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Position Paper On Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl Print E-mail
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Apr 15, 2007, 02:24 PM

Continuing my (imaginary) campaign for Mayor let me quote Abraham Lincoln “that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  Now let me do a half flip-flop. 

I have stated previously that I would oppose the expenditure of $50 million to put lipstick on the pig that is the Cotton Bowl.  But that was a few weeks ago; today I have thought anew.   

My worthy opponent Max Wells claims that Dallas businessman Pete Schenkel is close to signing up a couple of State Fair games of note.  One is apparently on the two yard line while the other is somewhere around midfield.  If anyone can bring additional games to the Cotton Bowl it is Pete Schenkel.  I wish him well.  And if he succeeds at the dotted line I would support the expenditure of funds. 

It would be great to see every State Fair weekend with a football classic featuring schools like Texas Tech, A&M and Baylor along with the UT/OU and the Al Lipscomb classic.  For the life of me I can’t see why they would want to do that.  Surely their hometowns want the revenue from these games. 

Their Athletic Directors will, of course, follow the money.  I have assumed the money would lead them to Jerry World in Arlington if anywhere - but maybe not.  The Cotton Bowl is a fine fall venue if a lousy New Year’s Day venue. If we can sign the right contract with the right schools I’ll flip-flop. 

But the Cotton Bowl isn’t Fair Park.  Fair Park is the single existing entity that makes Dallas unique and that could become a national, or global, destination.  It is the only 1930’s Art Deco exposition center left standing in the country – probably the world.  At present it is hardly a local destination although the opening of a DART line to the park in a few years will help.  

The potential for Fair Park is remarkable.  But I don’t believe our city government is the right entity to insure it reaches that potential.  Cities don’t have the imagination, skill set or incentives to deal with amusement parks – or whatever it should become. Many years ago a friend called and told me his sister was coming to town on business and asked if I would show her the town.  It turned out she worked for Disney.  When I took her on a tour of Fair Park she was amazed that such an architectural treasure was in such condition.  What was really interesting was that she came up with more great ideas for Fair Park in an hour than I had heard from local folks in a lifetime. 

My point is that companies like Disney need to be making the investment in Fair Park not the taxpayers of Dallas.  Experts should me managing the project, not bureaucrats.  Dallas may need to provide some incentives and pay for some infrastructure and I’ll back that.  But the vision and the capital need to come from the private sector. 

Of course, we don’t necessarily have to import anyone.  Dallas own Michael Jenkins, head of the Dallas Summer Musicals and recent purchaser of Six Flags Over Texas (which he originally helped design) would be a superb candidate to take over Fair Park.  Jenkins has the creative vision, the hometown sensitivity to the Park’s history and the State Fair, and access to capital.  As head of the Summer Musicals he also has an incentive to make Fair Park boom.

One day the Trinity River may become Dallas answer to Central Park and the city’s signature,  but right now we have Fair Park and I pledge to do all in my power to see that it realizes its potential – even if I have to flip-flop.

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