Thursday, January 11, 2007

A New Bloom


I've been hanging around the Rose Bowl for some 50 years or so.
When I was very young, my older brother took me to my first football game, a New Year's Day headbanger featuring USC and Wisconsin in 1953. Even though we sat in the rain all day, I loved every minute of it.
Later, my father and I had an annual tradition. We'd go to something called the Junior Rose Bowl game every year, which pitted the two best community college teams in the country. We usually didn't know much about who was playing but even then, my dad figured I had community college written all over me. He was right.
When I was in high school in Glendale, the annual Glendale-Hoover titanic was played at the Rose Bowl annually, a real adrenalin rush.
Then, when UCLA took up residence in 1982, we bought season tickets which we own to this day.
To the casual fan, not much as changed at the Rose Bowl since the 1950s. The scoreboards are new, there are a few more restrooms, a few more concession stands.
And the seats. In the old days, you sat on benches, no seatbacks, no arms. When someone at the other end sat down, 50 people had to slide to one side to make room. It didn't do much for the game experience but it was a great cardio-vascular workout.
Now, most of the stadium has theater-style seats. An improvement? Not necesarily. The leg room is so bad that you almost need to assume the prenatal position when you sit down. Remember when you sat at your kid's desk at back-to-school night? It's kinda like that.
So I was glad to receive an e-mail recently, soliciting my opinions about a potential renovation of the 84-year-old stadium.
Nobody questions the need for renovation. But financing it is another thing. The city of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Operation Committee had a great plan: stick the National Football League with the bill.
But since that dog won't hunt, it's time for Plan B.
The Rose Bowl is already an international attraction. So is Stonhenge but that doesn't make it a comfortable place to hang out.
Plan B would change all that, providing first-class comfort and luxury.
We're talking luxury boxes, preferred seating, plentiful rest rooms, actual leg room, easy access and egress, a real showplace.
The cost: $100 million to $200 million.
That's not outrageous. The Univsrsity of Michigan is coughing up $200 million for a redo of its stadium. Not to be outdone, Ohio State has a $194 million plan.
So who around here has that kind of money? The city of Pasadena? No. The University of California system? Nope. UCLA? They have their share of high-roller alums and a good sized fan base, but guess what? They're about to get touched for a major re-do of Pauley Pavillion, the on-campus basketball venue. Estimated cost: $70 million. And at UCLA, basketball is king.
And you can bet those same high rollers and fans will be in the marketing cross hairs if an NFL team comes to town soon.
The competition for the sports dollar in this town is getting fierce.
Nonetheless, if you read the survey, it seems clear that luxury suites, premium seats, better parking and other amenities along with various naming rights are the cornerstone of a plan that would raise revenue to pay for a renovation bond.
And the city of Pasadena along with UCLA and the Tournament of Roses are putting up $250,000 to spend on a strategic plan to make it work.
Here's how this Rose Bowl user comes out in the survey.
Would I buy a luxury box? Nope, the high cost pretty much limits those to big corporations.
Would I pay for preferred seating? Probably, provided I could get it in a location I wanted.
Would I spend extra to preserve the Rose Bowl for future genetations?
Absolutely. And I hope there are many more like me.

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