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Cotton Bowl Backers Seeking $25 Million Upgrade

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
Bud is the most veteran reporter at CBS 11 News with 42 years in m...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Cotton Bowl and Dallas’ Fair Park may soon get a $25 million upgrade via a fast-track proposal to keep a tradition going at the State Fair of Texas.

“It’s more than Texas-OU, it’s just that this particular one can be extended if we do this right now” claims Fair chairman Alan Walne.

To be sure… other football and international soccer events are courted too, but Dallas leaders say keeping the Red River Rivalry at the State Fair is vital for the city’s image and economy.

They think they can keep it here with proposed renovations.   “(It’s)Not only a good idea, it’s an essential idea, we have an opportunity to get the Texas-OU rivalry signed up for another five years,” Walne tells CBS 11.

The game  means big money to Dallas;  at a presentation Wednesday, the council was told the overall economic impact is more than $34 million a year.  Plus the prestige of a national TV audience.  “I think we all want to make sure this property stays in Dallas,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings, who added, “and is here for the long term.”

The city spent more than $50 million upgrading the Cotton Bowl five years ago, adding thousands of new seats,  a new video scoreboard and upgrading locker rooms and coaches quarters.

Among some proposed changes: finishing out the facade to completely wrap around the bowl; sprucing up concessions areas; upgrading the aging press box and expanding the coaches boxes.  The ceilings have been in place since before World War II when teams had 2 assistant coaches, not 8-10.

The proposal passed a preliminary straw vote without dissent.  Walne assures CBS 11 this is not a “wish list” item; that both schools are committed to keeping the game here if the renovations are done. “If they don’t sign on then we won’t go forward with the improvements,” he says, adding, “We won’t spend the money unless we do get the extensions—the teams are aware of that.”

“I think it’s a great idea, I think we need as much publicity as we can for the area,” is the opinion of Colin Clarke, whose Fair Park-area bike shop actually loses customers in the crush of Texas-OU, but he says the big picture is important.  “I’ve always lived in this area, I’ve always liked this little neighborhood,” he says.  “But to bring all the use of this park is great.  To bring people into Dallas itself vs. surrounding cities for events.  is great for the economy of the whole area.”

If bonds are passed, construction could begin next January.

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