Monday, December 05, 2011

A Thorn in the Side of the Rose Bowl

Peace has returned to the Arroyo Seco. Songbirds are singing, their
voices carried on breezes wafting through the giant oaks, the sun
beams down on happy upturned faces while serenity abounds.

Yes, folks, football season is almost over and the Rose Bowl is
returning to its somnambulant state.

It’s been a great season for the nearby residents of the bowl. The
UCLA Bruins, principal occupants of the stadium, have been so bad
that attendance is dropping by the tens of thousands.

This is just fine with the homeowners who rarely emerge during
football season for fear of being struck by falling property values.

Football games draw crowds and crowds make them unhappy. Many would
be pleased if football was prohibited and the Rose Bowl was turned
into a museum.

Oh sure, they tolerate the Rose Bowl game on New Years. It’s all pomp
and pageantry and princesses, the kind of thing that makes you proud
to be a Pasadenan.

Beyond that? Couldn’t they just go and play somewhere else?

I guess these good people didn’t notice the 100,000-seat stadium when
they moved into the neighborhood.

But all is not happy in Arroyoland. The Rose Bowl, as it has for
years, needs money. They need it for maintenance of a nearly
90-year-old facility, they need it to modernize and stay competitive,
they need it because the stadium actually operates at a loss.

They need money because the stadium by ordinance is limited to 12
events a year that would attract more than 20,000 attendees. And that
impacts the stadium’s revenue stream.

Now, the National Football League is being wooed by Los Angeles city
officials and if the NFL decides to locate a team here, it would need
a place to play while a new stadium is being built to house the pro

Rose Bowl officials would like to see their stadium as that temporary
home. The money such an arrangement would generate could help pay off
a $16 million revenue shortfall in a $150 million renovation project
currently underway.

The neighbors are, predictably, upset despite the fact that the NFL
in L.A. is a long way from reality. This paper reported that the
Linda Vista/Annandale Association's 18-member board "voted
unanimously to oppose any occupancy of the Rose Bowl stadium by the
NFL," citing crowds and the negative impact on the Arroyo’s
recreational activities.

The city sees it a bit differently. “There obviously will be
potential impacts associated with the neighborhood; there will also
be significant economic impacts to the businesses in the community,
to the city's General Fund and to the stadium," City Manager Michael
Beck told this paper. "We have to take into consideration all of

This particular flap highlights the hurdles the Rose Bowl faces to
remain viable.

I did some freelance work for the Rose Bowl several years ago,
writing press releases and consulting as stadium officials launched a
fundraising drive for their renovation project.

That experience left me with two impressions:

(1) Rose Bowl officials bend over backwards to be good neighbors.
Despite the bluster from local homeowners associations, complaints
from residents are taken very seriously and steps are taken to
resolve them to the satisfaction of all concerned. When the
renovation project was launched, Rose Bowl officials reached out to
residents to make them part of the planning process.
(2) Money is always an issue. People think the stadium is rolling in money. It
isn’t. Rose Bowl officials rely on revenue from the Brookside golf
courses to help pay the bills.

Is this any way to treat an icon? If any institution in Pasadena
deserves some love, the Rose Bowl is it.

The stadium’s importance to Pasadena can’t be overstated. The New
Years game itself contributes $58.6 million to the city’s economy,
according to a study by the USC Marshall School of Business.

The Rose Bowl is one of the most recognizable sports facilities in
the world. It’s very existence has elevated Pasadena from just
another Los Angeles suburb to the special status it enjoys now.

Homeowners have every right to protect their property. But there’s a
thin line between self-interest and obstructionism.

If local homeowners fear the NFL, they should help in the
fund-raising efforts to complete the renovation project. Supporting
the Rose Bowl will pay enormous dividends to the city they call home.
And peace will reign in the Arroyo.

No comments: