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UTEP plans to ‘uplift’ the Sun Bowl

SalmaPaola Baca
President Wilson addresses questions after the proposal plan presentation.

The University of Texas at El Paso is proposing new and improved updates to the Sun Bowl Stadium, a proposal that will hopefully go on the ballet in November for the citizens of El Paso to vote on.

UTEP President Heather Wilson released the specifics of the proposed plan at a press conference to discuss the much-needed upgrades to the Sun Bowl. Wilson said in the presser that the proposal would potentially be included in their quality-of-life capital improvement bond election. Voters can make their decision on this proposed $99 million plan in November.

The Sun Bowl has been a staple in the El Paso community for the past 60 years. Originally opening on September 21, 1963, and seating 30,000, the Sun Bowl was named for its namesake National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) bowl game, the nation’s second-longest-running bowl game.

1969 saw the completion of the second deck of the press box, and further upgrades were done in 1982, bringing the seating capacity to almost 46,000. Since its opening, the Sun Bowl has seen more than 8 million fans at live events, as per the press release.

While the Sun Bowl has seen many musical acts throughout its time, beginning in the 1990s (Guns N’ Roses, Rolling Stones, U2, NSync, and RBD, to name a few), the facilities to use it as a venue have been long outdated, or are simply nonexistent.

Since the Sun Bowl is the largest venue in West Texas, it has the ability to not only attract A-level acts, but to sell out as well. Updating the stadium and its facilities is crucial to bringing acts into El Paso that may only use the city as a planned stop for gas.

“We’re only using the Sun Bowl 30 days a year,” Wilson said. “This is one of the most underused facilities in this entire region. So, the question becomes, ‘How can we as a community get more out of this iconic facility, and accomplish our mission better, and positively impact the community in which we live?’”

The top priority of the bond is an all-drivable field cover system; the cover currently used is rented and billed directly to acts for $90,000. A new electrical system is another priority for the bond, as acts also need to rent a diesel generator, costing roughly $300,000.

The south entrance of the Sun Bowl utilizes an entrance that is not big enough for 18-wheelers to get through. As a result, crews utilize forklifts to get up and down that ramp. If this opening is widened, it will allow acts to set up and take down faster, ultimately saving money for the act.

The last part of the proposal is structural improvements, including plumbing, concessions, and concrete issues that need to be taken care of before they worsen.

With the success of bringing major acts to the Don Haskins Center in the past few years, Wilson knows that the Sun Bowl has the potential to sell out, meaning that the economic impact will be major, with the addition of eight major A-level acts in good weather months.

“The economic impact of those (A-level) events to this region is over $2 billion over 30 years, which is the same period over which a bond would be paid off,” Wilson said.

An estimate done by the Hunt Institute estimates over 600 jobs created from the project, as well as $82 million in additional county and city tax revenue over this 30-year period. With the estimated profit of the upgrades, El Paso County should recover most of the $99 million bond via tax revenue and the positive economic benefit to the community.

“We think that this is probably the only project that has a net return to the community, so both tax revenue coming in, and also a positive economic impact in jobs,” Wilson said.

The ultimate goal of the proposal is to bring acts into El Paso, while allowing El Pasoans to stay in town to watch major acts, rather than traveling to places like Phoenix or Austin. Bringing people into El Paso for these acts will have an economic benefit to the city, the same way El Pasoans leaving for Austin or Phoenix has a positive economic impact on those cities.

Despite other major projects in talks for El Paso, the Sun Bowl is the only one that is already built and that will have further benefits to the community in the long run as far as bringing in new acts and keeping locals in El Paso to see their favorite acts.

Nicholas Maes is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Nicholas Maes
Nicholas Maes, Editor-in-Chief
Nicholas Maes is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in history with a minor in commercial music. He plans to continue his academic career in history after earning his bachelor's degree.
SalmaPaola Baca
SalmaPaola Baca, Contributor/Photographer
SalmaPaola Baca is a senior at UTEP majoring in engineering innovation and leadership with a concentration and minor in civil engineering and an emphasis in computer science. Her passion for photography enables her to be photographer at The Prospector. While a full-time student, she freelances while planning to grow her platform through travel photography. After graduating, she wants to pursue a master’s degree in architecture while working on her photography simultaneously.
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