On the EDge: Save the Sunbowl

Aerial view of the Dixie Sunbowl, St. George, Utah, date not specified | St. George News

OPINION — It’s nice when everybody wins.

Now, let’s just hope the St. George City Council doesn’t mess it up.

Thursday night the council will vote on a proposal that would see the city selling to the Washington County School District a 6-acre piece of property where the Elks baseball field and some horseshoe pits sit. The school district plans to use the property to build a new school to replace the aging East Elementary. Dixie State University would then purchase the old school site for a new building. And, the beloved Sunbowl would remain a piece of the St. George landscape.

It would be the best decision to come out of that council in years.

The kids could use a new school, DSU would gain a much-needed facility, and the Sunbowl will live yet another day.

We have long been a fan of the old structure.

It has a certain charm, and certainly a long history that some were ready to put on the shelf simply because it has a few years on it.

The thing is, people come to places like St. George for a bit of local charm, a bit of history.

You can find sterile, cookie-cutter facilities all across the nation as the truly unique aspects of a small town are chiseled away in the name of progress.

But, why should St. George, Utah, look like Anytown, U.S.A.?

It already has the requisite big-box stores, chain restaurants and such to match any suburban city or town in the country, why not hold onto a little charm?

Those who would tear down the old facility have said it’s an eyesore, not worth the effort, that there aren’t enough events there each year to make saving it worthwhile.

That’s a load of garbage.

The one place where people gather in St. George is the Sunbowl. They go there for the rodeo, they go there for the 4th of July festivities. If the city exercised a little ingenuity, it could be a regular go-to place.

You could put the art festival there instead of that sprawling piece of lawn where they have it now. You could hold concerts there, festivals, sporting events, expos of all sorts – from outdoors extravaganzas for the local rock climbers and golfers to whatever else a creative mind could imagine.

The problem with so many cities these days is that there is no focus, no place where everybody congregates. St. George is lucky to have a place like the Sunbowl that could host a wide variety of community events where everybody can get together, sit with their neighbors and family, and have some fun.

It was suggested that the annual rodeo should be shifted to the Washington County Fairgrounds, which is about as warm and inviting as a Fudgesicle. It’s cold, sterile, too far out of town. It’s not inviting, it has no charm. It’s a dirt field with a corralled-off area and some ugly buildings. I’ve been there for several events and, to be honest, all I could think about was getting out. It truly felt like Purgatory.

It’s true that the Sunbowl could use some renovation, but, we hear all this business about the so-called “Spirit of Dixie,” so let’s see just how much spirit there really is.

It’s also true that the facility has been severely underused over the last few years, but there is a reason for that: the city has simply not had anybody in a position to put together events residents would actually leave their homes to attend. It’s not a job that can, or should, be handed off to some guy in the city office.

One of the things I find striking about The Baja is that it has preserved its charismatic old buildings.

I walked down the same streets in San José del Cabo as John Steinbeck and his friend, Ed Ricketts, when they were collecting specimens in the estuary off the Sea of Cortes. I sat in the same cantina, in the same spot, as Ernest Hemingway, overlooking the ocean. I felt the history. It was overwhelming. I wouldn’t have had those experiences, however, if the cities decided that those buildings were too old and needed to be torn down.

The streets of San Felipé are old and, sometimes, broken, but the color and character of the place remains. You see it, feel it, breathe it, become a part of it, and it suddenly imparts a little bit of itself upon you and you carry it with you. I dare Wal-Mart or the Olive Garden to even try to compare with that.

But see, they have a respect for what has gone before, and an understanding that the oddly shaped buildings, despite their age, tell a story.

The Sunbowl tells a story.

You walk into the place and you can almost hear the crowds from a distant past roaring for a cowboy busting out of the chute on an angry bull. You can feel the presence of the athletes who have graced the field. You can feel the energy of a community that worked together to build the place.

You won’t get that at the fairgrounds, for sure.

Yeah, the Sunbowl is old.

That doesn’t mean it is useless, that it should be torn down in the name of “progress.”

