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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Sun Bowl Stadium opened in 1963, and has hosted the UTEP Miners football team, as well as the annual NCAA Sun Bowl (for which the venue was named), ever since. The Miners previously played at Kidd Field, which is next door and is now used for tailgating before games - Kidd Field only seats 15,000, however, so a new stadium was needed in order for El Paso to get the bowl game.
Sun Bowl Stadium currently holds 51,500, but rarely fills up, given the Miners' on-field performance. It does have some unique features, however, including being able to see Mexico from inside the stadium.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions are by far the best thing about Sun Bowl Stadium. There are plenty of food options, including several varieties of local cuisine, as well as hot drinks, cold drinks, and 5 brands of beer.
The main stands offer a limited selection, including hot dogs and smoked sausage, but specialty stands all along the concourse offer additional fare such as burritos, gorditas, brats, burgers, pizza, loaded nachos, brisket, and pulled pork. Prices for these items range from $4 to $10.50.
In addition to the main dishes, the generic stands also offer nachos and popcorn, while the specialty stands have churros, funnel cake, pretzels, Cracker Jack, peanuts, kettle corn, corn in a cup or chips in a cup, and cinnamon-glazed nuts; these items will cost between $3.50 and $7 per item.
Unlike many college stadiums, Sun Bowl Stadium does sell alcohol (probably because it was built to host bowl games). The five varieties for sale are Bud, Bud Light, Tecate, Coors Light, and Miller Lite ($9 for a 24-ounce can). Non-alcoholic selections include Coke products, bottled water, coffee, cappuccino, and hot cocoa. The soda comes either in bottles or from the fountain, depending on which stand you purchase from. Soda and water will cost between $3.50 and $6.50, depending on size, and hot drinks will run $3 to $5, also depending on size.
I am not sure I can recommend the burgers. At $10.50, including chips, they are certainly massive, but have a lot of bun and a disappointing amount of toppings - the burrito or gorditas may be a better choice.
Sun Bowl Stadium has several unique features, but is pretty empty during most games.
Outside the stadium, there is a giant "M" on the mountain (for "Miners"), also a neat multi-colored light sculpture which can be seen best at night. The stadium itself was built into the mountain, and you can see how the rock was carved away to make room for the stands - this is most obvious on the east side. Check out the video for a quick tour of the facility:
The band does some unique formations; for example, making the pick-axe the mascot is famous for. And like many venues, the staff shoots off fireworks after scores, and does a really impressive display after a win. Also, before the team enters the field, in addition to blowing smoke, they shoot off sparks - reminiscent of a welder, or maybe a pick-axe striking rock? The sparks are turned off just before the team comes on the field (which is nice, because we wouldn't want the players to get burned).
Sun Bowl Stadium is built in a bowl design with an open south end - instead of seats, there the team name is painted on the cement. The scoreboard is also on the south end, so all of the seats face it, which makes it easy to see replays. There is also a walkway around the top of the bowl, so you are free to walk around and watch the game from multiple vantage points, or look down on Mexico, which can be seen through the open south end.
Sun Bowl Stadium is a little isolated, but is near UTEP's campus. It is also the closest FBS stadium to Mexico, in case you literally want to cross the border.
Most of the restaurants near Sun Bowl Stadium are fast food places spread out along Mesa Street, but there are a couple of upscale places that would make a good hangout before or after the game. The Hoppy Monk is within walking distance of the stadium, and offers myriad craft beers, as well as cigars, wine, and multiple varieties of whiskey and scotch. Landry's Seafood is further away (on Gateway Blvd West), but is a popular chain with multiple locations in the southwest.
The most popular attractions near El Paso are outdoor activities such as the scenic overlooks or the Wyler Aerial Tramway, which offers breathtaking views of the local landscape. If you have time (and your passport), you may also want to visit Mexico, but pay attention to travel advisories. The small group tours are probably your safest bet - they last a couple of hours and allow plenty of opportunities for shopping and sightseeing.
There are plenty of hotels in El Paso - Sun Bowl Stadium is a bowl game destination after all. And while there are none within sight of the stadium itself, there are plenty as you head east toward the airport, or west toward New Mexico.
The fans who attend cheer loudly and wear team colors, but there aren't very many of them.
The stadium typically looks pretty empty, with an average attendance of well under half-full. At some games, the staff hands out promotional items, such as noisemakers from local sponsors, and it is rather embarrassing when there are way more giveaways than fans.
Getting around Sun Bowl Stadium is a little odd - parking is free in some areas, but is not very accessible, and some of the bathrooms are inconveniently located.
There are several parking lots right next to Sun Bowl Stadium, but they are reserved for those with passes, and are very empty, which is sort of a waste. There is free parking beyond those lots, which is not too far from the stadium, but the entrances on the freeway side are blocked off for some odd reason, so you have to drive all the way around to Mesa Street to access them - it might help traffic flow if you could enter on both sides. If you don't have a pass and don't want to walk, there is a parking deck next to the stadium where you can park for $10, but I never recommend parking in decks because they are too hard to get out of.
You can enter the stadium from either the north side or the south side, but the south side is probably closer to parking for most fans.
There are plenty of bathrooms in the stadium to accommodate the crowd, but some of them are actually under the concourse, so you have to take the stairs to get to them - weird. But the concourse is plenty wide, and has some unique architecture you can look at while you walk around. Also there are plenty of tunnels that lead to the seats, so it is easy to get to and from the concessions.
Tickets to UTEP football games are dirt cheap, but unfortunately that does not help draw a crowd.
Tickets can be had for less than $13, including Ticketmaster fees, and in fact, the fees are more than the tickets - $5 face value, with the rest going to fees, which means if you buy at the door you would save some money. That said, attendance is severely lacking, so for all the great concessions and unique features, the market isn't supportive of even that low of a cost. Which is a shame, because the stadium is worth a visit, if not for the team than for its uniqueness.
Being able to see Mexico is certainly a rarity, and the architecture is interesting, especially seeing the solid rock that was carved away to make room for the stands.
I do think Sun Bowl Stadium is worth a visit, so unless your favorite team is coming to town, I would recommend attending the bowl game here instead of a Miners home game - the atmosphere should be a lot better in December.
Member Review by JamesStaley on Sep 21, 2012
The most well-known song from Marty Robbins’ country album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” is the Grammy-winning “El Paso.” Written in 1959, the song lives on in college football. A pepped up version of it plays every time UTEP scores a touchdown — the school adopted that rendition as its fight song in the early 1980s.
Fittingly, the Miners’ home stadium, the Sun Bowl, makes you feel like you're watching football in the Old West. Peeking over several sections of the large concrete bowl, which seats nearly 52,000, are rocky desert mountains. Through the back of the mostly utilitarian stadium, just past the south end zone, is a view of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. You almost expect a tumbleweed to blow across the turf before kickoff.
Knowledgeable college football fans probably know the Sun Bowl as the home of a historic, but not-ready-for-primetime bowl game. The team that plays the most at the Sun Bowl, the Miners, usually produces losing seasons. But the venue has hosted legendary musical acts such as the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. Champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya has also fought here. All in all, El Paso is a nice place to see a college football game.
Member Review by caltexan on Aug 27, 2013
What a different environment. Sun Bowl Staduim is very unique. And the food is fantastic!
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