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It's Texas-OU Weekend: Longhorns And Sooners Invade Dallas

BJ Austin
The Cotton Bowl at Dallas Fair Park is dressed up and ready for the annual Texas-OU football game.

It’s Texas-OU weekend in Dallas. That means a flood of burnt orange and crimson rolling into downtown tonight.  

That’s ahead of Saturday's annual football match-up in the Cotton Bowl. The first Texas-OU game was played before the teams even got their names: the Longhorns and the Sooners. The first game was in 1900 – 114 years ago.  

The 2014 Red River Showdown in the Cotton Bowl is a sellout – 92,100 seats.

“The Texas OU game has been a sellout since 1941," says Karissa Schuler with the State Fair of Texas. "The game itself has been held at the Cotton Bowl since 1929.  And we just got the extension to hold the game in the Cotton Bowl through 2025.”

Schuler says the historic Cotton Bowl has undergone an $80 million dollar facelift over the past few years to look good, modernize and keep the TX OU game coming back.

“We have 36 concession stands in there that offer 1100 feet of counter space.  That’s a lot of counter space," Schuler says.  "And then you have 39 restrooms throughout the Cotton Bowl that are equipped with 1100 new toilet fixtures.”

That’s a lot of toilets.

TX OU game day at the State Fair is a crowd-buster – with some 100,000 football fans added to the usual headcount.  And that means State Fair vendors sell a lot of corny dogs and beer.  A couple of years ago, the Fair saw 3.2 million dollars in coupon sales for food and rides in that single day.

In the shadow of Big Tex, Isaac Rousso has been getting his Magnolia Beer Garden ready for TX OU crowds since last year.

“From this pavilion area that we’ve added this year we’ll set up two additional bars that they’ll be able to use," Rousso said. "And in addition to that, we’ve added a new corner bar that we have here.”  

And he’s got his beer distributors on speed dial just in case he needs them on game day.

“We’ll bring in an extra 50 bartenders just for that day to be able to support that,” he said.

Numbers for getting to the game: Fair Park has 20,000 parking spaces at $15.00 each.  The Fair gates open three hours early on game day: 7 am. Concessionaires fire up the deep fryers an hour later.

DART expects 150,000 people to ride the train game day – double an average weekday commute. DART says leave early.

Nearly 300 miles of I-35 are construction free this weekend – no orange cones or lane closures as fans pour into Dallas from Austin and Norman.   

Back at the Cotton Bowl, there are more than a dozen things fans cannot bring to the game. Some new rules this year put size limits on purses and all kinds of bags are banned.  

“Including backpacks, purses that exceed 10 by 10 inches," Karissa Schuler noted. "Any artificial noisemaker like bells horns kazoos whistles.  Those are prohibited in the Cotton Bowl.”

The list also includes hard plastic or metal water bottles, laser pointers, e cigarettes and umbrellas – even though rain is in the forecast for kickoff. But Schuler’s not worried. 

“The energy that’s here on game day for the Red River Showdown is incredible," she said. "It’s something that you don’t want to miss.”

And Dallas business folks can’t miss the bottom line. The Convention and Visitors Bureau puts the annual economic impact of Texas OU weekend at about $34 million.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.