I wasn’t born in St. George, and I certainly don’t plan to die in St. George, but I do know that there is a special feeling that always came over me any time I walked into the Sunbowl, a feeling of warmth, of charm, of history.

I am sure I am not the only one who has felt that way.

I read somewhere that it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to put money into renovating the facility.

I say it would be morally irresponsible not to put money into it. It’s a very important part of the city and its history touches everyone.

Save the Sunbowl.

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • bw January 27, 2015 at 7:09 am

    what a great picture i hate how southern utah has grown

    • koolaid January 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

      If you don’t like it then move.

      • tight magic undies January 27, 2015 at 10:13 am


      • One for the road January 28, 2015 at 8:25 am

        And KOOLAID lowers the boom.! yeah nice one.

  • Nuttle January 27, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I love the growth but not at the expense of the old. It is the combination of the two that make it so unique and helps us understand the culture and history of the area. I’d love to see more things at the Sunbowl, even if it was just a flea market, an outdoor movie or local concerts. I’m glad we had such a history loving former mayor that made sure a lot of the history was preserved.

  • UTCOWBOY January 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Yeah times have changed I’m in favor of saving the Sunbowl

  • Anon January 27, 2015 at 8:27 am

    This reminds me of a Doctor Who episode. “Just this once, Rose… EVERYBODY LIVES!” 🙂 An elementary school next to the Sun Bowl would help provide parking during special events (if the school lets them).

    • Herd January 27, 2015 at 10:52 am

      If a school is built there, forget the fireworks, because not only would it take the land where fireworks are launched, it would present a fire hazard to the school. Parking on school grounds for a city event is a liability issue.

  • Herd January 27, 2015 at 8:28 am

    There is no charm to the sunbowl. It is an outdated facility of crumbling concrete and rusting metal. The electrical and plumbing are outdated. The parking inadequate. The seating cramped and uncomfortable. The whole place is an accident waiting to happen and an expense to taxpayers to keep around. There are only two or three events held in the sunbowl. For some illogical reason, people would rather see the baseball field razed, a field that regularly has baseball games, soccer and flag football games played there. Unlike the vacant sunbowl, the baseball field serves a purpose. I liken the sunbowl to an unsightly, old rusting hulk of a car sitting on blocks in someone’s yard to someone feeling some attachment to a vehicle long overdue to the junkyard and for which the expense of repairing far exceeds its value. However, with the sunbowl, the ‘government’ (taxpayers) is expected to foot the bill to restore something that won’t be used, will be ignored by most and neglected until the next multi-million dollar repair bill. Get rid of it, already. Build a school which this growing city needs.

    • groanattack January 28, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Ya know, I am inclined to agree with you. Kind of a dusty, rarely used, unkempt eyesore. Flea Market? I would be all for it if it kept all those dang yard sale signs off the sidewalks!

  • JJ January 27, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Look how pretty that hillside is without the giant “D” and the cutout scar.

  • short crick blockhead January 27, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I think Ed dreams of the day the City will allow a mini Woodstock type concert at the Sunbowl. Oh how Ed dreams…..only problem would be that lighting up the big “fatties” wouldn’t be tolerated by the SGPD. Ed, it’s the new millennium, time for the change to arrive.

  • . January 27, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Tear it down!

  • Arts and Letters January 27, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Ed, you’ve laid out an excellent argument on behalf of the Sun Bowl. The City Council could do just what you suggest and save the place. The only drawback I see is that you’ve asked the city to use a lot more imagination and creativity in making use of the charming old place than I’ve seen on its part in doing anything at all up to now. It takes a lot of community spirit (and I mean the whole community and not just the ruling church) to really have a community. Like you, I can envision many wonderful things going on in the old Sun Bowl, but is there enough community spirit to support them? A funny thought, but maybe it will be up to the newcomers who are not locked into the “old ways” who will save places like the Sun Bowl and bring the community spirit so much needed here. They’d also feel less like outsiders and interlopers. A win for everybody.

