DALLAS – In need of an indoor facility worthy of a Super Bowl team, the Green Bay Packers turned to a high school.
Temperatures in the teens, wind and ice forced the Packers to scrap plans of practicing outdoors at SMU on Wednesday and to move to the new, $4.5 million indoor field at nearby Highland Park High School. With more of the same weather expected, Green Bay is likely to remain on the high school campus Thursday and Friday.
"We feel like this will not affect us from a preparation standpoint at all," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.
Highland Park's facility opened in August, and is comparable in quality to the one at TCU that the Pittsburgh Steelers moved into Wednesday. Both buildings are NFL-caliber.
Such quality at TCU is one thing. But, a high school?
That's how it goes in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There are megamillion prep palaces all around, with a $60 million outdoor stadium going up.
Highland Park is among the wealthiest suburbs in the nation, so the district could afford the pricetag on its facility. A $1 million donation from the booster club helped, too.
"That's ridiculous," Packers receiver James Jones said. "We barely had a football field at my high school in California. There's too much money out here. They need to send some of that extra cash out to California."
"We barely had grass," added defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, who grew up in Florida. "An indoor practice field? That's unreal."
Highland Park also has a nifty NFL tradition. Alums include Pro Football Hall of Famers Doak Walker and Bobby Layne, as well as Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, a recent No. 1 overall draft pick.
"I'm hoping Mr. Stafford put in enough money to this high school for them to build a solid facility," joked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "I'm sure it'll be fine."
Another HPHS product of note this week is Daniel Sepulveda, a punter for the Steelers on injured reserve. Before his team worked out at TCU, Sepulveda sounded jealous that the NFC squad got to hang out near his old stomping grounds.
"It's crazy," Sepulveda said. "Small world."
The Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility was a lot more comfortable than being outdoors for the Steelers, but still a bit chilly. The building isn't heated, so it was around 51 degrees during their 2-hour practice.
"One thing we're used to is weather," coach Mike Tomlin said in a pool report. "We're not going to fight elements. We're used to adjusting as we have to, and we got all our work in. It was a good day."
Some Highland Park players and a few fans were waiting when the Packers bus arrived. The teens who were hoping to watch from the sideline were out of luck as security kept everyone away. The school's coach, Randy Allen, didn't even bother trying to show up, but he was thrilled to be able to help.
"It's nice to have a facility the Packers could use," Allen said. "It's great publicity for our school and our football program. There's a lot of buzz in our community because of it."
There's also irony.
First off, the facility was built more to avoid extreme heat than bitter cold. Allen said their outdoor field, which is an artificial surface, could reach 140 degrees, so hot that "our players said it almost makes their spikes melt."
It's also a twist that ice in Dallas would cause problems for the Packers considering how much the ice in Green Bay affected the Cowboys on Dec. 31, 1967 — the game known as the "Ice Bowl." Green Bay beat Dallas on a last-minute play, with a trip to the second Super Bowl on the line.
As for the Cowboys, they may have a $1.2 billion stadium capable of hosting the Super Bowl, but they are among 10 NFL teams without an indoor practice facility.
Dallas had one until May 2009, when a storm knocked it over during a rookie workout, leaving a scouting assistant paralyzed and a coach with a broken neck. There were lawsuits and multimillion-dollar settlements, and team owner Jerry Jones hasn't announced plans for a replacement.
Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Friday afternoon. There's a 40 percent chance of more snow falling Friday. But it's supposed to be sunny and clear on the weekend, with temperatures perhaps reaching 60 on game day.