Cotton Goes to Arlington

On KTCK-AM (1310, The Ticket) this morning, "Dunham & Miller" co-host George Dunham was blaming Mayor Laura Miller for the Cotton Bowl's leaving the Cotton Bowl. Sure, why not. Only problem is, George is wrong -- at least, partially wrong. See, everyone's to blame here, if blame is what you're after at this late date. Hell, we can blame Ron Kirk, if you're looking for a mayor to lay this on.

First off, why not blame the Dallas County Commissioners Court, which, to a member, though the Dallas Cowboys' proposal in the spring of 2004 to build and operate a new stadium on the Cotton Bowl site was egregious at best and downright offensive at worst? I was there on April 30, 2004, when the Cowboys handed the commissioners their proposal in which Jerry Jones and his people insisted the team would "control all marketing and intellectual property and all economic benefits from all Stadium Project revenue streams"--meaning, everything held in the stadium, from Cowboys and college games to concerts and rodeos and whatever else the place may host. As I wrote at the time, the commissioners felt that the Cowboys had just told the county: Empty your wallet so we can fill ours. They were not happy.

And why not blame former Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher? After all, she had initially approached the team in February 2004 about considering Fair Park, only to come back and tell the team a few months later it was demanding too much and that the parties were too far apart. "She just wanted it to go away," a source told me in June 2004.

And why not blame Jerry Jones? He initially told Dallas County he wanted $425 million of the taxpayers' money for a $650 million stadium and demanded on April 30, 2004, a decision by June 30, 2004, to put the issue before the voters by November of that year. Seemed a little rushed, to say the least.

Then again, there were plenty of folks back then who said Jones didn't even want the stadium in Fair Park anyway and that he was using Dallas to get what he wanted from another surrounding city. Me, I always half-believed that take: Jones and his son Stephen had commissioned a small fortune's worth of plans and studies to see if they could fit a stadium in Fair Park, and I spent enough time with Stephen and planners to believe they were serious about moving the Cowboys back to Fair Park. But they placed on the county undue and unnecessary pressure to hurry a vote for political reasons, not pragmatic ones. So, yeah, they wanted Fair Park -- but so barely.

And while we're at it, let's also blame Ron Kirk. How come? Well, in the spring of 1999, the former mayor went chasing after the Olympics -- remember that? -- and told Darrell Jordan, now a mayoral candidate, to backburner Jordan's plans to dome the Cotton Bowl, which may or may not have factored into the Olypmics deal. Now, whether Jordan would have had success raising the dough to dome the Cotton Bowl is something about which we can speculate over a bong later, but in September 1998, Kirk said it wouldn't be "fair" to "handicap" the Cotton Dome Foundation by asking Jordan to raise money to rebuild a facility that might not "be relevant in terms of our Olympic bid." Kirk said he needed to take the Cotton Bowl away from Jordan and put it back in the city's hands, at least until he figured out what to do with it. Kirk promised the delay would be no longer than 60 to 90 days, after which point the foundation could once again begin raising money. Never happened.

And, sure, let's blame Laura Miller too. She never talked to Jones, even when, one night, they found themselves sitting at the same table during some awards banquet. At the time it was explained to me she couldn't talk Cowboys or Cotton Bowl with Jones without the county judge or the city council present. So they didn't talk, and by the time she looked up from her soup bowl, the team was in Arlington. Could she have done something? Maybe. Should she have done something? Well, folks who want Texas-OU and the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park -- and folk who live in the Fair Park area -- will say absolutely. Only keep in mind there's plenty of blame to go around. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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