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Country-music concert opens Cowboys' new $1.15 billion stadium

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Blake Shelton walked on stage, looked out to a crowd of about 70,000 and pretty much summed up the mood at the debut of the $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium.

"We're the luckiest people in the United States of America," Shelton said Saturday night. "We get to watch the king and queen of country music in this place tonight. And it just so happens to be in the grand opening of the new Cowboys Stadium."

Shelton was the second of two warmup acts for Reba McEntire and George Strait. But the real star was the stadium itself.

This was the first time that fans were invited inside a building that already has lured a Super Bowl, a Final Four, the NBA All-Star game and other major sports and entertainment events -- in addition, of course, to its main tenant, the Cowboys.

Take one step inside, and it's easy to see why so many events want to be held here and why the price of building the stadium nearly doubled the initial projection of $650 million.

The most stunning feature is the center-hung, overhead videoboard. It's the world largest high-definition TV screen, and there are actually two of them, one for each side, plus smaller boards on the ends. There's a "hole in the roof" tribute to predecessor Texas Stadium, only this one is retractable, and there are ground-to-ceiling glass doors that open and shut almost like sliding patio doors behind both end zones.

The ends and the roof were closed Saturday because temperatures were in the high 90s when the concert began at 5:25 p.m. About an hour later, as the sun set, beams of light streamed in almost like spotlights through windows above the highest deck of seats.

The wide, polished main concourse feels more like a fancy club than a stadium, with gleaming floors and fancy glass. Some of the bars had the ambiance of a nightclub. There were long lines for souvenirs, food and drink, despite prices such as $30 T-shirts, $13 barbecue Kobe beef burgers and $5 bottles of water.

Between sets, a promotional video played and essentially bragged about the facility -- its seating capacity of 100,000, 300-plus luxury suites and 3 million square feet.

The stadium is located adjacent to the Texas Rangers' home field. Arlington taxpayers paid $325 million, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones picked up the rest of the tab.

Julianne Hough was supposed to have the opening-act honors, but she was sick. Lee Ann Womack took her place.

Another glitch: The first words spoken by the announcer were "Welcome to Texas Stadium!"

Oops. Until corporate sponsorship is found, this place is going by Cowboys Stadium.

And, not surprisingly, there were complaints about traffic and parking. Even Shelton got into the griping.

"Mr. Jones spared no expense building this place," Shelton told the crowd. "It looks like he thought about just about everything -- except one thing: I don't know if y'all realize this or not, traffic coming into this thing (was difficult). I guess that's just how it's going to be. I didn't know if we were going to make it here on time or not."

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