Feb 13, 2014

A New Game Plan

Story by André Coleman, Pasadena Weekly

On Monday, the Pasadena City Council began a process designed to take any possibility of the NFL playing in the Rose Bowl off the table and introduced a possible “third tenant” in the form of concerts.   

The council voted unanimously to increase the number of displacement events — an event with an expected attendance of 24,000 people or more — from 12 to 18. The council also made it clear that the city will not enter into any agreement that would allow the NFL to use the stadium as a temporary home in 2014.

“The Rose Bowl is actively considering opportunities that have come in since the first of the year for music events and a soccer game and this gives us the opportunity to defer any consideration of the NFL for 2014,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard.” The goal here is to develop a program of activities that work for the neighbors and reduce the need to even consider the NFL.”

When asked if the increase in displacement events was the beginning of a process to eliminate any possibility of a team playing in the Rose Bowl, Bogaard said, “Yes, if things can come together on some new tenant or activity that is reliable. The goal is to go down that path and no longer consider the NFL.”

The Rose Bowl has long been talked about as a possible temporary home for a professional team relocating to Los Angeles while a permanent stadium was being built somewhere in Los Angeles County. The chance of that happening seemed to have improved earlier this year when a judge threw out a lawsuit filed by homeowners alleging that the city’s environmental impact report (EIR) on bringing a pro team to Pasadena did not accurately study the impacts of the additional traffic and noise. 

Last month, the NFL confirmed that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke had purchased a 60-acre tract of land in Inglewood, near the site of Hollywood Park, which has been closed to make way for residential development. The Rams left Anaheim for St. Louis in 1995 and the Oakland Raiders left Los Angeles a year later, leaving the NFL without a football team in the second biggest television market in the country.

The Rams’ current lease with the Edward Jones Dome contains an escape clause that will kick in at the end of the 2014 season. According to ESPN, if the stadium hasn’t been upgraded to one of the eight best venues in the NFL before that time, the Rams’ lease will then become a year-to-year proposition.

Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn has said repeatedly that no formal negotiations took place between the city and the league, but Councilman Victor Gordo, who sits on the Rose Bowl Operating Committee (RBOC) and serves as the liaison between the city and the Rose Bowl, said that the displacement events only address 2014’s possibility of an NFL team at the Rose Bowl, and added the right thing to do is to continue pursuing alternatives that build harmony between the stadium and the residents living in the Lower Arroyo.

“Rather than have the NFL go the way of the 710 [Freeway connector proposal] and remain a question that continues to divide this community, the responsible thing to do is pursue alternatives and see if there is a viable solution,” Gordo said.  

The vote to increase the number of events comes less than a week after the council voted to revamp its contract with the RBOC to increase communication between the stadium and the council. The new contract includes recommendations for three reports a year from the RBOC to the council and new policies for managing large events.

The RBOC has been battling for more than a decade to bring the financially troubled Rose Bowl into the black. In 2005, the council was split on entering negotiations with the NFL to bring a permanent team to the stadium, but later voted against it. The move prompted then-Councilman Chris Holden, now a member of the state Assembly, to take the issues to the voters who overwhelmingly defeated the measure when 84 percent of voters.

Despite the legal fight waged by neighbors to keep the NFL out of the Lower Arroyo, residents seem willing to allow more high-density events, even though they would also bring more cars and noise into their neighborhoods. 

“The neighborhood does not seem bent out of shape,” said Councilman Terry Tornek. “There are a lot of positive aspects to this. We have some serious moneymakers, including the group One Direction coming in for three shows. That is huge. I think it is a good test drive for what the Rose Bowl Operating Committee is calling a third tenant. You have the Tournament of Roses, UCLA and the third tenants would be concerts.”

Boy band One Direction has taken the music world by storm. Fans purchased 300,000 tickets in one day after the group announced dates for its 100-show concert tour sold in 2012, including a six-date sell-out of the 20,000-seat O2 Arena in London, which holds substantially less people than the Rose Bowl. 

Other events scheduled for this year include an international soccer match in July, which is expected to attract 70,000 people, according to a staff report.  Later this year, the stadium will also host Autism Speaks, an awareness event which in the past has been attended by more than 40,000 people. In addition, the stadium will once again host AmericaFest, the biggest Independence Day celebration on the West Coast.

“If you are dead set against the Rose Bowl [being used by the NFL] this is a good thing,” Tornek said. “I think it could be a good conversation to say ‘OK, no more NFL and what can we do for the Arroyo?’ The big picture is the Arroyo and that is what we need to figure out; how to manage the Arroyo. 

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