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Football: Memorial Stadium one week from liftoff and the the word you’re looking for: Wow!

By Jeff Faraudo
Friday, August 24th, 2012 at 9:37 pm in Football.

I got my third tour of Memorial Stadium today and I can confidently report to Cal fans: You’re gonna love it.

I first was taken through the facility in April, when the project was taking shape but had much left to do. Then in early July, I got another tour, which reflected substantial progress but still a long list of unfinished work.

On Friday, although not entirely finished, the place looked gorgeous.

Click here for a photo slide show courtesy of Anda Chu

The university’s objective was to take a facility that generations of Cal fans love, make it safe, modernize it, provide the small touches that give it style, yet maintain the character and feel of the 1923 structure.

They have succeeded.

There were few bad seats in the house in the past, and there are perhaps none now. By lowering the field four feet, those low-row seats no longer have their view blocked a curtain of 6-foot-5 football players wearing cleats and helmets along the sidelines.

Sad to report that those of you who enjoyed plucking splinters out of your backside after a game are out of luck. The old wooden bleachers are gone.

Those of you lucky (and wealthy) enough to have seats in the eighth-level presidents box on the west side of the stadium will enjoy spectacular views of the field while seated in perhaps the most comfortable chairs I have ever settled into. I considered spending the night.

There are amenities everywhere. Top Dog, that Berkeley culinary tradition, will have two concession stands along the East rim. The main concourses are sufficiently wide that fans no longer will feel they are running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Where there once was one elevator, there now are seven. The joint has 365 restroom stalls.

Mostly, though, Memorial Stadium still will feel like the place where you went to games as a kid or an undergrad. The view up Strawberry Canyon remains, as do the unparalleled vistas toward San Francisco and the bay.

During an afternoon news conference, Cal dignataries smiled so broadly you knew their faces would hurt for days.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said “autumn Saturdays (last year) just didn’t feel the same on campus without the excitement of Cal football.” He promised fans will be “awed” by the new facility.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour, noting, “It’s difficult to believe this day is here,” recalled how various options for the future home of Cal football were considered. Included among them was possibly moving the stadium off campus — and far from the Hayward fault that runs through Memorial Stadium.

Ultimately, she said, everyone agreed to tackle the project that has consumed Cal athletics for the past seven years. “Today validates our decision in such a big way — the decision to restore Memorial Stadium, to keep football on our campus.”

George Breslauer, executive vice chancellor and provost, pointed out that Memorial Stadium is the one place on campus that brings together every demographic of the university community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, members of the broader Bay Area community — “to cheer for the object of their common affection.”

Barbour, while thanking dozens who contributed to the project and promising to show her gratitude to hundreds more over the coming months and years, noted proudly that “this was conservatively a 30-month project, delivered game-ready in under 21 months.”

Of course, much of the $321 million pricetag — to be financed entirely by private donors — still exists. John Wilton, vice chancellor for administration and finance, opened his remarks by suggesting, “Today is not a day to go into the financial weeds.”

Pressed to explain how the debt will be paid, Wilton asked which members of the assembled crowd purchased their home with a single cash payment.

Then he expressed confidence that even in a difficult and ever-changing economy, the debt will eventually be retired. “This project was always projected to be debt financed over a fairly long period of time . . . (it) will be paid from the future revenue from athletics,” he said.

Barbour reported that although the Sept. 1 opener against Nevada is not yet a sellout, she is confident it will be. She said the ticket office, in recent days, has sold an average of 1,700 tickets per day for that game.

Coach Jeff Tedford called the stadium “unbelievable,” and said his only disappointment is that Cal no longer provides “absolutely the worst visiting locker room in the country.”

Tedford added, “There is no place like Memorial Stadium to play a football game — the beauty, atmosphere. There is nothing like it. People are going to be amazed.”

“She’s beautiful,” Barbour concluded.

 

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  • Juancho

    Jeff any truth to the rumour i read on the internet about top dog uniforms? Very excited to be at opening day.

  • ConcordBear

    Pretty exiting stuff.
    Memorial is going to shine for a long time.
    For the first time in my life I feel like the Athletic Department gets it. They know the opportunity they have with this amazing facility and are all over it.
    I’m really excited about the potential and the work being done to support it all!
    Go Bears!

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Not sure the Top Dog uniforms are on their way, but the big news Friday was they served four varieties from Top Dog to guests (and reporters) at the news conference.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    First, Jeff, that is a very well written article. Thank you.

    Second, how will the debt which was incurred by the stadium be paid off? Crummy the SF Gate had an article on that today.

    The article said the ESPs have not sold as well as was expected (Duh…with a mediocre team like UCB who would pay that kind of money) and the guys over at Haas Business School are being asked to come up with a plan.

    Well if their finance department is as inept as their marketing department based on those new Bollywood advertisements then you might as well go the sub-prime route.

    Prediction: With the stadium retrofit on her CV, Sandy is out of here. She just hamstrung the university with a debt it won’t pay off for decades.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    BTW, Jeff, care to tell us how many Top Dogs Crummy ate. I heard he is Kobayashi II when it comes to hot dogs.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    A poster named John F Hudson wrote this comment on SF Gate article re. the stadium. It is a great comment.

