Not as dome as you think

Dallas attorney Darrell Jordan wants to cover the Cotton Bowl--anyone got $150 million to spare?

"Typically, they fuss about changing the color of a building, and to make such a dramatic difference to the structure would routinely be dismissed without reservation," Taylor says. "We were very conscious about attempting to come up with a design concept compatible with the Cotton Bowl. Having grown up with the Cotton Bowl and considering my relationship with Mr. Chappell, I certainly wouldn't want to damage something he had done so well and something that was on the national registry."

Taylor's concept for the new roof was surprisingly elegant: The dome's bow-string arc design was lifted from windows found in the Centennial Building, and the new roof would be flat over the seats and high only over the playing field. Taylor insists you will only be able to see the new dome if you're standing several blocks away from the Cotton Bowl.

"We wanted to make the Cotton Bowl the focus and not the roof," Taylor explains. "Not to say something 150 feet in the air isn't going to catch your eye."

The Historical Society approved the changes, as did the state and national historical registries in Austin. Jordan then had Coopers & Lybrand conduct a study to find out whether doming the Cotton Bowl was even a financially smart move. The accounting firm concluded it wasn't without its risks--any one of a number of elements could derail the project, not the least of which was Jerry Jones' desires for a new and improved Texas Stadium--but that they were far outweighed by the potential benefits.

A number of athletic directors at various universities expressed interest in the notion of bringing their football teams to Dallas to play neutral-site "home" games, for which they would be rewarded handsomely--about a million dollars a trip. Currently, the newly formed CB Marketing Group, a Dallas-based firm created by local businessman Al Wahl and former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Gene Stallings, is negotiating to bring Texas A&M and Texas Tech to the Cotton Bowl for one game a year, during which they would play a round-robin schedule of non-conference games against such opponents as Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

Even though CB Marketing is asking teams to forfeit a home game in their own stadium--a game that generates substantial revenue for the schools--Wahl insists it will be easy to pay visiting schools a million or more to play in the Cotton Dome. He says the money will come from ticket and concession revenue and rental fees, not to mention money generated by corporate sponsors such as Dr Pepper, which currently underwrites the annual Texas-OU game.

"I'll betcha money that the Texas-OU game brings more income into the city than most of the games played by the Mavericks and the Stars," Wahl says. "That's all local money. We're going to bring in people from all over the country, from the university towns. They come in and rent up the town, buy souvenirs, go out to dinner and bars. The economic multiplier of that is extremely significant."

The Coopers & Lybrand study also indicated that the Cotton Dome could indeed compete for such events as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, not to mention livestock shows and conventions and other events that need covered venues.

Coopers & Lybrand estimated that a covered stadium could generate more than $200 million for the city annually. Which isn't so outlandish: According to The Wall Street Journal, the 10-day-long Houston Livestock Show, held annually in the Astrodome, generates more than $42 million.

On April 10, 1996, Jordan got the first drop in the bucket: Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of North Texas donated $500,000 to the Cotton Dome Foundation to help market the luxury suites and club seats to corporations. Electronic Data Systems threw in an additional $50,000.

Four months later, officials from the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association, the body that oversees the New Year's Day game, agreed with Jordan's assessment that the stadium needed to be covered if the Classic were ever to host a national championship game. (Such hasn't been the case since 1978, when Notre Dame defeated top-ranked Texas.)

The CBAA had been informed in August 1994 that the stadium was no longer among the Tier I bowls and that national-title battles would be fought only at the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and now the Rose Bowl. That news, coupled with the fact that the Southwest Conference was disintegrating in 1996--sending the major schools (including Texas and Texas A&M) to the Big 12 and the smaller universities (such as SMU and TCU) to the Western Athletic Conference--was crippling.

When the Cotton Bowl Classic hosted Colorado and Oregon on January 1, 1996, only 58,214 people turned out to watch a football game played in freezing rain that would later turn to snow. It was a far cry from the crowds of 73,000-plus just a few years earlier. The CBAA had no choice but to support the Cotton Dome movement.

"There would be no group that would benefit more from a domed stadium than the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association," says CBAA president Rick Baker. "Our game is at a time of the year when weather has been known to be an issue. But we're convinced the main issue has more to do with the Southwest Conference than anything else. We had the Southwest Conference champion here for 55 years, and when that stopped in 1996, the drop in attendance had more to do with the change in the way the Cotton Bowl was viewed."

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