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MX News Update 2024

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Dallas approves deal to bring new women’s professional soccer team to Cotton Bowl Stadium

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an agreement aimed at paving the way for a new women’s soccer team to call Cotton Bowl Stadium its home starting this summer.

The City Council approved a two-year, $592,000 grant for Fair Park’s operators to secure a contract with the unnamed USL Super League team to play home games at the more than 90-year-old stadium in South Dallas. There is an option to continue the $296,000 annual subsidy for a third year.

The Dallas City Council has approved using public money to bring a professional women’s sports team to the city for the second time in two months. The News reports on these decisions because they are part of an effort to stimulate economic growth and workforce development through sports, especially in the southern half of the city.

The council voted 14-0 to approve the city grant. Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn was absent from the vote.

How did Dallas get WNBA’s Wings to move downtown?

“The addition of a USL franchise to Cotton Bowl would not only allow Dallas to witness the rise of women’s soccer, the city will proactively shape the future of the sport while providing opportunities to those who may not have access at all to sports. said Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission. The Sports Commission handles sporting events and competitions for the DFW area as part of VisitDallas, with which the city contracts to promote Dallas’ conventions and public events, advertising and tourism.

It’s the second time in as many months that the City Council has approved a deal to bring a professional women’s sports team to Dallas. It was praised Wednesday as a measure expected to help cement the city’s status as a live sports destination, help Dallas be part of the continued growth of women’s professional sports and be an economic development engine in the southern half of the city.

A deal to increase the use of the 90,000-plus-seat Cotton Bowl Stadium “is something that everyone in Fair Park wants,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who represents the area.

“For our city to be proactive in taking the approach of investing and highlighting the importance of women’s sports, to me, just means that our city is as welcoming and inclusive as it is,” he said.

New football competition

The USL Super League is a new eight-team women’s soccer league that schedules matches from August to December, with a mid-season break running until January and then more matches from February to May.

The team plans to announce the club’s name, logo, other branding and more details about the upcoming season at an event Thursday morning at Klyde Warren Park.

Jim Neil, the team’s CEO, whose family owns the team, told council members Wednesday that the franchise was excited to be the city’s first professional women’s soccer team. He said they were looking forward to helping increase investment in women’s sport.

Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas could become a new home for the pro team under the proposed city deal

He said the team was negotiating with Dallas College for possible practice space. The team aims to host youth clinics and tournaments and plans to have more than half of its employees be women, and also seek women and people of color as minority team owners, he said.

“We want to make this team a team for Dallas and a team that the city of Dallas can be proud of,” said Neil.

Under the proposal, the city would give the grant to Fair Park’s management firm Oak View Group, which would continue to book the stadium even on days when the venue is not reserved for the football team. The proposed resolution ahead of Wednesday’s vote described the annual $296,000 as an event subsidy payment amounting to $18,500 per game, but it is not immediately clear what the full terms of the team’s agreement to play at the stadium are or whether other city incentives are offered. .

On April 24, the City Council approved a 15-year, $19 million deal to relocate the WNBA’s Dallas Wings from Arlington to downtown Dallas. The proposal, which must still be approved by the WNBA Board of Governors, would have the Wings play at Dallas Memorial Auditorium starting in 2026.

“We are thrilled to have another women’s sports team in Dallas playing in yet another iconic and historic venue,” said Interim City Manager Kimberly Bizor Tolbert.

Cotton Bowl renovation

Cotton Bowl Stadium is undergoing approximately $140 million in renovations expected to be completed by the State Fair of Texas in the fall of 2025. Improvements to restrooms, concession stands, seating and new escalators are among the upgrades planned for the stadium.

The venue annually hosts the Red River Showdown football game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, as well as the State Fair Classic football game between Grambling State University and Prairie View A&M University. It was formerly the home field of what is now Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas and regularly hosts soccer matches, including a pre-season match in January between FC Dallas and Inter Miami.

In 2026, the Cotton Bowl will host a FIFA Fan Festival, public events for World Cup matches. The AT&T Stadium in Arlington will host nine World Cup matches that year, including a semi-final.

WNBA’s Wings could call downtown Dallas home by 2026 if council approves $19 million incentive deal

The deal Wednesday was accompanied by some criticism. Councilman Gay Donnell Willis expressed concern about the involvement of OVG and Fair Park First, the nonprofit organization that oversees management of the 277-acre city park.

At least two audits are underway after Fair Park First CEO Brian Luallen released a statement in April alleging OVG used philanthropic money for day-to-day operating costs while they were supposed to be making capital improvements for the site.

OVG has denied any wrongdoing. City officials were told that as of May 1, Luallen was no longer the nonprofit’s CEO, but the nonprofit’s board announced on May 5 that Luallen would remain in the position and be placed on paid leave for 45 days. in the middle of a job performance review.

When asked if the football team deal would be affected if Dallas were to cut ties with Fair Park First or OVG, assistant parks and recreation director Ryan O’Connor said there would be “no functional change from the team’s perspective. “

“The city would take on that contract,” O’Connor said. “We would continue to manage it just as we would any other contact on campus.”

Mayor Eric Johnson, who is credited with playing a key role in the city landing the Wings and the new football club, said Wednesday that Dallas has no plans to stop adding more sports teams to call Dallas home. He created a council committee in 2022 that looked at ways to bring more professional sports franchises and events to the city and retain the existing ones.

“Rest assured, we are not done here yet in terms of sports,” the mayor said. “The best is yet to come in this area.”