area and the future accessibility to that area with the infrastructure that will be in place in the next five, six, seven years makes Arlington very appealing," Mr. Jones said. "There are some other very appealing locations. Our No. 1 goal is to take this time in the history of our franchise and make a good decision for our fans. ...Arlington is certainly an area we should and will continue to keep our evaluations open.
"Arlington is, certainly, one we've spent a lot of time on in the last couple weeks," he said. "The leadership there in Arlington, we've met two or three times, three times at least. Our staffs have met as well. That's an ongoing process."
In Dallas, city leaders said they weren't surprised that Arlington could go after the Cowboys.
"I'm not surprised," said Council Member Leo Chaney, who represents the Fair Park area of Dallas and supports a stadium there. "But it shows that we have to be competitive. All of this is part of negotiations.
"I'm still cautiously optimistic that we'll bring the Cowboys to Fair Park," he said. "We welcome the Cowboys with open arms, but we're not going to give away everything and the kitchen sink."
Mr. Chaney said he doesn't believe Arlington has a legitimate shot at attracting the Cowboys.
"Not really, no. The brothers – they wouldn't even support passing a public transportation proposal," he said. "Voters there are very reluctant."
Negotiations for professional sports stadiums often take place on multiple fronts. Before Dallas built American Airlines Center in 1998, the Dallas Stars and Mavericks negotiated with Arlington, Garland, Grand Prairie and Lewisville.
And the Cowboys have in the past shown interest in moving to Arlington. In 2000, team owner Jerry Jones talked about building his new stadium near Ameriquest Field in Arlington and Six Flags.
While the cost of a Cowboys stadium would be high – the team said it would cost $650 million – Arlington has the ability to raise a lot of money.
The city's sales tax is three-quarters of a cent below the state limit. By increasing its sales tax to the maximum allowed under law, Arlington could raise $23.8 million annually for a stadium, according to figures available from the Texas comptroller. A sales tax increase would have to be approved by voters.
Dallas County has the ability to raise as much as $36 million a year from hotel-occupancy and rental-car taxes. Those tax increases also would require voter approval.
Irving, the current home of the Cowboys, says its Las Colinas site is still in the hunt. But city officials have not had any recent conversations with the Cowboys.
Irving officials said they believe their city still has a good chance at keeping the team, but they weren't surprised by Arlington's formal interest.
"There was every indication that is what they might want to do," Irving Mayor Joe Putnam said. "They seem to have an interest in pursuing the discussion and we'll just have to see where it leads."
Arlington could be a contender because it is able to raise sales taxes, Irving officials said. But it's too early to determine whether Arlington poses a serious threat, council member Rick Stopfer said.
"We're aware of the fact that the Cowboys have been looking all over the area for who can come up with the most dollars to build a new facility," he said.
Irving is keeping two options on the table: a renovated Texas Stadium, which many city officials prefer, and a new stadium in Las Colinas.