Extensive Renovation Project Aims To Take Rose Bowl Into Its Next Century
There’s a post-apocalyptic feel to a large stadium the morning after a major sporting event. Where once nearly 95,000 fans roared, a few stragglers meander through aisles strewn with remains as if they’re trudging through a foot of snow.
Even on a day like this — only 12 hours after college football’s national champion was crowned before a capacity crowd — George Cunningham is excited to come to work at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA.
“In one way or another, it is sort of a dream come true,” says Cunningham, the stadium’s COO. “To be in this iconic facility and to be associated with it and the events that have taken place here, it’s very rewarding, and it’s quite an honor.”
His words contrast the scene before him with half of the field’s sod ripped up from the ground, packs of gulls swooping overhead, and large black trash bags collected like bowling pins across the concourse. Somehow in this state the building still has the ability to charm the pants off of you.
There’s a reason the Rose Bowl was named one of the top American sports venues of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. It’s as synonymous with New Year’s Day as the Times Square Ball Drop. However, toward the end of the venue’s first century, it became clear to stadium officials and the city of Pasadena, CA, that, although the Rose Bowl was rich in nostalgia, it was sorely lacking in the amenities that today’s fans expect when purchasing a ticket for a live sports event.
In response, the city has invested more than $140 million to modernize the 92-year old gem in a multiphase renovation project called “The Next 100 Years.” The plan, which enters Phase 4 this month and is slated to continue through 2018, has already brought a world of change to the building, including new aisles and handrails, spruced-up locker rooms, expanded tunnels, updated bathrooms, and revamped electrical and plumbing systems.
The crown jewel so far, however, has been the addition of a new LED video screen and the extension of the 54-suite Terry Donahue Pavilion, which comprises 48 loge boxes, 1,200 club seats, a press box, a security- and stadium-operations command center, and a video-control room.
“We want to maintain that old, traditional atmosphere, but, at the same time, we know we’re competing with 55-in. TV screens at home,” says Cunningham. “That’s where this market is going. To keep our fans in the stands, we’ve got to give them a better experience.”
In 2012, the Rose Bowl cut the ribbon on a new HD broadcast center with a footprint 25% larger than its predecessor.
The control room fulfills three purposes: programming the stadium’s new LED video display, feeding content to TVs in new luxury suites, and serving as the control room for broadcasters coming in to televise events (most commonly, Pac-12 Networks, Fox Sports, and ESPN broadcasting UCLA football games) at the stadium.
Built around a Ross Video Vision production switcher, the room also features Evertz routing and multiviewers, a NewTek 3Play 4800 for videoboard replay, and a Chyron graphics generator for television. Ikegami cameras are deployed throughout the stadium to shoot content for the videoboard.
For the Rose Bowl Game and this year’s BCS Championship Game, the control room was not used by ESPN, which instead needed to erect a massive mobile-production compound outside the stadium.
Project Director Margo Mavridis says that her team has worked closely with ESPN and Fox to assess typical game requirements and that new SMPTE-fiber and triax cable runs are being installed throughout the facility.
The control room was designed by Dallas-based Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, and CTG was a subcontractor/integrator under Clark Construction, the general contractor.
In 2011, the Rose Bowl installed a 30-ft.-tall by 77-ft.-wide Daktronics LED video display above the north end zone as part of Phase 1 of the renovation plan. The screen has the ability to display 144 quadrillion shades of color and features Daktronics DVX technology at 600 lines high by 1,536 columns wide.
On each side of the board are three LED advertising displays, each 7 ft. high by 28 ft. wide. Daktronics software, which runs on a computer inside the video-control room, pumps content into the primary videoboard and the smaller advertising displays.
As with all stadiums but especially for a venue of this size, a major concern for the Rose Bowl team is DAS and WiFi connectivity. Whether it’s an emergency call or an Instagram selfie, fans — especially the college-age ones who typically fill the bowl — want to use their mobile devices. An old building like this needs major upgrades to make that possible.
“We’re definitely trying to stay up to par with the cellular needs that facilities are demanding, especially of venues of this magnitude when you have 94,000 people who all want to make a phone call or text somebody,” says Cunningham. “We have two IT consultants here at the stadium that have done a great job this past year.”
The stadium installed a temporary solution for this month’s Rose Bowl and BCS Championship games, and, according to Cunningham, it was a success. He was able to receive an operations call on his cellphone during the BCS game’s tense final minute. A year ago, he notes, he would not have received that call.
The stadium’s consultants have met with the major cellular providers to design an all-inclusive system that will be installed in time for the beginning of UCLA’s 2014 football season and a pair of One Direction concerts in early September.
“It’ll be something that you won’t be able to see,” says Cunningham, “and we aggressively made that point to our cellular providers that we’re excited to try things but, if we can see it, then it’s not meeting what we’re requiring. We want it hidden so we can keep that historic look of our facility.”
For a major event facility like the Rose Bowl, security is a chief concern, and that was addressed with the addition of the Unified Command Center, which houses every stadium operation, including fire, EMS, security, California Highway Patrol (CHP), and representatives for parking, the general stadium, and the city of Pasadena.
Local police oversee security with the assistance of 150 cameras scattered throughout the inside of the stadium and another 30 that shoot a perimeter around it. The newest cameras are 10 high-quality PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) devices stationed high on the lighting towers.
The Rose Bowl is also using social media to better enhance stadium security and traffic on event days. A dedicated staff member in the Unified Command Center monitors all the major social-media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), searching for any issues in pedestrian flow or traffic management. It gives stadium personnel the chance to act quickly in response.
“You can get instant resolve today,” says Cunningham. “It used to be, we’d hear about something that happened and then we’d meet up and fix it for the next event.”
Thirty people were stationed inside the Unified Command Center during the night of the BCS Championship Game, and nearly all were trained on ISS 24/7, a Web-based incident management system. Each department has its own login, which allows users to access the information and calls or requests relevant to them. For example, cleaning services has a login and is informed only of cleaning calls. The system also provides a detailed list of all incidents reported inside the stadium on a game day.
With the renovation project approaching its halfway mark, the Rose Bowl is currently a quirky clash of retro historic and futuristic modern. Maintaining the stadium’s identity has been paramount to the building’s executive staff and the city of Pasadena throughout this process. So fans entering the stadium over the next few years shouldn’t expect the building to lose any of its charm or character.
“That’s one of our biggest standing points here at the Rose Bowl,” says Cunningham. “You’ll notice that, [with] everything we’ve done renovation-wise, we’ve kept an old feel and look to it. We want to make sure that everyone still has that nice feel of history. This is the Rose Bowl; it’s been here for over 100 years.”
Phase 4 of the project begins this month and will feature renovation of the stadium’s famous main-gate entrance. A fresh brick path will be laid outside the stadium and will offer fans the opportunity to purchase customized bricks.
Crews will also work on widening tunnels leading to the field (in emergency situations, foot traffic will be able to flow out of the facility 16% faster than before), adding restrooms, and removing a section of seats to add hedges along the west sideline, bringing back an original feature that was pulled out when the venue needed to install a cycling track for the 1932 Summer Olympics.
Seats in the bowl will be redone over time, likely in sections. Cunningham notes that the building’s leaders would like to keep the traditional bleacher seating behind the north and south end zones.
It’s just another of the many features that make the Rose Bowl such a charming building and a destination spot for sports fans across the country.