  • bob January 27, 2015 at 8:46 am

    more like the toilet bowl. that place is a piece of crap

  • M and M cookies January 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I realize history, save the sun bowl, but also, because th use is limited, the land could be used for more value to the city other than nostalgia..whatever they decide, we know who is still in control in this city..there are so many art galleries, making the new one will not revitalize downtown.. When they took out the live theater it change the outlook of downtown..
    It’s like. Starting switch point, the DC and S is till cowtown and has issues… People at switch point are being seen on the arrest list too. So what has changed??.

  • bully January 27, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Sound reasoning Ed. I hope Mayor Pike reads and comments on your article.

  • Robert Morris January 27, 2015 at 9:22 am

    i liked the spirit of your opinion piece, my question is what history? Did Daniel Boon or Davey Crocket rodeo there? Did something amazing happen there that I’m unaware of? My mother in law is a hoarder, she believes she is collecting antiques. It is hard to explain to her that not everything old is antique, some things are just old and new works better.

  • mars January 27, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Thanks Ed for your insight and input. The Sunbowl is a part of St George as is th D on the hill. If JJ was a true ‘ Dixieite’, he would realize that picture doesn’t even show the part of the hill with the D on it. I promise it was there! These people that move here because they were unhappy elsewhere then come here and try to change everything, will never be happy anywhere. They just have to grumble and complain. I love St George, we share many good memories and I kinda like it that way!

  • Jon Pike January 27, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Great article, in my opinion at least. And I appreciate all the comments, pro and con.

    Our plan is to first, keep the Sunbowl and let people use it more! We have sodded the field so it can be used for things such as soccer, football, lacrosse, etc.

    We also hope to have other events such as ones mentioned in Ed’s article.

    If we find the demand is there, we could then allocate some RAP Tax funds to make incremental improvements – starting with the restrooms, concession stands, and parking.

    Other improvements could include seating modifications.

    As mentioned in the article, all of this could and I believe will be done with the additional help of community volunteers.

    Let’s see what we can do!

    • Joyce Kuzmanic January 27, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Thank you, Mayor, for joining our forum. 😀
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

    • bully January 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Good to hear your thinking of the possibilities Mayor. Take your time to consider all the needs involved. There’s a lot of volunteers waiting to help. I’m sure Ed,( with shovel in hand), would help man the road apple removal team. Did someone mention anything about a community dance party venue as a possibility?

      • koolaid January 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm

        Dance venue? You kidding? The city would tear it down before allowing any dancing there.

    • brettybret January 27, 2015 at 11:12 am

      The cost to use City fields and School District fields has been cost prohibitive in the past. It is often cheaper to run baseball and soccer tournaments in Mesquite than it is to hold them here in town (SUSA President’s CUP). I’d love to see some other uses for the sun-bowl by some private groups, but from what I understand it is not priced competitively (compare to Mesquite or Cedar Soccer fields, or Tuachan/Zions Amphitheater).

      I also hope that the City decides to close off portions of 200 South and 200 East to allow the use of Vernon Park to be integrated into the Elem. School’s design. Limiting the through-way between the Pickleball/Volleyball courts and the Sun Bowl could create much more parking than there currently is there and provide safer traffic patterns for school buses and children. Maybe residents there would like to be on a cul de sac?

    • Me.com January 27, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Eyesore, relic, standing in the way of something that could be much
      better. Sorry, mayor.

  • mars January 27, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Not sure when M & M moved her but I’m sure it was Cowtown then too. If M&M is too good for our city then why did you come here in the first place? There was a time when the Dixie Spirit and community support was rampant. That community support is what built the Sunbowl in the first place. As I see it, the spirit has been squashed so much recently with all these negative newcomers that put up a fuss about anything that is done that it becomes pretty discouraging. St George has some of the most dedicated leaders you can find anywhere. The flack they receive as being ‘good ‘ol boys’ is ridiculous. Well guess what ? It was these boys that have made St George what it is today. If you want things to be like the place you came from then I suggest you crawl right back there. We welcome those who want to move here and be a part of our community but please don’ t criticize and change us. It gets old listening to you bitch and complain constantly. Accept us and you might find a little happiness.

