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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
2012 marks the 79th anniversary of the Sun Bowl, played in Sun Bowl Stadium on the campus of University of Texas at El Paso. 2012 also marks the 45th year of the Sun Bowl being broadcast by CBS Sports.
The Sun Bowl opened in 1963 with an original capacity of 30,000, but was expanded in 1982 to 52,000. It currently seats 51,500. The 2010 Sun Bowl between Notre Dame and Miami (FL) set the game’s attendance record when 54,021 people came to see the two storied programs. The attendance for the 2012 game was 47,922.
USC capped off a very disappointing season by losing to Georgia Tech 21-7. The Trojans finished with a 7-6 record after being ranked #1 in the preseason poll. The Yellow Jackets on the other hand, finished with a 7-7 record, and the school’s first bowl victory since the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl against Syracuse.
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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 Sun Bowl has concession stands all throughout the concourse, which have a very limited selection. As is the case with the basketball arena, Don Haskins Center, they only offer hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, soda and beer. All the food and soda are right around $4-$5, and the beer is $7-$10. UTEP offers Coca-Cola and Budweiser products at their sports facilities.
Along the main concourse of the stadium, there are two areas where a variety of vendors have set up tents. There is Mexican food, turkey legs, Chick-fil-A, barbeque and a couple other things. One of the areas is behind the east stands, and the other is in the northwest corner of the stadium.
El Paso was definitely very cold on New Year's Eve 2012 for the contest, but it didn't take away from any of the pregame festivities or the great visuals the Sun Bowl provides for fans. Walking towards the stadium from the parking lots, you pass by all sorts of tailgating. El Paso football fans have definitely figured out ways how to keep warm for the Sun Bowl, and the Georgia Tech and USC fans picked up pretty quickly on some of the tricks.
The landscape around the Sun Bowl is absolutely incredible. If you look too far to the west and south, you do see Ciudad Juarez, which kind of takes away from everything else around. The stadium itself is built on a hill, with part of the hill butting right up against the stands. The surrounding area on campus also has some extremely nice buildings, adding to the rustic, southwestern feel to the stadium.
The field itself is artificial, and obviously gets all the UTEP logos taken off and replaced with the corporate sponsor of the Sun Bowl, Hyundai in 2012, as well as CBS Sports logos, and the logos of Georgia Tech and USC. All of the logos on the field face the west press box side. The USC sideline was the west sideline, with Georgia Tech on the east. The conference affiliation with sidelines is apparently not consistent from year to year though, because Georgia Tech was on the west sideline in the 2011 edition of the game.
The stadium has one main concourse that goes completely around the perimeter, and two upper concourses, one running along each sideline. On the south end, the playing field is easily visible, so fans can choose to stand and watch the game from the south concourse if they so desire. Both scoreboards and the video board are located at the south end, which is good for about 90% of the fans because almost all of the seats face that direction. The unlucky couple of sections towards the south end must rely on a tiny little scoreboard behind the north goal post.
The seating is definitely not optimized for fans though. There are no chair backs anywhere in the stadium. It is all benches. They do rent seat cushions that have chair backs at all of the stadium entrances though, and it may be a worthwhile purchase for most people. The bands were not really all that great. The USC band was its typical arrogant self. The Georgia Tech band was definitely not impressive on the field, but they were good in the stands and got the Yellow Jacket faithful pumped up.
As long as you stay on the Texas side of the border, you're good to go.
El Paso actually has a pretty good amount of options that are very close to the stadium. Before the game, there is plenty of tailgating going on in the parking lots surrounding the stadium, and on the lawns in front of UTEP buildings.
Just a short drive south from the Sun Bowl takes you to downtown El Paso, which offers many museums, theatres, and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. If you drive northeast on Sun Bowl Drive, it will take you to Mesa St., which has many bars and restaurants to choose from as well.
USC just travels well, plain and simple. Georgia Tech fans were up to the challenge though. The black and gold was pretty much equal to the cardinal and gold. There were also some great old school USC jerseys in the crowd: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu, Junior Seau, and Marcus Allen, just to name a few.
The Yellow Jacket fans were way more into the game than the Trojan fans. At the beginning of the year, Southern Cal fans probably never dreamed that their postseason would be in El Paso, and the lack of Matt Barkley, and the cold weather, may have led to them not really caring about the game. The GT band got the wave started before the game, and in the second half. The Jacket fans were definitely all into this game though. The players gave the GT faithful a lot of credit in the postgame press conferences for keeping up with the USC fans throughout the game and making their presence felt, especially in the second half.
The stadium itself is just east of I-10 near the Schuster Avenue exit. Since it is in between a whole bunch of hills, the walk to the stadium is not easy for everyone. There are a lot of steps and/or steep hills no matter which direction you are coming from. None of the general public parking areas are on the same elevation as the stadium.
The best parking is the Sun Bowl Parking Garage, which was the permit number PG-1. The general parking was the Glory Road Parking Garage. All the other parking lots are specific tailgating and UTEP permits.
The concourse isn't very wide, so during halftime it was painful to try and get around the bathroom and concession lines. It also makes it inconvenient for people in the stands because there are lines of people that go into the aisles of the seating area.
Tickets for the 2012 Sun Bowl ranged anywhere from $20-$60. The less than ideal weather conditions not only affected fan comfort, but the quality of football was not very high either. If you are a USC or GT fan, it may have been better to sit this one out and watch it on TV. However, if you are into the history of college football or bowl games, the Sun Bowl is on the short list of games to go to. It is one of the longest-running bowl games right now, and the stadium is so different from most college football stadiums.
The scenery surrounding the stadium makes up the extra points. The UTEP campus looks like an old Spanish Mission, and the hills surrounding the stadium add to the experience, and the noise level. Also, what other stadium can you look out and see another country?
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111 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79902