Wednesday, October 5, 2005

OU-Texas leaving Dallas?

T-3 Days to the Red River Shootout

Yeah, it's been discussed before, and it's been a story for months, but as the game draws closer, there's been a lot of talk about the Red River Shootout becoming a home-and-home series.

Basically, the issue here is the Cotton Bowl itself. The City of Dallas, which maintains the Texas State Fair grounds on which the Cotton Bowl stadium sits, has let the stadium fall into disrepair since they allegedly fixed it up for the 1994 World Cup.

How bad is it? Friends of mine that have gone to the OU-Texas game have told me that they have to "hold it" for the whole game because the toilets are backed up.

And no offense to those from the neigborhood, but all my friends from the Metroplex tell me that Fair Park is "no man's land".

They had an opportunity to build a new Cotton Bowl on the site for the Cowboys, but red tape ruined the project. So they lost the Cowboys to Arlington when they approved a bond measure to build a new stadium. Their only regular tenant, Major League Soccer's FC Dallas, just moved to a new facility in suburban Collin County.

Now, Dallas runs the risk of sacrificing hundreds of millions of tourist dollars a year as OU and Texas are talking about letting the contract with the city of Dallas expire. And millions more as the Cotton Bowl is also threatening to move to the Cowboys' new facility.

You know, if someone out there is willing to step up and build a new site for the State Fair, Dallas just may lose that too.

Ordinarily I'm opposed to stadium projects because the alleged economic benefits created are simply the result of shifting spending from one part of a city to another. In this case, however, it's tourism dollars, meaning people from out of town are spending money in the City of Dallas itself. That means extra sales tax revenue. That also means more hotel tax revenue.

That tourism money from the annual OU-Texas game and the Cotton Bowl will be lost to Norman, Austin, and Arlington if the City isn't careful. A little investment could go a long way here.

Not only that, Oklahoma City has a nice downtown. So does Austin. A lot of people from those areas go to the game, see Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl, and don't come away with a very good impression of Dallas proper.

Combine that with the fact that it's really to both school's advantage to have that extra home game every other year. Why spend money to go to Dallas to an ugly stadium in a bad neighborhood where the toilets are overflowing and the locker rooms are bad, and where each only gets half the gate and no additional TV money other than what they get from the Big 12 TV deal, when you can have that big OU-Texas game at home every other year and collect home team gate?

And the Cotton Bowl game? At some point the BCS is going to add a 5th New Year's Day game. The Cotton Bowl would be only one with the corporate sponsorship to offer a BCS-type payout. Also, it's the the only New Year's Day game not in the currently in the BCS that has hosted a #1 vs. #2 game in it's history, and it's one of the oldest New Year's Day games. However, no one's going to want to play college football's ultimate game in the dump that currently houses the Cotton Bowl game.

The Fiesta Bowl's getting new digs with all the luxury boxes, and so is the Sugar Bowl because they have to tear down the Superdome. The current Cotton Bowl stadium won't be interesting to the BCS people, but the new stadium in Arlington just might be enough to propel the Cotton Bowl game back to major bowl statius.

Bottom line: Dallas needs the tourism dollars for this game, the Cotton Bowl game, and the State Fair, and they better plunk down the money to build a new stadium, fix up the fairgrounds, and improve the neighborhood . Otherwise, one of the greatest neutral site games in college history is going to be lost, and the Cotton Bowl and State Fair might not be far behind.
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