EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This New Year’s Eve is different in many ways for El Pasoans but one of the biggest differences is Sun Bowl Stadium sitting empty on Thursday as the Sun Bowl game was canceled for the first time in 87 years.
On Thursday at 12 o’clock, right when the kick-off should have been taking place, just a few Sun Bowl Association Members gathered instead, surrounded by empty stands rather than cheering fans and airplanes flying over and parachutes bringing the ball down to the field.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years and it’s kind of been special to me like it’s been special to so many people in El Paso, it’s not a lot of fun but it’s something you have to do,” said John Folmer the Chairman of the Sun Bowl game.
Folmer tells KTSM 9 News that as much as he wishes people filled the stadium on Thursday afternoon, he’s confident the best decision was to cancel the game because of COVID-19.
“Those poor people are suffering all over the world and we want to put a game, it’s not necessary,” said Folmer.
The game canceled to avoid having out-of-town people travel to El Paso as the Sun Bowl usually attracts many. The Executive Director for the Sun Bowl Association, Bernie Olivas, adds that even playing without fans wasn’t an option.
“Do we really want to bring out of town people into El Paso and expose them to what El Paso was going through and we decided that we did not want to do that and that’s why we canceled the game,” said Olivas. “Even if there had not been any fans, even just bringing the teams here, and in the situation we were in, in the time we decided, it was probably best you know not to have the game and not expose anybody to any danger.”
Olivas tells KTSM 9 News that he has been attending Sun Bowl games since he was 10 years old. Thursday was the first time since then that he’s ever stood in an empty Sun Bowl Stadium on New Year’s Eve. Adding that he knows it’s a tradition for many El Pasoans as it is to him, but asks El Pasoans to be patient.
“It hurts a lot but we’ll continue to do it, 87 years it would have been our 87th game, second oldest bowl in the country historically,” said Olivas. “We’re going to continue to have it, we’ll just have number 87 a year later and hopefully we’ll go another 87 years after that.”
Olivas said Thursday morning was difficult for him but he wanted to stop by the stadium today at the time of kick off and have a toast to future Sun Bowl games.
“So yeah, you know it was tough getting up this morning, you know waking up at 4 o’clock the way I normally do on game days to get down to the stadium, still woke up at 4 o’clock but nowhere to go.”
Hopeful that next year will be different and El Pasoans can ring in the New Year once again as they have for so many years before.
“Next year let’s just fill this place up and you know just make up for this year,” said Olivas.