By Jo-Ann Barnas – Special to USA Gymnastics
ARLINGTON, Texas – Since it opened in 2009, AT&T Stadium has hosted some of the biggest sporting events in the country – the NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game, to name a few.
On Saturday, it will be showcased again – Road to Rio style – as some of the world’s top gymnasts gather at the stadium of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys for the AT&T American Cup.
To be sure, the event is the USA’s most prestigious international invitational of the year as attention begins turning toward the 2016 Olympics. And here’s a fact: It will be the first time that the AT&T American Cup will be held in a football stadium. For USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny, the pairing is perfect.
“It’s time for us to make big moves,” Penny said. “And for USA Gymnastics – we celebrated 50 years last year – and as we were looking at where we’re going, we decided we needed to look at ourselves like never before. This is a stake in the ground for that approach.”
Penny smiled as he sat on the podium after a recent training session, the stadium’s enormous video screen looming overhead. At a cost of $40 million –more than the original cost of building Texas Stadium – the board stretches nearly the entire length of the competition podium.
“It works, it just really works,” Penny said of the decision to host the event at AT&T Stadium.
Penny said USA Gymnastics is in a good place – especially on the world scene.
“We’ve won the medal count at the last two world championships,” he said. “Across all of our (disciplines) we’re getting bigger and better. Our goal is to be an organization that embraces everybody that wants to be a part of what we’re doing. The next two years will be a great opportunity for everybody.”