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Stadium Expenses Remain NFL Labor Issue, Cowboys’ Jones Says

The cost of building and running stadiums continues to be a key element in the labor negotiations between National Football League owners and its players union, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

“I built a stadium and that stadium costs money,” Jones said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television. “We need to recognize that it’s good for the players, it’s good for the fans, it’s good for everybody. We get that shot in the middle of our business and we’ll be OK.”

Jones was in New York to attend the Sports Business Awards, where he was named Sports Executive of the Year.

“And by the way, as everybody knows, you’ve got to pay the utilities and the expense of doing it,” he added. “Let’s figure that in the equation.”

Owners voted in May 2008 to end their collective bargaining agreement with players two years early, after the 2010 season, paving the way for a strike or lockout in 2011 if a new accord isn’t reached.

DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association’s executive director, said in a March letter to players and agents that the union has had more than 30 bargaining sessions with the owners over the previous six months and that while progress had been made, “we continue to have significant disagreement with the NFL over their desire to have players take an 18 percent reduction in their share of revenues.”

An e-mail sent to union spokesman George Atallah seeking comment about the issue of stadium costs wasn’t immediately returned.

Quadrupling Debt

The Cowboys opened their $1.1 billion stadium in Arlington, Texas, last season. It can hold as many as 100,000 fans. It’s an example of the NFL’s building initiatives over the past 15 years, when many owners used cheap credit to build and renovate 24 of the league’s 31 venues, more than quadrupling debt held by teams and the league to about $9 billion this year from 1996.

“Think, if you were a player, how neat it would be to run in there and compete in that stadium,” Jones said. “Three-hundred feet tall, 3 million square feet. Well guys, we’ve got to pay for that. Let’s put that in the equation of the labor deal.”

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