Pickin' Cotton

While Dallas fools around with the Olympics, the Cotton Bowl crumbles

Tom Luce has put John Scovell--president and CEO of Ray Hunt's Woodbine Development Corp.--in charge of finding out whether a domed Cotton Bowl would in fact make the most sense as the Olympic Stadium. But in reality, Scovell has already made up his mind.

Supposedly, Scovell is working in the best interests of the city, scouting such locations as the Texas Motor Speedway and Texas Stadium and even looking at the possibility of building a new stadium from the ground up (which Atlanta did in 1996 for a cost of $209 million). But when he makes his recommendations to the Dallas 2012 folks in two months, he has no intentions of proffering anything other than the Cotton Bowl as the site of choice. Mayes says Scovell told her as much during a meeting they had only last week.

And it makes sense: Scovell's father, Field, was known as "Mr. Cotton Bowl," a title bestowed upon him during his tenure as the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association's team-selection chairman. John Scovell is not about to let Eddie Gossage at the Texas Motor Speedway or anyone else get the opening and closing ceremonies. He saw too much of his father's legacy destroyed when the Southwest Conference disbanded and the Cotton Bowl lost its Tier I status with the NCAA, making it a consolation prize come bowl season.

Scovell is being rather secretive about the whole process. On February 3, he called Eddie Hueston, the executive general manager of Fair Park, and wanted a detailed list of Fair Park's facilities. But according to a February 4 memo that Hueston sent to Paul Dyer, director of the city's Park and Recreation Department, Scovell "made it clear he was calling as an individual and that he was not representing the Dallas bid committee." Even so, Hueston reported, Scovell wanted to talk about Fair Park's "possible future involvement in the 2012 Olympic Games."

Scovell wouldn't return several calls from the Dallas Observer. But Kevin Sullivan, the spokesman for Dallas 2012, says the committee views Fair Park "as the focal point of the 2012 Olympics, beginning with the Cotton Dome, the international broadcast center, the Olympic Village," and so on. Sullivan refers to Scovell as a "liaison" between Jordan and Luce.

But it still doesn't deal with what's to become of Jordan's plan to dome the Cotton Bowl. What was once a rather earnest plan has become muddied by Ron Kirk's desire to spend his free time doing business with Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks over at their new arena or Tom Luce with his Olympic bid.

No one--not Sullivan, not Jordan, not Mayes--can answer the rather simple question of who is going to pay for the $250 million Cotton Dome needed for the Olympics. Jordan insists it can still be done with private money, though he had raised only $36 million in corporate commitments before Kirk stopped the process in September. Mayes, on the other hand, would like to see the city pay for some, if not all, of the renovations. "I can't see where the city goes wrong by lending a helping hand, because we reap the benefits," she says.

But one thing is certain: The Cotton Bowl will not get its promised face-lift any time soon. Dallas 2012's proposal is not due to the United States Olympic Committee--which will select the U.S. candidate city--until March 31, 2000. The USOC will pick the U.S. host nominee in 2002, and the International Olympic Committee will then choose the host city in 2005--by which time, Mayes has long insisted, Dallas could have domed several Cotton Bowls.

If--OK, when--the Cotton Dome becomes the city's "official" choice as the Olympic Stadium within the next couple of months, Jordan and the Dallas 2012 committee once more will begin soliciting corporate sponsors. Only this time, they will have the so-called future "tenant" that the originally proposed Cotton Dome lacked--the Olympics. That's why Jordan's willing to go along with Kirk's plan: Even if Dallas doesn't get the USOC bid in 2002 or the IOC nod in 2005, he can still use the Olympics as a fundraising tool for his dome in the meantime. Ultimately, Jordan gets what he wants, and Mayes gets what her district desperately needs.

"If we have a larger Cotton Dome but don't get the Olympics, it's like getting a consolation prize," Jordan says. "People are going to have to take a chance on us hoping the Olympics will come. But there's no point in shooting too low. I am not going to wait around. We're going to aim high. Like the guy said, aim at everything that flies and take credit for everything that falls."

As long as it ain't the roof of the Cotton Dome.

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