Dallas City Council Approves ESPN Bowl Game Deal

Steven Pickering
September 12, 2018 - 5:59 pm
Heart of Dallas Bowl

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports


DALLAS (KRLD) - After a one-month delay, the Dallas City Council has approved an agreement with ESPN to televise a college football bowl game at the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. The city will pay the network $150,000 per year for the next two years. 

The game, which had been called the "Heart of Dallas Bowl," is being renamed the "SERVPRO First Responders Bowl." It will be played on December 26th this year.

The city has offered incentives for a December or January bowl game since the Cotton Bowl Classic re-located to AT&T Stadium. The objective is to bring more traffic to the Fair Park area, providing potential customers for businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods. Supporters also say it's a chance for Dallas to receive some positive national publicity.

"This is a grand opportunity for Dallas. It also allows people to fly in to Love Field and DFW International Airport. It also brings renters for the hotels. We get hotel-motel tax funds from that," said Council Member Rickey Callahan. 

But several Council Members felt that providing an economic incentive would be a bad use of taxpayer dollars. "There's much better ways to help Fair Park and the community around Fair Park with this money than putting on this football game," said Council Member Scott Griggs. 

He pointed to the generally low attendance figures for the game in the past few years as a sign the city was not getting an appropriate return on its investment, and also criticized the payment of city funds to ESPN. "This really is a complete waste of taxpayers' money," he said. "This is Texas, the home of Friday Night Lights. If you've got to supplement a game to make it happen, maybe you shouldn't be having that game. This game is such a failure that ESPN doesn't even want to put it on unless we give them a big check."

The deal with ESPN passed on a vote of 8-6. When the measure was considered last month, it would have required a "super-majority" of the Council for approval.  Since then, city staffers worked to restructure the deal and the source of funding. The proposal that passed today only required simple majority.