    JohnFHudson

    2:05 AM on August 25, 2012

    This article afforded only cursory treatment of the “Endowment Seating Program”. These are seats between the thirty yard lines on the west side of the stadium priced at $40,000 for 40 years of tickets to $225,000 for 50 years of tickets. Most of the lower priced seats have been sold. Most of the higher priced seats have not. (You can bet that the athletic department will have the unsold expensive seats filled by shills of its choosing.) Most of the “endowment” seats are actually sold on credit under a non-recourse option provided by the athletic department. (If you don’t like this option, you can take out a mortgage on your house.) As a non-recourse debt transaction, the purchaser is free to stop paying at any time forfeiting only his “endowment” seat. If Tedford continues to field teams like the ones he has fielded the last few years, what do you think is going to happen?

  • MikeD

    MoreNCS_are_ignored and sanctioned! troll post blocked

    oooh, so sad… and three of them at that, winning!

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/58785

  • Juancho

    Thanks Jeff. Can we get an update on your top dog preference.

    Im a chicken apple with mustard guy. Love those things. Remember going to top dog as a teenager and liking it. Then remember going to top dog drunk at 2 am as a student and loving it.

    I read a blog post the other day where some guy said cal may have a top dog themed uniform.

  • 707 Bear

    Game On!

    8:45 AM Park in Genetics, stoll uphill through the most beautiful campus on the planet, stop a few times to admire the beaux arts buildings of the central campus (California Hall is pure genius)
    9:30 March-to-Victory, see the boys hug their parents, siblings,
    10:00 hope that Blondie’s is open for a slice, listen to the drum line practice
    10:30 Cal Band and a new group of cheerleaders
    11:00 Tour the stadium, lotion up, Starkey on the radio
    11:45 Cal Band, National Anthem, fog machine, North Tunnel
    12:00 Rose Bowl dream begins

    Saturdays in the fall means college football!

  • rollonubears

    Ooh. I like that itinerary. Looked into a flight out to Oakland or SF for an impromptu visit to opening day. $800. Not gonna happen. Thank god for the slingbox. Go Bears!

  • Will

    Free Top Dog and a tour of the new stadium? Looks like JF was the real winner yesterday.

  • wehofx

    707 & JF, I’m jealous.

  • H8sRed

    I toured the stadium in early June and was amazed by what was completed and by how much work still had to be done. I’m excited to get back there next week to see the finishing touches. This project has been exceptionally well choreographed, and those involved deserve hearty congratulations.

    As for the price tag, no doubt the cost is steep; however, I see it as making necessary changes that had been deferred since before I first started going to games in 1975. Viewed from that perspective, the cost is quite reasonable. And the dividends begin paying off on Sept. 1.

  • Will

    Not to mention the disaster that would have ensued had the big earthquake hit pre-renovations…

  • Juancho

    They still cant sell alcohol in there?

  • Rocko

    That’s all we need is a bunch of twenty something drunks at CMS. No thanks!

  • MoreSanctionsComing

    MoreNCsarecoming

    Go away, Moren.

    Have I asked you today why your life is so empty that you spend most of it in places (Cal forums all over the internet) where everyone hates you and wishes you would go away?

    There is help out there for people like you, Amy. You don’t have to feel so alone anymore.

  • daredevilfan

    MSC, please ignore, do not respond or goat. See the following post for discussion.

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/beartalk/2012/08/05/football-khairi-fortt-is-in-the-house/

    Please join us in this effort to keep this blog positive and CAL focused. thx.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Daredevilfan, please see the following post under “Football: Tedford, Bears embrace social media”.

    MikeD Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 2:23 pm
    hey all! A new version of the greasemonkey script is out, I’ve updated the block list to include troll poster MoreSanctionsComing, no need to keep reading that drivel any more either, good times! Go Bears!

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/58785

    May I remind you not to respond to that troll and let’s keep it to football. What do you predict will be the final score of the Nevada game?

  • Will

    Rocko – you clearly aren’t a recent grad. The 20somethings get smashed before the game, since they aren’t allowed to drink inside the stadium :p

  • covinared

    Will, in my day security was pretty lax. One smuggling method was filling up a gallon milk jug from the keg and throwing it over the fence. Half pints, pints and joints were also pretty easy to get in.

  • Will

    Oh definitely. Heck, just wear pants with big pockets and you can probably get a flask in.

  • Will

    My point being this: We’re missing out on a major revenue source by not selling alcohol at the stadium. 20 year olds will get drunk no matter what. The 40,000 non-student fans who would be buying beers aren’t able to, which seems like a wasted (pardon the pun) opportunity.

  • H8sRed

    Alcohol is available in the ESP sections.

  • Will

    H8sRed, can anyone go there to procure alcohol? If so, good news!

  • Boaltblue

    Let’s thank Coach Tedford, Sandy Barbour, et al., for the new stadium, training facilities, and record of most Cal Football wins by any Cal coach. As Barbour has said, we will win with Tedford as coach. I say, “Tedford has earned the opportunity to show us what he can do with the new facilities.”

  • wehofx

    Boaltblue, True dat!

    This thread made me crave Top Dog. Tried Slaw Dog in LA. Sucked.

    RE: Alcohol. If you don’t have wherewithal to smuggle booze into Memorial, you shouldn’t be at Cal.

  • daredevilfan

    Wehofx, well said!

  • Rollonubears

    Great story! Any updates on practices?

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Boaltblue Says:
    August 26th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
    Let’s thank Coach Tedford, Sandy Barbour, et al., for the new stadium, training facilities, and record of most Cal Football wins by any Cal coach. As Barbour has said, we will win with Tedford as coach. I say, “Tedford has earned the opportunity to show us what he can do with the new facilities.”

    ________________________________________________

    Will you feel that way after another 6-6 season and a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Bowl game?