Per Caps Pop For Red River Showdown

Ed Campbell Co. sets Cotton Bowl Stadium record despite restricted beer sales

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: October 9, 2018

Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas is the longtime home of the Oklahoma-Texas football rivalry game. (Getty Images)

The Ed Campbell Co. set a Cotton Bowl Stadium record for concessions sales at Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma football game despite restrictions on serving beer at the Dallas venue, said Ed Campbell, the vendor’s owner and operator.

The food and beverage per cap surpassed $9, a strong number considering those restrictions and the 250 food/drink locations operating just outside the stadium across Fair Park during the State Fair of Texas, Campbell said. Plus, the 88-year-old facility is limited on premium amenities with no suites or club seats.

The 2018 game, billed as the AT&T Red River Showdown, drew 92,300 fans. Doing the math, concessions revenue topped $830,000. It’s a number that would grow substantially if Campbell could sell beer at the stadium’s 45 permanent stands.

For years, the vendor has complied with regulations set by the two Big 12 Conference schools limiting in-venue alcohol sales. As it stands now, serving alcohol at Cotton Bowl Stadium is restricted to a few VIP areas and a beer garden in the south end zone with a capacity of 350. But as more colleges adopt public beer sales at their on-campus facilities, including the University of Texas, which began the practice in 2015 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, there’s a renewed focus on eliminating those restrictions for the Texas-OU game.

The Sooners remain a holdout, although school officials are studying the issue for Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and could bring a recommendation for public beer sales to the OU Board of Regents later this month, according to local reports. In-state conference rival Oklahoma State University began selling beer at Boone Pickens Stadium this season.

In Dallas, many ticket holders buy and consume alcoholic beverages elsewhere at Fair Park before heading into the game. In addition, fans are allowed to leave the stadium at halftime and have a drink before coming back through the gates for the second half, he said.

The setup creates some logistical headaches at the facility, which opened in 1930 and has tight concourses. Expanding beer sales inside the stadium, in addition to creating a new revenue stream for the vendor and Fair Park, would help reduce congestion just before kickoff and after halftime, Campbell said.

“It would simplify a lot of things,” he said.

For this year’s game, Campbell expanded menu items to include pork and brisket nachos, soft tacos, quesadillas and fajitas, Philly cheesesteaks, shrimp kabobs, hot deli sandwiches and a carving station.

For the third year, national restaurant chains On the Border and Chili’s plus local BBQ eatery Sonny Bryant’s had branded stands at the stadium. Those establishments supply staff and equipment and pay Campbell a percentage of sales.

As part of stadium upgrades, the construction of a second commissary on the west side under the press box has helped streamline operations, Campbell said. It joins an older commissary on the east side.

Apart from OU-Texas, Cotton Bowl Stadium plays host to the Texas Southern-Southern University game Oct. 20 and the Servpro First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26.

Elsewhere, The Ed Campbell Co. runs food service for the Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar Independence Bowl game in Shreveport, La., and multiple high school football stadiums in Greater Dallas-Fort Worth, some of which seat 15,000 to 20,000 fans.

The vendor also contracts with the Majestic Theatre, a historic 1,700-seat performing arts center in downtown Dallas.

The 2018 Texas-OU game marked the 43rd consecutive year Campbell has worked the event at Cotton Bowl Stadium. The run includes the first seven years he was employed with the old ARA Leisure Services, now Aramark.

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: October 9, 2018