Top 10 Iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium Facts

One of the most iconic stadiums in the US can be found in the third-most populous city in Texas. It was named after a popular game that was held here 73 times since 1937.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Cotton Bowl Stadium, one of the most amazing and biggest stadiums in the world.

1. It’s located in a historic park just east of Downtown Dallas

One of the most enjoyable parks in the United States is called “Fair Park.” It’s located just east of downtown Dallas in the heart of this sprawling city in Texas and is the venue of the annual State Fair of Texas.

This event was held for the first time in 1886 and takes place every year for 24 years in September and October. Back then, the park was located on the eastern outskirts of Dallas and only covered an area of 80 acres (32 hectares).

The stadium in Texas was greatly expanded over the 20th century and now covers a total area of 277 acres (112 hectares). Many of the buildings date back to the year 1936 when the park was the venue of the Texas Centennial Exposition.

Cotton Bowl Stadium location
The stadium inside Fair Park / Michael Barera / Wiki Commons

2. The stadium first opened its doors in the year 1930

One of the most fascinating facts about the Cotton Bowl Stadium is that it predates the Texas Centennial Exposition of 1936. The first version of the stadium was completed in 1930, 6 years before that event took place.

It replaced a much older wooden structure that once stood on this location and was initially referred to as “Fair Park Stadium.”

The stadium seated 45,507 spectators and cost $328,000 to build back in 1930. That’s the equivalent of over $5.5 million today, not exactly a small amount of money at the start of the Great Depression.

You can imagine it as being the lower half of the current stadium.

The Cotton Bowl of 1939
A view of the stadium in 1939 / Wiki Commons

3. It was named after the annual game that was held here until 2009

The Fair Park Stadium was renamed “Cotton Bowl Stadium” in 1936. It was named in honor of the annual game that as held here since January 1, 1937, called the “Cotton Bowl Classic.”

It has also been referred to as “The House That Doak Built,” a reference to the legendary SMU running back Doak Walker (1927-1998) who attracted tons of fans to the stadium.

Until 1996, the game featured the champion of the Southwest Conference (SWC) against an invited team from elsewhere in the country. Since 2014, it serves as one of the 6 major bowls in American Football.

The 2009 game was the final Cotton Bowl that was held at the Cotton Bowl Stadium. It has since moved to the astounding AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This stadium cost $1.15 billion to build and was completed on May 29, 2009.

ATT Stadium Cowboys Stadium
The amazing AT&T Stadium / Nicole Cordeiro / Wiki Commons

4. It has been the home venue of a large number of football teams

The Cotton Bowl Stadium has served as the main venue of several football teams throughout its history. These include:

  • SMU Mustangs (NCAA)
  • Dallas Cowboys (NFL; 1960–1971)
  • Dallas Texans (NFL) (1952)
  • Dallas Texans (AFL; 1960–1962)

It was also briefly the home venue of the Dallas Tornado soccer team in the 1960s and is currently the venue of FC Dallas (Formerly Dalla Burn), the city’s main soccer team as of today.

Cotton Bowl Stadium in 2007
The stadium in 2007 / Adam / Wiki Commons

5. The stadium was greatly expanded during a 2008 renovation project

The stadium was greatly expanded from a seating capacity of 68,252 to a capacity of 92,100 during a renovation project that was completed in 2008.

About $50 million was spent to complete the second ring of the stadium and add a large number of improvements. These included:

  • New media and VIP facilities
  • The installation of a new scoreboard and video screen
  • Improved restrooms and concession areas
  • The installation of an improved lighting system
  • Replacement of all the stadium’s seats

This project not only turned the stadium into the 10th-biggest in the United States and one of the biggest in the world as well but also makes it look amazing, especially at night.

Cotton Bowl Stadium at night
The amazing stadium at night / Michael Barera / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about the Cotton Bowl Stadium

6. The original version of the stadium upon completion in 1930 only featured the lower half of the current stadium and it remained as such for nearly 2 decades.

It wasn’t until the years 1948 and 1949 that the upper decks on both the western and eastern sides were added. These renovations increased the seating capacity to 67,000 and 75,504 respectively.

7. The Cotton Bowl game isn’t held at the stadium anymore, but it’s still the venue of a couple of other interesting games. The First Responder Bowl has been held here since 2011 and it also hosts the Red River Showdown.

The latter game was first played in 1900 between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns, and the Cotton Bowl Stadium has been the venue of this exciting game since 1932.

Red River Showdown Cotton Bowl
During the Red River Showdown / Elaudermilk / Wiki Commons

8. The playing field featured artificial grass called AstroTurf between 1970 and 1993. This was removed in the preparation for the 1994 World Cup Soccer which was held in the United States.

The stadium was one of the 9 venues of this event and has featured natural grass ever since.

9. The stadium has been used for non-sporting events as well, most notably concerts. It was the venue of the legendary concert of Elvis Presley on October 11, 1956.

The artist was only 21 years old at the time and set a record in Texax for an outdoor event with 27,000 visitors.

10. The stadium can seat 92,100 people today, but the record attendance was set during a game between Texas and Oklahoma in 2009. Exactly 96,009 fans were present at the Cotton Bowl Stadium during this game.

Inside the Cotton Bowl Stadium
Inside the amazing stadium / Michael Barera / Wiki Commons