Cotton Bowl

The Cotton Bowl is a stadium which opened in 1929 and became known as "The House That Doak Built" due to the immense crowds that former SMU running back Doak Walker drew to the stadium during his college career in the late 1940s. Originally known as Fair Park Stadium, it is located in Fair Park, site of the State Fair in South Dallas, Texas, USA. Concerts or other events using a stage allow the playing field to be used for additional spectators. The Cotton Bowl was the longtime home of the annual Cotton Bowl Classic college football bowl game, for which the stadium is named. In January 2010, the game was moved to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The Cowboys hosted the Green Bay Packers for the 1966 NFL championship at the Cotton Bowl. Artificial turf was installed in 1970 and removed in 1993 in preparation for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

The stadium has been home to many football teams over the years, including: SMU Mustangs (NCAA), Dallas Cowboys (NFL; 1960–1971), Dallas Texans (NFL) (1952), Dallas Texans (prior to moving to Kansas City) (AFL; 1960–1962), and soccer teams, the Dallas Tornado (NASL; 1967–1968), and FC Dallas (the Dallas Burn before 2005) (Major League Soccer; 1996–2002, 2004–2005). It was also one of the nine venues used for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.


Construction began on Fair Park Stadium in 1930 in Fair Park, Dallas on the same site as a wooden football stadium. Completed that year, the first game in the stadium was between Dallas-area high schools in October 1930. Built for a cost of $328,000, the stadium held 45,507 spectators. In 1936, the name officially changed to the Cotton Bowl.

In 1948, the stadium was decked on the west side, increasing capacity to 67,000. The east side was decked the following year, increasing capacity to 75,504. These decks were added to respond to the demand for fans to watch SMU halfback Doak Walker, leading the Cotton Bowl to be known as "the house that Doak built." The superstructure was also built at this time, creating the distinctive facade for the stadium. In 1968, chair-backs were installed, reducing capacity to 72,032. In 1970, the Cotton Bowl installed an AstroTurf surface, which remained until 1993.

In 1950, as a way to break the Texas League record for opening-day attendance, Richard Burnett got permission to play in the Cotton Bowl, which at the time could hold as many as 75,000. In order to draw a big crowd, he wanted a lineup of former stars to don Dallas Eagles uniforms and face one Tulsa hitter in the top of the first inning. Most of the retired stars were cool to the idea, except for then-current Dallas Eagles manager Charlie Grimm. When the legendary Ty Cobb agreed to come to Dallas, the others followed his lead. Preceding the game was a parade through downtown Dallas. "It was the pre-game show that got 'em," bellowed Dizzy Dean by way of self congratulation. "Cobb, Cochrane, Home Run Baker, Speaker, and Ol' Diz in Dallas duds." The 54,151 who showed up were lucky enough to see Ty Cobb hit several balls into the stands, just to show he could still handle the bat. The Kilgore Rangerettes drill team performed on the field prior to the game. Texas governor Allan Shivers threw out the first pitch. Defensively, the old-timer lineup of the Eagles were: Duffy Lewis in left field, Cobb in center field, Texas native Tris Speaker in right field, Frank "Home Run" Baker at third base, Travis Jackson at shortstop, Charlie Gehringer at second base, manager Grimm at first base, Mickey Cochrane at catcher, and former Houston Buffaloes star pitcher Dizzy Dean on the mound. Dean walked the leadoff batter for Tulsa, Harry Donabedian, on a 3-2 count, and then the regular Dallas players took the field. Dean got into an orchestrated rhubarb and was tossed from the game. The attendance figure still stands as the largest in Texas League history and second largest in the history of the minor leagues.

The Cotton Bowl hosted six matches of the 1994 World Cup. In preparation for these games, the stadium field was widened, and the press box was enlarged. Capacity was decreased to 71,615 in 1994 and to 68,252 in 1996. The Stadium also Hosted the Gold Cup Soccer Matches in 1993.

In the 2000s, the renewed dominance of both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns created a new interest in their rivalry, and the stadium. Temporary stands were erected in each end zone to increase seating for these games.

In November 2006, the city of Dallas and the State Fair of Texas finally agreed on funding for a long-planned $50 million renovation, with $30 million of this amount from a city bond. Thus, in April 2007, the schools signed a contract to play at the Cotton Bowl through 2015, coupled with a $57 million fund for upgrades and improvements to the aging stadium. The 2008 game was held on October 11.

The 2008 renovations include the expansion of the seating capacity of the stadium from 68,252 to 92,100, mostly through the complete encircling of the second deck, new media and VIP facilities, a new scoreboard and video screen, updated restrooms and concession areas, lighting, utility and sound upgrades and the replacement of all the stadium's seats. A new record for attendance was set when 96,009 fans attended the 2009 Oklahoma vs. Texas football game.

Stadium usage

The annual college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns, also known before 2005 as the Red River Shootout, is played at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas, instead of on either school's campus. Ticket sales are equally divided between the two schools, and the fans are split on the 50-yard line. The Longhorns have a record of 59-41-5 against the Sooners.

