UTEP's leadership proposed significant upgrades to the Sun Bowl this week, including a request to County officials to add the $99 million "uplift" to the quality-of-life capital improvements that voters could decide upon in November.

University President Dr. Heather Wilson detailed the plans to donors on Thursday and will address the media on Friday.

Here are the proposed upgrades to the Sun Bowl:

  • Drivable field cover system required by top acts
  • All electrical system upgrades to power A-list shows that currently pass on El Paso
  • Improved entrance for 18-wheelers to access the Sun Bowl
  • Upgrades to the locker rooms in the South Entrance
  • Improved bathrooms and concession areas
  • Accessibility improvements for people in wheelchairs
  • Scoreboard revamp

UTEP is suggesting that upgrades to the Sun Bowl could have a major impact on tourism, jobs and retail spending, projecting a $2.06 billion economic impact over the next 30 years, per an analysis from the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness.

El Paso Matters reported on Thursday that the plans could reach $200 million in renovations and UTEP hasn't detailed how they might fund the project. This could end up being another donor-supported project for the university.


Why this is necessary 

I can't tell you how many times I've made the trip to Phoenix, driven to Austin, flown to Los Angeles or traveled outside of El Paso to see some of my favorite music acts over the years. If I could watch these live shows in my city, it would add convenience and excitement.

The Sun Bowl is hardly used outside the Miner football season, with concerts feeling like a one-per-year event and Monster Jam taking up a few weeks. The last concert at the Sun Bowl was Rebelde (RBD) and featured a sold-out show. Before RBD and Def Leppard/Motley Crue performed at the Sun Bowl in 2023, the stadium hadn't held a major concert since Guns N’ Roses with ZZ Top on Sept. 6, 2017. Currently, the Sun Bowl doesn't have the accessibility needed to regularly host these larger-scale concerts, like better 18-wheeler access and a field cover. Imagine if the Sun Bowl held a handful—or a dozen—concerts like this every year. It could boost tourism to El Paso for the major shows and have people across New Mexico, Mexico and Texas traveling to town for the A-list acts.

Now let's talk about the locker room situation.

The locker room—often called the dungeon—has been in dire need of a facelift for decades. The south entrance locker room improvements are not just for the Miners and their visiting teams, but also for the Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl teams. UTEP is currently renovating the locker rooms inside the Larry K. Durham Center. Simply put, there are high school locker rooms in town that rival the locker rooms inside the Sun Bowl. These locker room improvements are a must, with or without the County's support.

The other improvement that stands out is the convention center-like redesign of the South Entrance, which could host events for about 1,000 people. This could be another stream of revenue and opportunities for the Sun Bowl and UTEP.

With other community-wide projects like the Northeast Amphitheater, the proposed Sun Bowl upgrades fall right in line as a high-upside project.

What will El Paso think?

If the proposed upgrades end up being voted upon in the quality-of-life capital improvements this November, UTEP enters a space they haven't been in over 10 years.
First, the administration will need to sell the idea to city leaders. Then, the community will need to buy in.
With the failed multi-purpose downtown arena and other capital improvement needs across the city, would voters prioritize these upgrades and buy-in on the investment for the Sun Bowl upgrades?
The Sun Bowl is 61 years old. It features a majestic mountain view and a beautiful setting for sports. The last upgrades to the Sun Bowl came with the addition of indoor and outdoor club seating in 2021.
Let's see if El Paso will back the newest proposed uplifts.

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