In his October story, “Arlington’s Team,” senior editor Gary Cartwright describes the ongoing struggle over whether to build a new stadium in Dallas for the Dallas Cowboys. Here, Texas Monthly recalls the key venues that have hosted professional football over the years.
Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Each fall, fans of the Longhorns and the Sooners pack the Cotton Bowl for the Red River Shootout. But lately the annual game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma is one of the few occasions that fills the stadium to capacity. With no permanent tenant currently utilizing the facility, the Cotton Bowl has become more of an icon than a functioning sports arena. Its symbolic value, however, stems from its strong heritage as a Texas football landmark.
The building was constructed in 1930 after the Fair Park Football Stadium, built in 1921, was deemed unfit for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. Originally named the Fair Park Bowl, the Cotton Bowl took its current title in 1937. Built for $328,000, the structure could support a crowd of more than 45,000, and it welcomed Mustang fans off and on for several decades. Dubbed the House That Doak Built in honor of the legendary SMU running back Doak Walker, the Cotton Bowl still stands amid other Fair Park sites like the Tower Building, the Band Shell, and Centennial Hall.
According to The Handbook of Texas Online, the stadium was expanded by almost 30,000 seats during the late forties and furnished with new changing rooms, a multilevel press box, and an automatic sprinkler system. So in 1960, when the Dallas Cowboys joined the National Football League and the Dallas Texans joined the American Football League, both teams found a home on the grass playing field of the Cotton Bowl. The Texans’ short-lived stay ended in 1963 (they became the Kansas City Chiefs), but the Cowboys remained residents of the building until 1971, the year they relocated to Texas Stadium, in Irving. The Mustangs played at different venues and ended up at the Cotton Bowl from 1995 through 1999 before moving to their new on-campus facility, the Gerald J. Ford Stadium, in 2000.
Discussions emerged in the nineties about doming the Cotton Bowl, but plans were paused when Dallas decided to seek the 2012 Olympics. Had the bid succeeded, the stadium and its surrounding areas would have undergone a massive renovation, but instead only London, Madrid, New York, Paris, and Moscow remain potential sites for the Games. According to a 2001 article in the Houston Chronicle, Cotton Bowl Dome Foundation founder