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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It's called the Cotton Bowl, but to some it's simply known as, "The House that Doak Built." This is mainly due to the massive crowds that running back Doak Walker drew into the stadium during his stellar college career at SMU during the late 1940s. The Cotton Bowl was originally called the Fair Park Bowl because it was located in Fair Park, the site of the Texas State Fair. The Cotton Bowl has been around since 1930 and is one of college football's most historic landmarks; it also has the capacity since its latest renovation to hold 92,100 people.
Throughout the years the Cotton Bowl has been the home of many franchises and teams including the Dallas Cowboys, SMU Mustangs, and the MLS team FC Dallas. The Cotton Bowl also hosted the historic Cotton Bowl classic from 1939 until 2009 when it was moved to the newly built Cowboys Stadium.
The Cotton Bowl is also the annual host to one of college football's biggest rivalries, the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas, which always occurs during the Texas State Fair. Since the Cotton Bowl classic has left the Cotton Bowl, the venue has been searching for a new bowl, and in 2010 they found that with the TicketCity Bowl. The 2012 edition was the 2nd year for the TicketCity Bowl, and I am glad to see it being held in the Cotton Bowl and that the venue is not being left to waste.
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You will find the Cotton Bowl options to be right around the same options you will find in every other stadium and arena. The Cotton Bowl offers hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, candy, pizza, cheeseburgers and popcorn as well as some other variety options like pulled pork sandwiches. I tried the pulled pork sandwich and found it to be kind of dry, but the rest of the options looked pretty appetizing. The drink options include only RC Cola products and Dr. Pepper, if you are looking for an alcoholic beverage they are sold for seven bucks for a 16 oz bottle. Overall not a great variety but the prices were right on par for what you will find in most stadiums.
The Cotton Bowl absolutely reeks with history. The place has hosted some big games throughout the years from legendary Cotton Bowl games to historic Red River rivalry games. As with the Rose Bowl you will have a hard time finding a place that carries as much college football history as this place. I am extremely sad to see it kind of being thrown to the wayside the way it has been by college football. It is good to see it still being put to great use by the TicketCity Bowl though as this place remains a wonderful place to catch a college football game. I would, however, like to see some type of murals or pictures hung throughout the stadium to commemorate not only Doak Walker but also some of the great games that have been played at the Cotton Bowl; it would add to the already great atmosphere that the Cotton Bowl has.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cotton Bowl is located in Fair Park which is home to the Texas State Fair. If you are attending the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl make sure that you try out some of the great fried options offered throughout the State Fair from fried ice cream to fried bubblegum (yeah, you read that correctly, fried bubblegum).
If you are there for the TicketCity Bowl, then I would advise hitting up the Old Mill Inn Restaurant. The Old Mill Inn Restaurant was built in 1936 and serves a variety of southern home cooking options. I would recommend either the chicken fried steak or chicken pot pie; both are delicious and reasonably priced.
Another great place near the Cotton Bowl to eat is the Dining Place at Music Hall. The Dining Place at Music Hall is a tad more expensive than your average eatery, with prices ranging from $20-$25, but it is a gourmet buffet that is well worth it. The buffet changes regularly so no two visits may ever be the same, making a return trip like a brand new experience.
The fans at any bowl game are hit and miss, depending on the fan base. For the 2012 TicketCity Bowl, the game was between the Houston Cougars and the Penn State Nittany Lions with both teams having a great fan base show up for the game. The Houston and Penn State fans not only showed up in great numbers, but also were on their feet the entire game. Both of these fan bases made a mid-level bowl game seem like a BCS match, with not only great attitudes but incredible school spirit.
Parking at Cotton Bowl Stadium can be found for anywhere from $5-$20, depending on how close you want to be to the stadium. However, I would advise taking the DART light rail. The DART green line contains two transit stations that stop right at the Cotton Bowl making for easy access to and from the stadium. Once you get inside the stadium you will find wide concourses and surprisingly up to date bathrooms which never incur lines. The concourses are also wide enough for easy handicap access.
The Cotton Bowl is well worth the price of admission due to its history. I was able to secure a ticket to the TicketCity Bowl for $25, which was face value. Due to the stadium having perfect sightlines, no seat is a bad seat. The concessions are all reasonably priced so you will definitely get what you pay for with a visit to the Cotton Bowl.
One extra point goes to the history of the Cotton Bowl, some of college football's greatest games and players have played on this field, and it truly is an icon of college football.
My second point goes to college football for still finding a way to use the Cotton Bowl. Even though the Cotton Bowl classic has left the Cotton Bowl they have still found a great use for the stadium.
My last point goes to the fans of the University of Houston and Penn State for how well they came and represented the school. It is always to see a school greatly represented in a bowl game that is far from home.
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