Cotton Bowl – Heart of Dallas Bowl

by | Dec 31, 2017 | College Bowl Games, Michael Davis, NCAA Football | 0 comments

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The Heart of Dallas Bowl

Editors Note:  The bowl name changed from The Heart of Dallas Bowl to the Proserve First Responder Bowl beginning the 2018 contest.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl began in December 2011, when Texas Tech defeated Northwestern 45-38. The game has had a few sponsors in the past seven years – originally the TicketCity Bowl in 2011 and 2012, the bowl’s sponsor then became PlainsCapital Bank for one year, before the present sponsor of Zaxby’s in 2014.

While the Heart of Dallas Bowl is still new to the college bowl scene, the venue is not. The Cotton Bowl has been around since 1930, and is one of college football’s most historic landmarks. The facility was originally called the Fair Park Bowl, due to the location of the stadium in the Fair Park area near Dallas. The Cotton Bowl is the centerpiece of Fair Park, the site of the annual Texas State Fair that operates from the end of September thru October. The Cotton Bowl even hosted the historic Cotton Bowl Classic from 1939 until 2009, when the Cotton Bowl committee decided to move the game to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

The Cotton Bowl has been a sports landmark in the city of Dallas for decades, with teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, SMU Mustangs, and FC Dallas playing here, and the facility continues to be the annual host for two of college football’s biggest rivalries – the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas, and the State Fair Classic, featuring the Battle of the Bands, between Prairie View A&M and Grambling State University; both of these games occur during the Texas State Fair.

Food & Beverage   2

The Cotton Bowl did improve the concessions with the venue’s most recent renovations, however, the number of concessions stands is limited because of the attendance, as is the menu. The venue’s concessions options are the basic stadium food fare, such as hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, candy, pizza, peanuts, and popcorn. The minimum price for any food item other than chips ($2) is $5 dollars. The biggest item on the menu is also the highest priced at $9 – the deluxe nachos with chili and cheese.

The beverages at the Cotton Bowl are basic as well, with soda options only including RC Cola products and Dr Pepper for $5 a bottle. The weather can be cold at this time of year in Dallas, so hot drinks are available for $3. There are alcohol options, but only a very small selection – Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra at $8 for a 16oz bottle.

The concessions at the Heart of Dallas Bowl are a real disappointment, but the options around Dallas are so incredible that eating at the game should only be looked at as a filler.

Atmosphere   3

The college bowl game atmosphere varies all over the bowl season landscape, and the atmosphere at the Heart of Dallas Bowl varies depending on the team selections – those team’s fan bases will provide the atmosphere for the game. In years that at least one of the selected teams was local, fan attendance improved the atmosphere. However, in the two years that only non-local teams participated, only about 20,000 fans attended each game. Also, not selling seats in the upper level, so seating is only available in the lower bowl of the stadium this large, does take away from some of the atmosphere.

The intro for each participating school is shown on the videoboard before each team enters the field thru the only tunnel in the stadium. The fans that are in attendance at the Heart of Dallas Bowl are very good, as they have traveled to see their team play away from their home stadium, and the bands and spirit squads give a home feeling for the fans.


Unlike most bowls games though, the end zones are not painted in the traditional team’s name and colors. Instead, the end zones state a message and the purpose of the bowl game – the words “First Responders” and “Thank You” are painted in the end zones. Throughout the game, First Responders are recognized for their service.

Overall, the atmosphere meets expectations, if the expectations are just a basic football game inside a historic venue.

Neighborhood   5

The Cotton Bowl being in the middle of the state fairgrounds doesn’t offer much in the immediate neighborhood except The Old Mill Inn Restaurant. This eatery was built in 1936, and serves a variety of southern home cooking options. However, being within a 4-mile radius of several great Dallas neighborhoods, there are plenty of wonderful places to spend time sightseeing, eating, and enjoying your trip to Fair Park.

Deep Ellum, The West End, Trinity Groves, and Uptown are all part of the downtown Dallas experience. Deep Ellum is a neighborhood filled with arts and entertainment venues, and also has one of the best BBQ spots in the state of Texas, Pecan Lodge. Pecan Lodge is located on Main Street, although since the Heart of Dallas Bowl is around Christmas, plan for holiday hours. The Angry Dog is another great little spot for travelers, especially those from Upstate New York, as Binghamton Spiedies are on the menu.

