New bowl game among new hopes for Fair Park

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on January 1, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 1 at 7:34 PM

DALLAS -- New Years Day means college football across the country. The Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Gator Bowl and Tuesday, for the first time, the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

And while that last one may not mean much to the rest of the country, in Dallas it signals an all-out blitz to help revitalize Fair Park. The noises arising from the Cotton Bowl Tuesday was not just the sound of a New Years Day football at the Cotton Bowl, it was music to the ears of city officials who are fighting to keep the stadium and Fair Park viable.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who was at the game, could be Fair Park's biggest cheerleader. But he also knows the aging, and in places, neglected city park is the underdog, having just lost one of its main attractions - the Museum of Nature and Science - to a new facility uptown.

But rather than sit on the sidelines, Rawlings and city officials are aggressively pursuing new attractions for Fair Park, such as the popular Chinese Lantern Festival featured at this year’s State Fair.

"We are working to have other football games in the fall during the State Fair,” Rawlings said. “We are going to have the Dallas Cup here in the spring. We need to have concerts here, and I think we need to change the way we market and improve that significantly."

Tom Grace has sold Pizza By the Slice at the State Fair and outside the Cotton Bowl for 25 years. He said while Tuesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl was a success, he said the stadium needs to grow.

“I love the Cotton Bowl. It's way too big of a beautiful facility not to be revamped completely and have some great venues here in the future," Grace said.

Dallas City Councilmember Dwaine Caraway suggests the city go long, and make a play for its own NFL team.

"New York has the Jets and the Giants, and so maybe we need to have us another football team,” Caraway said. “If they don't get their stuff together out there in Arlington, we just may go for it."

City officials are already planning to spend millions more improving the press box and luxury suites at the Cotton Bowl. And with the Texas-OU game locked in until 2020, the Cotton Bowl should be the cornerstone of future growth at Fair Park.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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