Red River Rivalry Gets Upgrade, Cotton Bowl Stadium Set for Unprecedented $140-Million Renovation

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Red River Rivalry
Photo credit Overland Partners

The University of Texas and University of Oklahoma have agreed to a contract extension that will keep the historic Allstate Red River Rivalry football game at the Cotton Bowl through 2036. The decision was announced by both schools last Wednesday.

Dallas Sports Commission and Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District increased the game fees paid to each school. The City of Dallas has also agreed to make the single largest investment in the Cotton Bowl Stadium’s history. An estimated $140-million, two-year renovation project, honoring the Cotton Bowl Stadium’s celebrated legacy and distinctive architecture with sweeping enhancements will elevate the fan experience.

Cotton Bowl Stadium Improvements

Improvements to Cotton Bowl Stadium include widening concourses and adding escalators, increasing fans’ comfort level while entering and exiting the stadium. This will also include renovations to concessions and restrooms, plus increasing the number of hospitality areas and premium environments, which will enhance the speed of service for fans during events. The first phase of renovations to the west side of the stadium is to be completed by September 2026. The city is also scheduled to finish a second phase of significant renovations to the east side of the stadium by September 2034.

Red River Rivalry at Cotton Bowl
Photo credit: Overland Partners (Southwest Aerial)

“We’re thrilled we’ve been able to extend the contract and continue our partnership with Oklahoma, the State Fair of Texas and the City of Dallas on our great game,” said UT Vice President and Lois and Richard Folger Athletics Director Chris Del Conte. “There is absolutely nothing like the Allstate Red River Rivalry game, and with all of its history, tradition and pageantry, it needs to stay in the Cotton Bowl. So many memories have been made by generations of fans at the iconic stadium surrounded by the spectacle that is the State Fair of Texas, and we’re excited to be continuing that long into the future.”

Oklahoma University

“The relationship between the storied Allstate Red River Rivalry and the venerable Cotton Bowl is one-of-kind regardless of sport,” said OU Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. “Our new agreement guarantees this historic legacy of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at the State Fair of Texas will stretch into a second century. Millions of fans throughout the years have cheered, in-person, for the Sooners or Longhorns on what’s become almost sacred ground. It only makes sense for us to do all we can with our partners to keep that tradition alive but also continue to improve upon the experience and access for our fans. The stadium renovations will be extensive, and we can’t wait for our fans to experience the enhancements.”

The long and storied rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma goes back to 1900 and the two teams played for the 119th time in 2023. It was the 95th consecutive year (since 1912) the game was played at a neutral site, equal distance from both schools, while the rivals have met on the grounds of the State Fair since 1929 and in the Cotton Bowl Stadium since it was built in 1930.

Red River Rivalry

“This game is nostalgic for so many,” said State Fair of Texas President Mitchell Glieber. “This rivalry has been played in the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas for nearly a century. It is the most unique setting in all of college football. Both Longhorns and Sooners fans have centered annual traditions around this game, traveling to Dallas every year to showcase their pride and be a part of the most iconic rivalry in college football history.”

“Growing up in Dallas and being a huge college football fan, I have always loved the annual Texas/Oklahoma game during the State Fair,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “It is a tradition-filled matchup between historic rivals and does a wonderful job of showcasing Dallas and the State Fair of Texas nationally, while also contributing to the economic vitality of our city. I’m thrilled that both schools have committed to continue the tradition through at least 2036 – the bicentennial of the State of Texas.”

Red River Rivalry at Cotton Bowl
Photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Overland Partners

The City of Dallas has engaged Bryan Trubey, FAIA, project principal with Overland Partners, to head up the redesign efforts for renovations to Cotton Bowl Stadium.

“Overland is honored to work with an outstanding team of visionaries and stewards with the shared commitment of securing a bright, sustainable future for Fair Park starting with the renovations to the Cotton Bowl for the 2026 game,” said Trubey. “The Cotton Bowl harnesses our unique understanding of civic and cultural work, sports and entertainment venues, guest experience, and placemaking to reimagine one of Dallas’ – and our nation’s – most important and iconic venues.”

Allstate Red River Rivalry

Additionally, Learfield will continue its partnership with the Allstate Red River Rivalry.

“We have partnered with Oklahoma and Texas on the Allstate Red River Rivalry for nearly 30 years, and it is our privilege to continue that relationship as they extend their agreement with the Cotton Bowl as the home of this iconic game,” said Andrew Wheeler, Learfield executive vice president, multimedia rights. “We look forward to many more successful years of connecting passionate fans to the tradition of the Allstate Red Rivalry experience.”

 

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.

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