Park and Rec Is Looking For Firm to Handle $27 Million Worth of Cotton Bowl Improvements

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Shortly before the 2011 kick-off of Texas-OU's annual clash at the Cotton Bowl we spoke with Willis Winters, Park and Rec's second-in-command, about the need to once again renovate the Fair Park stadium in order to keep the Red River Shootout in Dallas past the 2015 contract. Said Winters, it wasn't just doable but it was something they'd planned for all along. Which is why the city has just issued a request for qualifications, seeking a firm able to handle to renovations guesstimated to run $24,700,000 for design and construction.

And the renovations are significant, ranging from the addition of club seats and concession stands to a press box overhaul to "a new, historically contextual facade around each end zone and improvements to existing facade area." The whole laundry list follows, but Roland Rainey, the Cotton Bowl manager, tells Unfair Park this morning that the facade project was initially intended to be part of the $57 million in redos unveiled in 2008. "But we ran out of money on that," he says.

"We have been committed to completing that part of the project," he says. "And in our negotiations with Texas and Oklahoma, we said we would do continuous improvements to the stadium to keep the contract and make it more usable. We did very little work on the older part of the stadium [in 2008]. We did replace the seats, but all the rest of the construction was in the end zones, and with the newer type of concessions and club seats and added-value seats, we'll continue that project."

Says Rainey, it used to be easy to convince teams to come to the Cotton Bowl, which now seats 92,100. Used to be their stadiums were small, outdated. "For years, we had the biggest stadium around," Rainey says, "and someone like Texas Tech could come here and make money."

But now, he says, "all of those folks have added seats and suites." And then there's that danged stadium to the west. "So we're no longer the biggest house in the country, and we have to look at new marketing plans and explain to people how, by bringing those games here, they can make more money."

But, wait ... what's that you say about a concert in the Cotton Bowl this summer? Is it ...? Could it ...?

Not, not this. But close? Maybe? Rainey notes that on June 9, Univision's putting on the H20 Music Festival at the Cotton Bowl -- which is being touted as "the ultimate mash-up of A-List English-speaking and Latino music acts in an inclusive festival event," which will also take place in Los Angeles. Fair Park officials hope it will bring in upward of 40,000, maybe closer to 50,000. Depends. The line-up hasn't been announced.

But aside from that "there are no concerts anymore," Rainey says. "In the 1980s, when they built Starplex, the market had fractured and there are no shows that can pull 40,000. You've gotta pull 40,000 on those stadium events, and you need longer shows. Which means you need more preliminary acts, and those [opening acts] have also gotten more expensive. The business at the stadium changes. We need more international soccer and more college football. That's where the money is."

He's not exactly sure when construction would begin; Rainey says he'll know more following a March 13 meeting at the Cotton Bowl with prospective bidders. But more than likely construction wouldn't begin till after football season. And: "When bond money or other money comes available" to fund the project.RFQ_DesignBuild_CottonBowl

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