Texas, OU extend Cotton Bowl run through 2020File 2010/Staff Photo
The Texas cheer squad will race onto the field at the Cotton Bowl at Fair Park as the Longhorns meet the University of Oklahoma for the next nine years under contracts returned to City Hall by the schools.
Dallas Morning News – by Rudolph Bush
Friday May 11 2012
The historic rivalry between the universities of Texas and Oklahoma will remain at the Cotton Bowl through 2020, with signed contracts from both schools arriving Friday at City Hall.
Mayor Mike Rawlings and top officials with the State Fair of Texas all but promised that a deal to keep the schools playing in Dallas could be reached if the city would commit to major improvements to the aging Cotton Bowl.
City Hall held up its end of the bargain with a council vote April 11 authorizing the city to prepare to issue $25.5 million in debt to renovate the stadium.
Texas and OU came through on their end of the deal, said Pete Schenkel, who led negotiations for the State Fair of Texas.
“They wanted to stay in the Cotton Bowl and continue this long-standing tradition,” Schenkel said.
The teams have played at Fair Park since 1929, and their rivalry is among the greatest in football.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said the City Council made the right choice when it unanimously backed the plan to keep the game at Fair Park.
“This is a wonderful statement. The City Council saw this, and there was not one doubt in our mind this was important for the city of Dallas,” he said.
The schools’ contract is with the State Fair, which controls Fair Park during its annual run.
Schenkel said the schools did not seek additional funds to remain at the Cotton Bowl. Each school receives direct payments of $500,000 for playing in Dallas. The schools split ticket receipts.
The event draws enormous crowds and creates millions of dollars in economic activity for the city. City officials estimate that the game generates about $20.2 million in spending in Dallas County.
Rawlings said both schools recognize the importance of the tradition at the State Fair. But the condition of the Cotton Bowl was becoming an issue.
“They think this is a great deal the way they’ve got it. They want to make sure their fans, and some of their best fans, have a good experience,” he said.
Maintaining one of college football’s most storied rivalries, held annually against the backdrop of the State Fair of Texas, was a priority for both schools.
And Texas and Oklahoma make more money from the series than they could in a home-and-home series.
When the news first broke about a deal in late March, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds noted the game’s special niche.
“That’s important,” Dodds said. “I think it’s the environment of the State Fair, along with the tradition and history. It’s a unique game and a wonderful event that you don’t want to tinker with.”
His Oklahoma counterpart, Joe Castiglione, had used similar terms talking to reporters after the most recent Texas-OU game, won by the Sooners, 55-17.
Castiglione called it “most unique atmosphere in college football” and said seeing “fans have the times of their lives, you realize how much this game means to so many people.”
Cotton Bowl work
On Wednesday, the council is expected to approve the contract extending the game through 2020. The council is also expected to approve a bid from Heery International to do the work on the Cotton Bowl.
The city will be on a tight schedule to get that work done. Construction is expected to start in January and must be wrapped up by the end of September 2013.
And there is much to do.
The city intends to add historically appropriate facades to the end zones, rebuild the press box, add new club seating below the press box, upgrade concourses and improve concessions areas.
The press box serves not only the media but coaches.
It’s outdated for modern media equipment and also for modern coaching.
“There used to be three coaches on a football team and now there are more than a dozen,” Schenkel said.
At times, eight or nine coaches have squeezed into spaces meant for three people, he said.
The club seating is important to the schools as a way to entertain top boosters who help fund and build football programs.
The Cotton Bowl in its current configuration doesn’t offer that option.
The improvements will come on top of $57 million in renovations completed on the stadium in 2008. Those renovations included the removal of flip seats and the installation of bench seats. The city also put in about 16,000 additional seats and a new scoreboard.
Staff writer Chuck Carlton contributed to this report.
At a glance: Stadium to-do list
With City Council approval, Cotton Bowl renovations could start next January and finish by September, in time for the 2013 Red River Rivalry game. The work would include:
- A new, historically appropriate façade around each end zone to screen parts of the stadium that were expanded in 2008. (The facade was a condition of the expansion.)
- Renovated concourses on both the east and west sides to fix concrete floors, temporary concessions, exposed pipes and conduit, poor lighting.
- Renovated concessions.
- New club seating under press box Level 5.
- Finish-out work on Levels 3 and 4 of the press box.
- Press box improvements, including upgraded broadcast cabling and a new press elevator.
SOURCE: City of Dallas