With helicopters buzzing overhead, firemen standing watch and a loyal crowd lining the highway, Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys for 38 years, was blown to bits in April.

Texas Stadium, built for $35 million in 1971, is just one of many arenas to reach the end of a lifespan recently. Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y., home to the New York Mets for 44 years, was demolished in 2008. Capital Centre arena near Washington, D.C., drew fans to hockey games and performances by Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson before it was dynamited in 2002.

These iconic arenas worked their way into the cultural fabric and garnered a loyal following. That was evident as tears rolled down the cheeks of Dean Smith, 14, of Prosper, Texas. The stadium meant time spent with his father and grandfather at a place he never can revisit. “I'm sad to see it go,” he said. “It's kind of overwhelming.”

“It's an end of an era,” said Jerry Jones Jr., CEO of the Dallas Cowboys, as he strode through a group of onlookers. The newer $1.2 billion stadium in Arlington, Texas where the Cowboys moved after the 2008 season is “wonderful,” said Jones. “But we had a lot of good memories here, too.”

At a farewell luncheon, former Dallas Cowboys reminisced about the late Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry, the team's five Super Bowl victories and quarterback Roger Staubach, the former chairman of tenant rep firm The Staubach Co. It was sold to brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle in 2008 for more than $500 million.

Retired Cowboys safety Vince Albritton, 47, now a licensed plumber, recalled the glory days of 1984 through 1991. He made the team his rookie year. “A lot of history. It's something that can be remembered all our lifetimes,” he said.

Michael Downs, 50, was a free safety from 1981 to 1988. Now he sells real estate, but the applause of two decades ago still rings in his ears. “Some of my most exciting times were just being introduced at the beginning of the game, coming out of the tunnel and having your name called, everybody in Texas Stadium cheering for you. You don't get that in ordinary life. But you get that in Texas Stadium.”

In 2002, Emmitt Smith broke Walter Payton's record of 16,726 yards to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher at the stadium, and running back Tony Dorsett ignited fans. “It was a special time and a special place,” said Alicia Landry, the coach's widow.

Throughout the day before the implosion, cars pulled up to the fenced-off stadium and visitors took one last snapshot. In the morning, police halted traffic as 20,000 onlookers gathered. It took 1.5 tons of explosives to destroy the arena.

The City of Irving owns the land and plans to develop it one day. An ambitious, 382-acre proposed project is on hold. The city has leased the acreage to the state for $16 million annually for use as a construction-staging site. Planned highway work won't be finished for six or seven years.

Updating the stadium would have cost $100 million and the city couldn't afford it, says Irving Mayor Herbert Gears. “We felt like this is what we had to do.”