    • tight magic undies January 27, 2015 at 10:12 am

      You don’t like the change Mars? Have you considered moving?

      • mars January 27, 2015 at 1:18 pm

        No, M&M, I haven’t considered moving! I love this town and everything about it. I am not the one complaining about changing everything . I am happy with things the way they WERE! Why fix it if it isn’t broken?

        • koolaid January 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

          Some people might appreciate it if you did move. Get rid of the roadblocks to positive changes.

          • One for the road January 28, 2015 at 8:27 am

            Yeah what KOOLAID said.!

      • FYI January 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

        There was once a City by the Sea and the city was full of CityFolk who said “Oh how we hate it here.” “Wealthy elitists have moved in, and they can afford to build big ugly boxes on the beach that blocked others’ views to the ocean in an effort to gain a pristine three-story view of their own.” “It is not at all like the great wonderful City by the Desert, where the people are so friendly and warm and so pleasant to be around”

        So the CityFolk move from the City by the Sea to the City by the Desert and on most days could be found exploring the pristine outdoors. But then the CityFolk started noticing that things were not to their liking. And cries of “the town is being run by the Good Old Boys Club, and these hicks or Dixie-ite, are too backward and racist in their thinking to be in power”

        So the CityFolk whine, and cried, and wrote about how things should be in the newspaper and campaigned to bring ENLIGHTENMENT to the City by the Desert. They scoff that those who said “It you don’t like it leave”

        Cries of it a “hotbed of Tea Party and Libertarian nuts”, and of the locals it was said “These are the guys who were either too lazy to leave Southern Utah or more ruthless than their siblings in grabbing the inherited land they now sit on.” “religious right which predominantly governs this state is insidiously bigoted and prejudiced”

        After a time the CityFolk with help of others of their kind, got their way and made the changes, that brought the ENLIGHTENMENT to the City by the Dessert. “The growth of St George is due to outsiders coming here. We have a voice in the direction of this city; this is our city, too”

        After the election it was heard thought-out the kingdom; “Out with the OLD and in with the NEW! Yea! Hope and Change wins again.” “Should have listened to us outsiders instead of disregarding us since we’re not from dixie.”
        There was dancin’ in the streets for the new mayor. Shouts of “Nice going St. George it’s about time.” In the words of the best president of this country ever…..”get over it. WE WON”.

        Then after awhile the CityFolk put a For Sale sign in front of their house. When ask why they were leaving after getting ALL that they had demanded. They cried

        “Oh how we hate it here. It is not at all like the great wonderful City by the Forest. Where the people are so friendly and warm and so pleasant to be around” and as they drove away you could hear “See you out there”and “No Bad Days”

        • koolaid January 27, 2015 at 6:58 pm

          Yep, and blacks say the same thing about slavery, just as blacks pine for the days of religious discrimination by a church in Utah.

  • Pam Graf January 27, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Bravo Ed! You said as it should have been said. The Sunbowl does add the charm, the history and is part of the reason travelers to St. George want to be here. Let’s do get creative and find ways to use it bringing more possibilities of events to attend and enjoy! Sign me up!

    • Koolaid January 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Oh yeah, the weeds that grow around it are delightful.

    • mars January 27, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you, Positive Pam! You well know how much work it takes to preserve our heritage. If the whiners would spend more time doing positive things like you do, we wouldn’t have the eyesores. Your great attitude, hard work and your volunteering is greatly appreciated in the community. People like you are what has made St George the lovely place it is.

      • herd January 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

        Volunteers are appreciated by those cheapskates too cheap to pay anyone a decent wage for their hard work. You do not see council members pulling weeds and picking up trash, and certainly not for free.

  • Mike January 27, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Who the … is running this place I went to school there it was not that old in 1964 I had to go a old Jr. High that is still there put the money in fixing up and expand it. thing seems like we have to build new buildings and raise our taxes
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Koolaid January 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Break the sunbowl into 20 pound pieces or larger chunks that people can purchase to display in their yards or in their living rooms. Then whenever they view that chunk of concrete in their living room or yard, they can reflect upon the good ole days. Sell the Sunbowl concrete memorabilia at $1.00 pound. Not only could the money be used for something useful, this would also be an opportunity to own a piece of history and dixie heritage they are attached to while their city government sells off every piece of land to the highest bidding developer.