Deep Ellum Brewery Company and Braindead Brewing are upcoming spots for people who enjoy craft beers. The West End Historic District is also a must for newcomers to Dallas, as this is the area where the Kennedy Assassination happened, near the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. This museum gives you the chance to relive the November 23rd day in 1963, or talk to people on Dealey Plaza about a conspiracy theory. There is so much at The West End to choose from; check out this site for more information:

If you are not searching for historic, then visit Trinity Groves. Trinity Groves is a revitalized area with various restaurants and shopping ( There are plenty of restaurants on the way thru Uptown on McKinney Avenue, but The Rustic on Howell Avenue is a good place because parking is much more accessible than on McKinney Ave. In addition, not many people think of Dallas as serving great pizza, but Campisi’s Restaurant on Mockingbird Lane will change your mind. Originally founded as Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge in 1946, this dimly lit restaurant has remained virtually unchanged since it opened. But history states that the Campisi’s family founders were no strangers to organized crime, meaning Viva Italia or terrific pizza.

Lodging is plentiful in and around Dallas, so choosing where you stay really depends on your budget. The Omni Dallas Hotel and Hyatt Regency Dallas are both near the Cotton Bowl – the Omni Dallas was home to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV, and the Hyatt Regency Dallas is next to Dallas’ Landmark, Reunion Tower.

There is so much to see and do in and around Dallas that fans will absolutely enjoy traveling to Dallas for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Fans   3

College football bowl fans vary throughout the country, depending on the participating school or the importance of the bowl to the national championship scenario. For the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the fact is that most of the fans are from outside the Dallas area, so expectations should be lower.

However, the Heart of Dallas Bowl committee has been great about selecting at least one team each year that is close enough to Dallas to help bring in fans – selections such as North Texas (2-time participant), Texas Tech, Houston, Oklahoma State, La Tech, and popular Army have ensured that an average of 35,597 fans have attended the bowl game each year.

Access   5

The Cotton Bowl is one of the better venues in terms of access, since the addition of the DART light rail. The DART light rail system covers the Dallas area, including stations at both Dallas Love Field and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. The light rail is easy to navigate by using color lines to transport around the system – the DART green line contains two transit stations that stop right at the Cotton Bowl, making for easy access to and from the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Parking passes for the Cotton Bowl are $20 per car or $30 for an RV pass. However, depending on how close you want to be to the stadium, vehicle parking can be as low as $10; additional parking information can be found at the Heart of Dallas Bowl website:

The Cotton Bowl’s concourses, bathrooms, concessions, and seating are easily accessible, with the venue being able to handle twice the number of fans.

Return on Investment   4

The easy access and parking, combined with a college bowl game during the holidays, is a perfect investment. Ticket prices for the Heart of Dallas Bowl are reasonable compared to any of the college bowl games – tickets are all lower bowl seating, with prices ranging from $25 to $125.

A trip to watch football in a historic venue such as the Cotton Bowl is well worth the price of admission – the stadium has perfect sightlines, so there isn’t a bad seat. The concessions are also typically priced, but the menu is small enough to justify just getting a filler compared to a meal.

Extras   3

The Cotton Bowl has hosted some of college football’s greatest games and players. The renovations have given new life to the historic stadium, and keeping the Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma here, where most fans want the game to be played, makes this facility an icon of college football – the Heart of Dallas Bowl committee continues the tradition by keeping this bowl game at the Cotton Bowl, while paying tribute to all first responders.

Final Thoughts

Any college football fan will enjoy watching a game in the historic Cotton Bowl – the history of the old stadium makes it a must-visit for any sports fan. In addition, the City of Dallas is a great place to visit for anyone, and this combination will continue to help the Heart of Dallas Bowl throughout its history, as a bowl destination that fans will remember and enjoy.


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Food and Drink Recommendations

Old Mill Inn Restaurant

3611 Grand Ave

Dallas, TX 75210

(214) 426-4600

Campisi’s Egyptian Restaurant

5610 E Mockingbird Ln

Dallas, TX 75206

(214) 827-0355

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!





Entertainment Recommendations

Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

411 Elm St

Dallas, TX 75202

(214) 747-6660

Reunion Tower

300 Reunion Blvd E

Dallas, TX 75207

(214) 712-7040

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!





Lodging Recommendations


Omni Dallas Hotel

555 S Lamar St

Dallas, TX 75202

(214) 744-6664


Hyatt Regency Dallas

300 Reunion Blvd E

Dallas, TX 75207

(214) 651-1234

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!




Crowd Reviews

Latest Crowd Reviews

Date: 2017-12-21 15:48:36
By: tejasduck4

Total Score

This bowl game might not be a major destination,as far as the participating teams, but the low ticket prices,in a historic venue, during the college bowl season. It is one of the better bowl games for your ROI.

Stadium Info

Cotton Bowl
1300 Robert B. Cullum Blvd
Dallas, TX 75210

Heart of Dallas Bowl website

Cotton Bowl website

Year Opened: 1930

Capacity: 92,100

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