The Cowboys had played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas since their inception in 1960. However, by the mid-1960s, founding owner Clint Murchison, Jr. felt that the Fair Park area of the city had become unsafe and downtrodden, and did not want his season ticket holders to be forced to go through it. Murchison was denied a request by mayor Erik Jonsson to build a new stadium in downtown Dallas as part of a municipal bond package.
Murchison envisioned a new stadium with sky boxes and one in which attendees would have to pay a personal seat license as a prerequisite to purchasing season tickets. With two games left for the Cowboys to play in the 1967 season, Murchison and Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm announced a plan to build a new stadium in the northwest suburb of Irving.
Texas Stadium, along with Schaefer Stadium (1971), Arrowhead Stadium (1972), Rich Stadium (1973), and the Pontiac Silverdome (1975), was part of a new wave of football-only stadiums (all with artificial turf) built after the AFL–NFL merger. More so than its contemporaries, Texas Stadium featured a proliferation of luxury boxes, which provided the team with a large new income source exempt from league revenue sharing.
It hosted its first game on October 24, 1971, a 44–21 victory over the New England Patriots, and became an icon of the Cowboys with their rise in national prominence. The Cowboys entered the season as defending NFC champions and won their first world title in Super Bowl VI in January 1972. The field was surrounded by a blue wall emblazoned with white stars, a design replicated in its successor, AT&T Stadium.
Texas Stadium's field alignment (between the goal posts) was southwest-to-northeast, perpendicular to the Cotton Bowl, which is southeast-to-northwest.
The most distinctive element of Texas Stadium was its partial roof, the only one in the NFL. The roof was originally supposed to be the first retractable roof in the NFL. However, it was discovered that the structure could not support the additional weight. This resulted in a partial roof that covered most of the stands but not the playing field itself. Cowboys linebacker D. D. Lewis once famously said that "Texas Stadium has a hole in its roof, so God can watch His favorite team play".
The open roof allowed snow to cover the field in the Thanksgiving Day game against the Miami Dolphins in 1993. The unusual roof also introduced a unique difficulty in televising games, as sunlight would cover part of the field and make it hard for TV cameras to adjust for the changes in light.