Apr 2, 2009

Revised Rose Bowl renovation plan significantly scales back construction

By Dan Abendschein, Staff Writer
Pasadena Star News
Thursday, April 02, 2009

PASADENA - Rose Bowl officials are set to reveal a new, less-costly plan to renovate the 100-year-old stadium.

The scaled-down renovation would cost $160 million, much less than the $200 million to $300 million previously estimated. It also would involve far less construction.

The city's Rose Bowl Operating Co. board will meet tonight to consider a $1.5 million contract for pre-design work. Next month, board members will consider signing the full contract for the renovation.

The idea behind the new plan, said Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn, is to make smaller changes to the Rose Bowl that will keep its appearance basically the same. A massive restoration is not likely, he added.

“Most of the changes people aren't even going to notice,” he said.

But changes are still necessary for the Rose Bowl's long-term survival. Currently, profits from stadium events go toward maintenance and long-term costs, said Dunn.

The stadium also has problems with long lines and overcrowding and needs an easier way for crowds to evacuate.

Originally, plans for easier access involved widening the tunnels leading into the stadium.

The revised proposal calls for fans sitting nearest to the field in the bottom rows to file onto the field and exit through existing tunnels now used by sports players.

Making room on the field will require removing a few rows of seats. A few other rows of seats would be removed in order to install new stair cases.

Those changes will reduce seating capacity from 92,000 to 89,000. Even so, the Rose Bowl would remain as one of the highest-capacity stadiums in the country, officials said.

The revised plan also means less construction, which has long been a concern of residents in neighborhoods surrounding the Rose Bowl.

Nearby residents also favor other parts of the revised plan, including keeping neighborhood views intact by eliminating plans to extend the height of the stadium's luxury box.

“As an overall plan, we think it is a substantial move in the right direction,” said Norman Parker, president of the Linda Vista/Annandale Association of homeowners.

Instead of building up, the plan calls for constructing wider luxury boxes to accommodate extra seating, which are essential to the Rose Bowl's financial plans.

A large segment of the stadium's revenue comes from 600 expensive seats in the luxury box. The new plan will expand the number of those seats to 3,000, resulting in an extra annual revenue of $5 million, officials said.

That would be enough to pay off the renovation's $160 million price tag in just over 30 years. The amount would likely come from a 30-year municipal bond, said Dunn.

The stadium plan also features some minor aesthetic changes, including bringing back a remodeled version of a historic score board.

A visual history of the Rose Bowl would be incorporated in the new design. Circling the concourse outside the stadium would be bricks listing historic milestones at the stadium and plaques detailing a historical narrative.

The plan's architect, Janet Marie Smith, designed the renovations at Boston's Fenway Park, which also focused on preserving that stadium as it was, rather than making drastic changes.

Smith also worked on designing Baltimore's Camden Yard, considered to be one of the great successes in the baseball world.

The company she works for, however, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc., is currently experiencing financial problems and is having trouble finishing work it is doing for the city of Baltimore, according to several area business journals.

Dunn said he was aware the company has had some financial problems but said his understanding was that the problem was in the company's development division, not the design division that is working on the Baltimore project.

He said those issues could be considered next month when the stadium's board of directors discusses the actual contract with Struever Bros.

“We're not approving a contract at this point,” said Dunn.

Councilman Victor Gordo, a board member of the Rose Bowl Operating Co., said he had not heard about the company's financial issues but said he would look into it.

“For any contractor doing work in the city, they need to be financially sound,” said Gordo.

He said that the firm was a good fit for what the city hopes to achieve with the stadium.

“The beauty of this plan is that is builds up the strength of the Rose Bowl, which is its history," said Gordo. "It doesn't turn it into a run-of-the-mill, strip-mall stadium.”

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