In addition to the Red River Shootout, the Grambling State University Tigers and the Prairie View A&M University Panthers play each other at the Cotton Bowl in the State Fair Classic. This game often occurs the weekend before the Texas-OU Red River Rivalry game. It is a neutral site for both teams; Grambling State is located in northern Louisiana and Prairie View A&M is located about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Houston, Texas. The halftime show, the "Battle of the Bands," is arguably more eagerly anticipated than the game itself. The State Fair Classic is heavily marketed in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, with local hip hop stations encouraging a large turnout among the region's African-American community.

From 1937 to 2009, the Cotton Bowl hosted the Cotton Bowl Classic, an annual NCAA Division I bowl game. Beginning in 2010, the bowl game has been played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. From 1941 to 1994, the Southwest Conference champion would play in the bowl game; since 1997, the first postseason of the Big 12 Conference, its second-place team has competed against an SEC team in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Cotton Bowl served as the home for the SMU Mustangs football team for two periods in the program's history. SMU played at least a few games at the Cotton Bowl from 1932 to 1947, and moved there permanently in 1948 due to Doak Walker's popularity. The Mustangs played at the Cotton Bowl until 1978, when they moved to Texas Stadium. The Cotton Bowl also served as home to SMU in the 1990s, after the team served the NCAA death penalty and played at Ownby Stadium on campus. Games moved back to campus in 2000 with the completion of Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

The Dallas Cowboys also called the Cotton Bowl home for 11 years, from the team's formation in 1960 until 1971, when the Cowboys moved to Texas Stadium.

Since 2011, Cotton Bowl Stadium has been the home of the TicketCity Bowl, an annual college football bowl game. The inaugural game took place on January 1, 2011 with victory for the Texas Tech Red Raiders representing the Big 12 Conference over the Northwestern Wildcats representing the Big Ten Conference. After the 2011 game, the future teams will come from the Big Ten Conference and Conference USA.


FC Dallas of MLS called the Cotton Bowl home for its first 7 seasons, between 1996 and 2002, as well as for the 2004 and 2005 seasons, before opening their own stadium, Pizza Hut Park, in Frisco.


The stadium has also been a venue for a number of historic concerts, most notably that which featured then 21-year-old Elvis Presley, which took place on October 11, 1956, and attracted what was then the largest audience in Texas history for an outdoor concert, in excess of 27,000.

Many consecutive summers of huge concerts, featuring several artists, began in July 1978, with the 1st annual Texxas Jam, which sold out with over 80,000 attendees. Each Texxas Jam had a unique lineup of major artists chosen by the promoter.

Over the years, the Texxas Jam featured some of the top-billed headliner artists of the day, including Aerosmith, Heart, Deep Purple, Boston, Journey, Ted Nugent, Scorpions, Loverboy, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Blue Öyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Styx, Foghat, Santana, The Eagles & Triumph, among others.

The annual events came to an end in the summer of 1988, when Van Halen headlined the "Monsters Of Rock" Tour.

Since then, the stadium has continued to be used as a major concert venue; Eric Clapton notably held his first massive 3-day Crossroads Guitar Festival there in 2004.

The Cotton Bowl was also the site for the 1991 Drum Corps International World Championships.

High School Football is back on at the Cotton Bowl. A rematch of a thrilling 58-52 triple overtime game between Colleyville Heritage and Duncanville is scheduled for Aug 26, 2011.

In popular culture
  • The stadium was featured in a 1981 episode of Dallas where J. R. Ewing meets Dusty Farlow.
  • The rock band Journey recorded two videos in the 1980s in the Cotton Bowl.
  • The rock band Aerosmith recorded their first live concert at the Cotton Bowl in the late 1980s.
  • The daytime scenes from the video I Won't Forget You by the rock band Poison were recorded during the 1987 Texxas Jam on June 20, 1987 in front of over 80,000 people.
  • The 2009 television reality series 4th and Long filmed the majority of its material at the Cotton Bowl.
  • In the 1984 Emmy Award winning made-for-TV film "The Jesse Owens Story" done by Paramount Pictures, the Cotton Bowl was used as the Berlin Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Olympics. A local flag maker had to make large Nazi Flags and banners to cover up Cotton Bowl emblems and other Texas State Fair items and such to give the impression that the film took place in Berlin, Germany in 1936.
  • In 2010 a commercial for McDonald's was filmed at the Cotton Bowl. The commercial featured Donald Driver, Wide Receiver for the Green Bay Packers.
  • A 2010 episode of The Good Guys entitled "Dan on the Run" culminated at the Cotton Bowl.
  • The WCCW Cotton Bowl Extravaganza was an annual professional wrestling supercard promoted by Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling / World Class Wrestling Association.It was held in October every year from 1984 through 1988.
  • The stadium was the location of the Texas High School State Championship game with the East Dillon Lions in the series finale of Friday Night Lights.
  • "Baseball in the Lone Star State: Texas League's Greatest Hits," Tom Kayser and David King, Trinity University Press 2005
  • "Storied Stadiums: Baseball History Through Its Ballparks," Curt Smith, c.2001


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