By Rock Mayock 11:45 p.m. | If you remember, we first discussed the pending renovations to Cal’s Memorial Stadium all the way back in August 2011. Along with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, Cal’s Memorial Stadium sits atop the Mount Rushmore of venerable Pac-12 stadium venues. However like the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl the combination of time, environmental factors and an increasingly competitive conference have forced Cal to make much needed renovations to Memorial Stadium.
In 2005, Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced an ambitious three phase renovation plan to bring Memorial Stadium into the modern era. Phase I of the plan entailed the construction a state of the art training facility designated as the Student Athlete High Performance Center ,or SAHPC. Phase II of the plan involved the renovation and retrofit of the west side and both end zones of Memorial Stadium. Phase III of the plan is supposed to renovate and retrofit the east side of the stadium. Phase I of the project was completed in 2011 and Phase II is currently in full swing however the completion of the overall project has been threatened by significant lapses in both planning and funding. In a three part series the FOOTBALLPHDS will break down the genesis of the stadium renovations, the financial issues plaguing the project and the outlook for the University’s ability to meet its stadium related debt obligations.
The fully grasp the severity of the current host of financial ills ailing Memorial Stadium it is necessary to understand its history. The genesis of Memorial Stadium was an altruistic one. In 1921 The Associated Students of the University of California raised $1.4 million to pay for the construction of a lasting memorial to Californians who died in the line of duty during World War I, hence the name Memorial Stadium. The entire $1.4 million constructions cost was raised through traditional fundraising efforts as well as the sale of subscriptions that entitled purchasers to discounted “Big Game” tickets. It should be noted that not a single dollar from either the University’s general fund or the State of California was used to build the stadium.
Memorial Stadium’s unique neoclassical motif was largely inspired by the University’s chief architect and chair of the Memorial Stadium Architectural Committee, John Galen Howard. Howard’s Romanesque vision for the Memorial Stadium has endured the tests of time and resulted with it being listed on the National Register of Historic Place on November 28, 2006.
Despite the aesthetic beauty of Memorial Stadium, the venue had two glaring design issues from its inception. The first issue is that the stadium was designed as a football only venue as evidenced by the fact that it does not have a running track. More importantly the stadium is built directly on top of the Hayward Fault which literally runs goal post to goal post under the playing field. A 1998 seismic safety study conducted at the Berkeley campus deemed the stadium represents an appreciable life hazard in an earthquake event. In response to the seismic safety study new expansion joints were placed in the walls of the stadium to maintain structural integrity but in excess of $14,000,000 of additional renovations were required to make the stadium pass minimum safety code. Furthermore, the aging facility required upgrades to the playing surface, score boards, jumbo screens, general seating, restrooms, concession stands, handicapped access, press boxes and luxury boxes. These upgrades were estimated to cost hundreds of millions to complete.
Due to the magnitude of renovations required to Memorial Stadium the logical question was raised as to whether or not the stadium was worth the expense of preserving or of if was prudent to simply raze the venue and start anew. Unfortunately Memorial Stadium’s status as a National Historic left Cal with only one option, renovation.
This weekend we will explore the monetary costs for Phase I and Phase II of the three phase renovation project. We will also evaluate the creative financing used by the University to justify the renovation costs and their overly optimistic plans to pay for it.