Cowboys, Arlington involved in stadium talks Team says it's still interested in Dallas but sees potential in suburb 01:31 AM CDT on Saturday, July 17, 2004 By DAVE MICHAELS and JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News The Dallas Cowboys met with the Arlington mayor two weeks ago to discuss the possibility of moving the team into a new stadium across the county line, team and city officials said Friday. "They indeed had a spot [they are looking at] and expressed a keen interest in Arlington," said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck. The Arlington meeting, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son, team vice president Stephen Jones, is the first move by the Cowboys since they abandoned talks with Dallas County in June. The club had asked Dallas County to raise $425 million in public funds for a stadium to be built in Fair Park. Team officials said Friday that they are still interested in Dallas but think Arlington is an alternative. "Arlington is one we have taken a serious look at," team spokesman Brett Daniels said. "We see some potential there." Dr. Cluck said neither side is close to a decision. Arlington expects more information from the Cowboys next week that might help city officials weigh the costs and benefits of funding a stadium, the mayor said. Neither Dr. Cluck nor the Cowboys would disclose the potential stadium site in Arlington. 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 the Ballpark in Arlington and Six Flags amusement park. "We would absolutely love to have some major attraction, such as the Cowboys in Arlington, that would help make us more of a year-round destination," said Diane Brandon, a spokeswoman for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. Dallas County officials said they expected the team's overture to Arlington. "I don't know that it will accelerate our willingness to give more [money]," Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher said. "It may accelerate our willingness to see if a deal can be struck between Dallas County and the Dallas Cowboys." 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 3/4 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. "We're looking at the economics of it and seeing whether the economic model works for Arlington," Dr. Cluck said. The Cowboys' stadium architects and engineers met recently with Dallas city officials. Jim Wood, a top city official who is chairing a fact-finding committee on the stadium project, requested the meeting. "All we are trying to do is be ready when someone shows up on our doorstep and says the Cowboys are going to Fair Park," interim Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said. "What kind of planning do we have to do for that? We are looking at the basics." The subject was how the stadium would fit into the park. Officials did not talk about how much money Dallas might contribute, Mr. Daniels said. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and other City Council members would like to see the stadium built in Fair Park. Ms. Miller has often qualified her enthusiasm by saying Dallas' hotels cannot absorb a 3 percent tax increase, which the Cowboys have requested. Advocates for Fair Park continue to support a new stadium inside the city park. Fair Park is also considered critical for an election. "I think ... [the Cowboys] are negotiating like crazy for the best deal," said Craig Holcomb, the executive director of Friends of Fair Park. "Ultimately, if they want public financing in Dallas County, it would have to be in Fair Park." 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. "We know where we stand with Irving," Mr. Daniels said. "We are looking at other options now that we have had to take a step back from the Fair Park site." Staff writer Eric Aasen contributed to this report.