  • julie January 27, 2015 at 11:27 am

    We’ve lost too many of our beautiful old buildings and gathering places. I hope the Sunbowl stays.

  • TODRYT January 27, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Oh golly gee willakers people are having a difference of opinion about the Sunbowl I’m hoping it is a spirited conversation of different ideas and hopefully a well informed and mature conversation about the pros and cons of the property of interests to both sides hopefully a decision will be reached in a acceptable time range to the satisfaction of all interested parties. It is obvious that decision must be reached by the community leaders and hopefully with the volunteers and possibly some fundraisers the appropriate amount of money to proceed forward to restore the said property of interest

  • Arts and Letters January 27, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Why is it that when anyone talks about either the good old days or making new improvements, the stock answer here is so often “If you don’t like it, move.” No wonder there’s no sense of community in St. George. There ARE things in St. George that could be changed for the better and there ARE things here that are worth saving – places, events, activities. But the narrow-mindedness is one thing that could definitely stand a change. Maybe St. George could make money selling bumper stickers: If You Don’t Like It, Move! Would be pretty funny to see a lot of cars driving around with that one. And would sure discourage any newcomers with good ideas.

  • Dsean January 27, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    The Sunbowl is an eyesore and a waste of space. Get rid of it. Build something that can be useful more than a couple times a year.

  • short crick blockhead January 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Bad idea to leave it as it is. Lawsuit waiting to happen. Think about it very thorough Mayor Pike.

  • Jace January 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Between spending money on the Electric Theater and the Sun Bowl? Spend it on the Sun Bowl.

  • Viewpoint January 27, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    When Obama (or any Democrat) suggests spending tax-payer money to save the economy, people in southern Utah scream that it’s wasteful and irresponsible spending. When Bush (or any Republican) suggests spending tax-payer money to bail out bankers and CEOs, people in southern Utah say nothing. When their own city government proposes spending millions of dollars to refurbish an aged useless relic, people in southern Utah say this government spending is the thing to do.

    • bully January 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      And when St. George News one day, suggests that VIEWPOINT might want to contribute a small yearly fee to voice his/her opinion on the web, watch how fast he puts his tail between his cheeks and runs the other way, yelling Not Fair! I’m telling
      Al Sharpton on you! I’m entitled. I am not cheap, I am not cheap!

  • Cpayne January 27, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Save the Elks Baseball field. I spent a heck of a lot more time there than at the s
    sun bowl!

  • Ducks January 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I’m sorry but to spend around $1,000,000 for a facility that’s used only 12 days a year? Can you spell “ridiculous”????

  • koolaid January 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Is Ed campaigning for the spectrum position by showing how dixie conservative he can be? However, could this be the first time Pike took an opposite view on something from his predecessor? Might he somedaychange a law and legalize dancing in St George? That would be a huge development!

  • Nate January 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I love the idea of keeping and restoring the Sun Bowl! There are many ways of making it a great asset to the community. Can you imagine if businesses donated to give it a brick facade facelift?! The street between Vernon Worthen Park could be closed and used for parking or a landscaped plaza leading up to the entrance to the sunbowl. Some landscaping, new bathrooms and concessions, etc.? It would be a destination venue. We could have some electric, epic and historic football games there between Dixie and Pine View, Snow Canyon and Desert Hills, etc. Perhaps Dixie State University would be willing to hold a couple of football games there as well…maybe the Homecoming! It wouldn’t take much to make it look like a Fenway Park. Flags flying around the perimeter along a new black ironrod fence that sits atop the red brick facade. I know many people, myself included that would be willing to contribute to save and remodel Utah’s Dixie SunBowl!!

  • groanattack January 28, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Putting a school there would be great. The cops could probably place an extra 1,000 dumb pies in pergatory for selling drugs near a school.

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