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At the risk of slandering my own environment, I’d be lying if I said the area was always beautiful. Sure, certain sections of Arlington, Texas, are prettier than others, and sure, I enjoyed all the time I spent in this Mid-Cities city, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. But I was a fortunate son of Arlington: I worked at the prettiest place in the whole town.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a bucolic academic setting. Its groves of old oak trees, its manicured lawns, and its historic red and yellow brick buildings make for an ideal college campus. Because it’s not urban like the cities to the east and west of it, I considered Arlington a college town. College towns are marketplaces of ideas, of a convergence of cultures, of quaint coffee shops and restaurants and bars. The University of Texas at Arlington has all these higher-learning musts, though the surrounding areas left a little to be desired.

There was a time when folks would come in from out of town to visit me, and I would immediately shuttle them from DFW International Airport to either downtown Dallas or Fort Worth because I didn’t want them to see my digs. Friends and family would ask to see where I taught, and most of them would wax nostalgic about the idea of returning to a college town, but I’d usually balk. True, UT Arlington was a beautiful campus, but driving down State Highway 360 to get to campus was such a beatdown. Save for the brief glimpses of the Ballpark in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play, both sides of the highway were littered with zoned-industrial space, railroad tracks, skeletal frames of houses and cars, and a whole lot of blown-around garbage. Add to which driving down the pothole-riddled highway was akin to hitting a series of speed bumps at 65 miles per hour — and I say 65 because I learned from Officer Pruitt that going 68 mph is grounds for a speeding ticket — and Adam’s job started to look more and more dour.

My car hated going to Arlington as well. Despite the television advertisements for Subarus being all-around tough cars, my rims, my tires and my mechanic will argue the opposite. Moreover, I think I was subjected to asbestos poisoning from my bank on Pioneer Parkway, and in 2006, I choked on an overcooked nugget at Chick-Fil-A.

That’s when something started to happen. An army of cement trucks and big rigs and guys in hard hats began to descend on mediocre Arlington. Some old strip malls were demolished, and in their place, a Grand Canyon of a hole was dug. From my office window at UT Arlington, I watched this otherworldly starship get constructed from the ground up. I watched the installation of more than half a million square feet of glass and limestone; two pieces of retractable roof, each one weighing more than 1.6 million pounds; a 60-yard hi-def video board; 30,000 parking spaces and a host of dancing fountains.
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Fittingly, as I felt like I’d been a part of the whole construction process, I had a ticket for the first regular-season football game on Sept. 20, 2009, at Cowboys Stadium. My dad flew in from Phoenix for that one, more so to see the $1.2 billion JerryWorld (the affectionate moniker of the stadium, nicknamed for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) than to watch the ’Boys. And I’m here to tell you that the stadium is the most amazing domed structure in the history of the world. You truly have to see it to believe it. The entire world will on Feb. 6, when Super Bowl XLV comes to town. Who better to talk about the Super Bowl — especially in the DFW area — than the Metroplex’s favorite son, Troy Aikman. Read No. 8’s first-person account of what it means to play in (and win) three Super Bowls, and what it means for the former Cowboy to playcall his third Super Bowl, this one from Cowboys Stadium (page 42).

In the coming weeks, some of you DFW-bound passengers may be heading here specifically for the Super Bowl and the carnival atmosphere. We have our own event guide just for you (page 50), written by one of our former editors. And no DFW Super Bowl story would be complete without a hats and boots roundup (page 18).

Amid all the hoopla, however, one element of the event is being overlooked. Arlington, Texas, USA, has emerged from the shadows of its neighboring sister cities. In the last 12 months, Arlington has played host to the NBA All-Star Game, the World Series, the Pacquiao/Margarito fight and, in the coming days, the Super Bowl. Sleepy Arlington is now the darling of the sporting world.

These days, when folks come to visit me, the very first place I take them is Arlington — to marvel at the sportsplex and to see my beautifully manicured old stomping grounds at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Adam Pitluk