FRISCO, Texas - The New Mexico Bowl, which is usually held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco Thursday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s just the latest of several events moved to North Texas because of stricter guidelines in other states.
Ursula Shipley braved the chilly weather to see her grandson and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors beat the Houston Cougars in the New Mexico Bowl.
The game was moved from Albuquerque due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico.
"We get updates and I’m like, ‘Frisco, Texas?’ I thought it was a misprint at first," Houston fan Eric Gooden recalled.
It’s the first time the game has been played outside the state since it began in 2006.
For Shipley, who lives in Prosper, it was a welcome surprise.
"Matthew has moved 6,000 miles away from home. Haven’t seen him in six and a half months and it’s really something very, very special," she said.
Ahead of the game - tailgating looked a little different in the sparse parking lot, but that didn’t faze Hawaii fan Caitlyn Yukna.
The Christmas Eve game coincided with a surge of COVID-19 cases in North Texas and hospital capacity nearly at full capacity.
"I think we’re all a little bit concerned, but many of us have had it, so some of us are less concerned," one fan said.
A New Mexico Bowl spokesperson said the average attendance for the game is more than 20,000, but Thursday’s game only had about 2,000 fans in the stands.
Eric Gooden and his wife said the four-hour drive from Houston was still worth it to see their son play.
COVID restrictions also led to the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl being relocated to AT&T Stadium in Arlington from its home in Pasadena, California, where the game has been played for over a century.
North Texas is hosting a total of five bowl games between now and New Year’s Day.
And earlier this month, the National Finals Rodeo was held in Tarrant County instead of its home in Las Vegas.
Shipley said as long as everyone was wearing a mask and avoided crowding up, she could focus on cheering on her grandson and his team.
Several Frisco business owners said they’re grateful the bowl game was in Frisco, because any added business right now is beneficial.