The backdrop, the pageantry, the Fried Everything: There are plenty of reasons the folks at Texas and Oklahoma wouldn't mind keeping the schools' annual rivalry at the Cotton Bowl.
But these are college football guys we're talking about, so you can't underestimate the Big R. The schools split $10 million in revenue with the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl, Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told the News recently, more than they would if they moved the game back to Austin and Norman. So, yeah: They want to stay here. The sheen on their back-up jets depends on it.
But the sheen on their back-up jets also depends on happy Sooners and Longhorns fans, and that happiness depends on the very swankiest accommodations. Thus the schools' call for $25 million in spruce-ups to the Cotton Bowl, just a few years after the city shelled out $57 mil for the same purpose. Clean it up and the game stays in Dallas through 2020: That's the deal, Pete Schenkel, chairman of the State Fair of Texas' sports committee, told the City Council late yesterday.
"Do we have a signed commitment? No," he said. "We have in Texas what I would call a handshake deal. ... It's ours to lose."
If anyone on the council harbors any hesitation, they weren't saying it on mic. The whole crew basically called the $25 million a no-brainer, with only Ann Margolin and Scott Griggs even pointing out the debt implications.
"This is knocking out other dollars," Margolin said. "I'm going to support it, but I think we need to put that on the table."
Everyone else was all in, with Dwaine Caraway suggesting that the city do an even bigger round of renovations, including artificial turf that could help the stadium host more events without fear of ripping up the grass for the next event.
"We must invest in the Cotton Cowl once and for all ..." he said. "When all these folks come here, all their eyes are on our house. And we can't continue to just patch it."
Caraway was echoing a similar point made by Griggs, who noted that the city was "buying a new stadium $50 million and $25 million at a time."
"It's like an old car that you've gotta keep taking to the shop," Caraway said. "You have to break down and do something you may not be prepared to do and buy a new car."
And where would the city find money to do that in the midst of a budget crisis?
"There are some creative ways for us to find some additional dollars," he said, vaguely. "I have some ideas, but I'm not going to put them out publicly." For some reason I'm picturing a complicated scheme to take down Las Vegas. Although felony bribery might be more fun.
The council will vote to borrow the money next week. Construction would start in January and be finished in time for next year's game, when Lee Corso is expected to christen the improved stadium with his biggest F-bomb yet.
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