Ode to a Cotton-Pickin' Good Idea
Eight years ago, which is an eternity in a town where yesterday's landmarks are tomorrow's parking lots, attorney and one-time mayoral candidate Darrell Jordan had an idea. He wanted to dome the Cotton Bowl. People said he was nuts. And he wanted to do it with private money--corporate cash, investor scratch, naming-rights dough-re-mi. People said he was crazy. He knew it too; heard the whispers all the time, especially as they grew into deafening, dismissive giggles. But Darrell Jordan didn't care. Visionaries are usually greeted with the jeers of cynics, after all; history would prove his folly a triumph. And so he carried on with his plan, garnering support along the way from the city's Park & Recreation Department, which approved in the late summer of 1998 a master agreement that allowed Jordan and his people to pursue investors, including companies that might be interested in paying for naming rights. To dome the Cotton Bowl would take betweeen $150 and $250 million, Jordan figured at the time, and by late 1998, he had some $28 in commitments with more on the way.
For those keeping score at home, that's about what the city's saying it needs today to spruce up the Cotton Bowl; city manager Mary Suhm plans to ask for $30 million in bond money as part of the proposed $1.5 billion bond package voters will yay or nay this fall. That'll go toward everything from a new scoreboard to expanded seating to new restrooms and dressing rooms, so we're told, though in reality the Cotton Bowl would likely need twice that just to get started on any kind of substantial comprehensive overhaul. Then double it again. And again, just to be safe.
Jordan, reached at his law office today, says his Cotton Dome plans have been mothballed since late 1998, when then-Mayor Ron Kirk asked him to backburner the idea while the city went after the 2012 Olympics. Jordan was happy to comply; he was even on the 2012 board. And when Dallas was knocked out of the running, the Cowboys were talking about moving the team to Fair Park, so the Cotton Dome was deemed unnecessary. So much for that; howdy, Arlington, and the rest is history. Since 1998, no one has asked Jordan about the Cotton Dome, which he believes even now had "a good shot" at being done had the city council ever gotten a shot at approving the master agreement.
"We had a great chance of making it work," says Jordan, who adds he's confident that $30 million will bring enough to change to the Cotton Bowl to make it a viable stadium for such games as Texas-OU past the 2010 contract both schools have agreed to. "We always knew if we got real close, the city was going to help us. They had to. Our group was quite confident. We even had a sales team in pl6ace. So we were all disappointed, but knew at the time we had to step aside for the Olympics bid."
Should voters fail to approve the bond money in the fall, perhaps someone will ask Jordan to revive his plan. If not, no big deal; he's let it go, to the point he's not quite sure where the viability studies and contractor's plans have been stored. Though he could probably find them real quick if you just asked...
"We thought the plan made a lot of sense," he says. "In hindsight, if you could look at what we were saying and writing, it really would have made sense for the city to have done that. Would it have been the kind of stadium that would have attracted the Cowboys? I don't think so. We would not have been state-of-the-art, but it would have been the next step. And I thought the closer we got, the more likely we would enter into talks with the Cowboys, and we would have gotten there. What was it Don Meredith said? 'If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas?' At least we got people to think about it." Yeah, but if only they hadn't forgotten about it. --Robert Wilonsky
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