The Dallas City Council approved a $300,000 payment to ESPN on Wednesday to help subsidize a bowl game at the Cotton Bowl stadium for the next two years.
The measure barely passed, 8-6, with heated debate on the council over using tax money for a sporting event and questions over what Dallas gains by hosting a mid-tier bowl game.
The game being debated is what’s now known as the First Responder Bowl. It was previously called the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Attendance has been up and down for the eight years the game has taken place.
Supporters in city government see the television exposure as the only way to attract quality matchups to the Cotton Bowl. Critics called it corporate welfare for ESPN's parent company, Disney.
“With all the need at Fair Park and all the buildings around it, we need to write a check to Walt Disney to put on this game? Come on, doesn't Mickey Mouse have a little money in his pocket?” said councilman Scott Griggs.
The two-year deal will use funds from the Parks and Recreation Department budget.
The 2018 game will be played Wed. Dec. 26 at 12:30 p.m. and televised on ESPN.