A plan to promote football and the Cotton Bowl at Dallas Fair Park came under attack Wednesday from Dallas City Council Members.
“This is just some, to me, corporate welfare and this money could be much better spent on other issues,” said City Council Member Scott Griggs.
The plan calls for a $300,000 city economic development grant from water bills to the ESPN sports network to support the next two years of The Heart of Dallas Bowl game at the Cotton Bowl.
“It does not meet the economic development guidelines of creating jobs,” said Councilman Kevin Felder, who represents the Fair Park area.
But other city officials said the game returns at least $8 million in economic impact from spending by visitors and schools involved in the game, along with an extra opportunity to make use of the Cotton Bowl stadium which is often empty.
“We own it. It’s an asset. It’s got 94,000 seats folks. We need to put people in those seats,” said Councilman Rickey Callahan.
The contest is played the day after Christmas when supporters say many viewers are available to watch TV.
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“This is a great opportunity for a minimal amount of investment for Dallas to be highlighted on that day,” said Councilman Casey Thomas.
But the game draws far fewer fans than the bigger college football games played in the fall during the State Fair of Texas.
"I think we can do something much better with these funds, in order to do real job creation and not just a one time football game," said Councilman Omar Narvaez.
The Cotton Bowl debate comes as the City of Dallas reviews a proposal to turn Fair Park over to a private operator with experience drawing year round activity to similar parks.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said the football incentive would contribute to city support for the park.
“Are we going to support Fair Park or not,” Rawlings asked. “Every opportunity we have, I’m going to be voting to bring people in, not to keep them out.”
Opponents had sufficient votes to kill the incentive but Rawlings and other supporters won a 45 day delay during which other sources of money will be considered.
People involved with the Heart of Dallas Bowl also said a big announcement about outside support for the game is coming soon.
And a special public meeting of the Dallas Park Board will be held at 5:30pm Thursday evening at the Hall of State in Fair Park on the plan for private operators.
Public comment will be taken on all aspects of Fair Park operation including use of the Cotton Bowl.