Jan 25, 2011

Larry Wilson: All smiles at kickoff luncheon for America's Stadium

Larry Wilson, Staff Writer ~ Pasadena Star News ~ Posted: 01/25/2011 06:05:22 PM PST

Sue Mossman was walking out of one of the northeast tunnels of the Rose Bowl on Tuesday afternoon carrying a dozen real red roses with a smile.

Nothing unusual about a Pasadena nonprofit director leaving a lunch with a bouquet of flowers. But Sue is the executive director of preservation powerhouse Pasadena Heritage, and there is no way on God's green Arroyo Seco floor that a few years ago, when the NFL was attempting to turn the historic stadium into a rootin', tootin' 21st-century sports arena, that she would have been there smiling.

Now, because the sensible, necessary renovation - which was formally commemorated Tuesday at a lunch on the Rose Bowl field - got buy-in from all the powers that be in Pasadena, everybody's happy.

Well, there are some metaphorical dorky sub-coaches tripping up running backs from the sidelines along the way. If it's no $500 million boondoggle of the kind the National Football League was planning, it's still a $152 million renovation. And the bond market didn't cooperate the way it might have done, leaving a $10 million gap in what is needed, or at least desired, and what is available to be spent.

But what they're trying to dub, and why not, America's Stadium, is still going to be restored, seismically upgraded and luxury boxed over the next couple of years, and that is worth celebrating. Not only preservationists out to protect the legacy of one of Pasadena's greatest architects, Myron Hunt, but an even stickier wicket, the neighborhood associations surrounding the bowl, have bought in to the plans.

No higher silhouette. No glowing purple lights a la L.A. Live. Yeah, there'll be a new video board. You can't go to a game, apparently, without a really big TV for the replays. Must be wreaking havoc on the binocular-manufacturing sector. If you don't wear a pair around your neck, though, how are you going to zoom in on the cheerleaders on the other side?

Anyway, after a lot of hard work and effective compromise by all concerned - by the Rose Bowl Operating Co., by GM Darryl Dunn, by the nonprofit Legacy Connections headed up by Western Assets CEO James Hirschmann that aims to raise $25 million in private funds toward the renovation - everyone's concerns have been addressed.

Even Bill Leishman, whose namesake grandfather built the place in the '20s, looked happy at the lunch. It was 74 degrees in late January on the hallowed field, so green I thought Astroturf had been laid down for the party. Construction continued in the stands rising above the luncheon guests. The Orange Bowl's been razed. They don't even play the Sugar Bowl in the Sugar Bowl anymore. But the Rose Bowl - it's one for the ages.

Wednesday's random note: It was interesting to hear last month in a KPCC interview with legendary musician and arranger Van Dyke Parks that he attributes his first break in L.A. to Pasadena songwriter Terry Gilkyson, who gave him the Disney tune “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book” to arrange.