Sun Bowl celebrates 50th birthday


UTEP Athletics

The Sun Bowl opened its doors on Sept. 21, 1963.

Luis Barrio, Contributor

UTEP will host the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners on the 50th birthday of the Sun Bowl stadium.

The stadium hosts one the nation’s longest running bowl games in college football. It’s a place that screams home-field advantage being situated in a natural bowl-shaped basin.

“The uniqueness of the Sun Bowl and the way its built into that mountain, it will always be special to me because of the noise that the fans make when it comes off that mountain,” said Nickelbacks and Safeties Coach Robert Rodriguez.  “When the Sun Bowl is rockin,’ there is no place like it.”

Kidd Field was the original home turf of the then Texas Western Miners. It is currently the track and field stadium and seats 15,000.

The city decided that it could not expand its football audience or attract a list of big teams with Kidd Field. That lead to the Sun Bowl opening its doors on Sept. 21, 1963, when UTEP hosted North Texas State. In the very first play from scrimmage, Miner running back Larry K. Durham ran for a 54-yard touchdown.

The stadium has surpassed the 50,000-fan summit six times in its 50-year incumbency. When the stadium initially opened, it had a 30,000 capacity and was later expanded in 1982 to hold 52,000 fans.

Rodriguez watched UTEP football games from behind the stands as a child, then from behind the defensive line in college, waiting and watching the ball while playing as a linebacker for the Miners from 2001-04. Now as a coach, Rodriguez gets to look down on Sun Bowl stadium everyday and it still gives him that euphoric feeling he’s felt since he was a kid.

‘The Sun Bowl is a special place for me because I grew up here in El Paso,” Rodriguez said. “I have many memories here. It was a privilege to play in the Sun Bowl.”

The stadium has witnessed a lot of exciting contests throughout the years. In 1985, UTEP upset defending national champions BYU. In 2000, UTEP won the Western Athletic Conference title after defeating Rice in front of 53,304 fans.

The stadium held the largest crowd in its history when the Texas Longhorns came to El Paso in 2008. More than 53,400 fans were at the stadium.

“I’m expecting a packed stadium,” said freshman running back and El Paso native Aaron Jones. “Fiftieth anniversary of the Sun Bowl means a lot to UTEP. We’re going to play our hardest to get a victory for the anniversary.”

The Sun Bowl is special to a lot of players, coaches, fans and the city. On Saturday, the Sun Bowl will reach a major milestone in its history as the Miners open their conference play against Texas-San Antonio.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]