Heather Wilson’s Folly

UTEP’s president Heather Wilson wants the County of El Paso to ask the voters of the county to give the university $99 million to fix up the Sun Bowl for arena shows.

From an article on ElPasoTimes.com:

Bringing in the huge concerts that have become a national trend will not only help music lovers but also bring in multiple millions of dollars into the El Paso economy, according to a UTEP study, Heather Wilson, president of the University of Texas at El Paso, said at a Friday news media briefing.

“We’re only using the Sun Bowl for 30 days a year,” including UTEP football games, two Monster Truck shows, and a few concerts, Wilson said. It also hosts the annual, nationally televised Sun Bowl college football game.

. . .

By bringing in only eight additional, huge concerts per year, the Sun Bowl could bring in $2.06 billion over the life of a 30-year bond from tourism, retail spending, local tax revenue and new jobs, according to a study done by the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at UTEP, Wilson reported.

” . . . only eight additional, huge concerts per year . . . .”

Let’s see. There’s Taylor Swift. And?

Michael Jackson? Prince? Jimi Hendrix?

Juan Gabriel? Vicente Fernandez?

A Beatles reunion tour?

I’m sure any of those acts would fill the Sun Bowl, but that’s gonna be kinda hard to swing.

Here is Pitchfork.com’s list of the 63 hottest tours of 2024, and besides Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones, I’m not seeing any stadium shows here. Could Adele fill the Sun Bowl? Alanis Morissette? Billy Joel?

Probably not.

Those shows are great, but they’re not a Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones level draw. They’re not attracting whiny tweens and Super Bowl champion wide receivers, or enough baby boomers with deep pockets.

And how about the local market for stadium shows? We’re not going to fill the Sun Bowl with tourists from Des Moines and Boise. After a couple, aren’t chuquenses and juarenses going to have sated their appetites for multi-hundred-dollar once-in-a-lifetime mega shows?

And eight in one year? Year after year, for thirty years?

Can’t we ease into multi-hundred-dollar once-in-a-lifetime mega shows by selling out a lot of shows at the Don? Can’t we demonstrate that there’s an audience for those kinds of spectacles?

I think Ms. Wilson is testing the critical thinking skills of the voters of El Paso County.

Maybe Ms. Wilson is just trying create some jobs for Jordan Foster Construction. Paul Foster is the former President of the Board of Regents for the University of Texas System.

I’m old enough to be cynical.


  1. There are a few small-venue boutique acts I would like to see and will probably have to travel to do so. The kind of acts Red Rocks (9,500 seats) might attract. Loreena McKennitt; The Dead South (that are four Canadians); Nathaniel Rateliff; Rising Appalachia; Be Good Tonyas (Canadian); Heliung (that I would call Neolithic Revival). I’ve seen the Stones twice, enough for a one lifetime, and I think Taylor Swift is bubble gum and Madonna is demonic, neither of which appeal to me.

    I’m not sure any of my list would draw a crowd here, but five of the six are Millennial acts, so I’m not just going for the Boomer stuff like Dylan and Nelson. It was my Canadian sojourn 2015-2017 that introduced me to this genre’ of music and I am sorry I missed the chance to see Rising Appalachia in Victoria in 2016.

  2. It’s a university system facility, correct? Why doesn’t the university system foot the bill?

  3. Also interesting to note that the study justifying this madness was done by the “Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness.” Hunt Companies must’ve found ways to benefit from this and decided to push a nonsense study.

  4. OMG! More crazy?! If UTEP wants to improve their Sun Bowl, then, by all means, go on ahead. But, do it on your own damn dime! Whenever the City wants to make use of that facility y’all are usually quick to remind us that it is yours, and you want us to pay for the privilege, so you keep it up and improve it. And, you eat the money that you will lose with this ridiculous idea. The days of filling giant arenas with quality acts appear to be in the past, you know. For one thing, there is very little music out there to attract a large enough crowd.

  5. Wilson is not being clear headed. She’s talking about a 30 year span and how much $$$ it will bring in. Who knows what the concert venue business might be in 5 years, much less 30. Virtual Reality? As John Dugan, above, said, there aren’t that many acts that play in huge arenas. Crazy talk from a woman whose only prior experience before UTEP was President of South Dakota School of Mines, student population 2,477 and an academic staff of 159. I suggest she “work the room” and ask the local bigwigs for money for her “dream.”

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