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UTEP hoping to add $99 million bond to November ballot to improve Sun Bowl

Editor’s note: A previous version of the article indicated El Paso County owned the Sun Bowl. The County built and owned the stadium, and leased it to the UT System for $1 per year under a 99-year lease; however, that agreement was reworked in 2001. The El Paso Matters reports the UT System paid $1,600 for the stadium and gave the County 10 scholarships.

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- UTEP is proposing improvements to the Sun Bowl stadium. The university says it is looking to attract bigger touring shows and increase the local tax revenue and job market.

El Paso County is now considering adding Sun Bowl Uplift, a quality-of-life bond, to November's ballot. The County expects the project to cost $99 million.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Carlos Leon released a statement on the proposed changes, urging the county to focus its time and resources on "our community's basic needs first." He says that while he understands the need for improvements to the Sun Bowl and admires the venue's iconic status in the Borderland, he believes the count's resources are better spent in different areas.

"As El Paso County moves forward with a very public and transparent process to put a bond before the voters that will meet the critical needs of county residents, including basic infrastructure in underserved areas, community parks, enhanced constituent services and facilities, we must look to meet those needs first," Leon stated. "That includes providing water, sewer, roads, internet access, animal control, public safety, and other basic services that many of us take for granted."

Leon is the only county leader so far to speak out publicly against the bond.

UTEP President Heather Wilson says that while the Sun Bowl is the Borderland's largest venue (seating 46,000 people), upgrades are needed if the venue is to attract large traveling shows. The UT System owns the Sun Bowl.

"Sun Bowl Uplift proposed changes include structural fixes, an improved electrical system to power the biggest shows, an all-drivable field cover system needed by top acts, widened access for 18-wheelers needed by major concert tours, and improvements to support A-list acts and positively enhance the fan experience, like revamped concessions and restrooms," UTEP officials explained in a news release sent out to the media on Friday.

Wilson says that currently, the Sun Bowl is only used 30 days a year. UTEP argues that by adding eight more large events a year, the Sun Bowl could generate an extra $2.06 billion for the local economy over the next 30 years. That includes 605 new jobs and $82 million in tax revenue for El Paso, according to UTEP. The university says those numbers come from economic data and analysis from the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness.

"A study also shows that a lot of El Pasoans travel to other cities like Phoenix, Austin, Dallas and Las Vegas to see large shows – spending their disposable income on hotels and flights there instead of here," UTEP officials added.

The Sun Bowl has welcomed world famous acts such as the Rolling Stones, Ricky Martin, One Direction, and RBD over its 61-year history.

“Any enhancements or improvements to the Sun Bowl Stadium would be a huge benefit not only for the Sun Bowl game, but for The University of Texas at El Paso, the city, the county, and the entire community," Sun Bowl Association Executive Director Bernie Olivas said. "The Sun Bowl Stadium is an iconic figure nationally, and an improved facility would draw many more events to our city.”

The Bond advisory committee will host meetings for the public to provide feedback on this project. For a list of meet dates click here.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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Tyaun Marshburn

Tyaun Marshburn is a multimedia journalist


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