California Memorial Stadium - Seating Configuration Changes in 2012

When I was but a young lad not quite seven years old, I attended my first football game at Cal Memorial Stadium. My memory is hazy of that day’s matchup, but I think it may have been the 1966 game vs. Michigan (a 7-17 loss to the Wolverines). As a result of the game, I was hooked on Cal football. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was also hooked on Cal Memorial Stadium. I’ve been in a few other stadiums, but none compares to Cal Memorial. Most of us here (*cough*DC Trojan*cough*) have fond memories of warm sunny days spent at Cal Memorial cheering on our Golden Bears.

During my numerous years of Cal football fandom, I have seen crowds that have filled Cal Memorial (mostly for the Big Game, it seems) and crowds that were sparse (rainy October and November games were the worst, it seems). For most of those years, attendance was announced in the 4th quarter and given in thousands: "Today’s attendance is 45,000. The University of California thanks you."

A friend and I used to play a game in which we would eyeball the crowd and guess a number, in thousands. Typically, at least one of us was within 3,000 of the announced figure.

I was also aware of Cal Memorial’s official capacity through the years as I often read them when Cal hosted the Big Game. It was during the Keith Gilbertson years that the question arose in my mind as to the accuracy of the attendance numbers and even how many people could fit in different sections. Simple observation indicated that not all sections were the same. Some were shaped like wedges while others were much closer to rectangles. Naturally, one would be led to believe that differently shaped sections had different capacities.

After the jump, I will discuss how I made my own seating capacity survey and compare the configuration in 2010 with the configuration in 2012.

1995 Seating Capacity Survey

In the winter of 1995, Cal Memorial’s AstroTurf playing surface was converted to grass. I was fascinated by the idea of the project and so I walked to the stadium to see if I could watch the proceedings. I found that I could very easily enter the stadium and sit in the bleachers while watching the work go on. And then it hit me: I could answer the question of how many seats were in each section. First, I needed to know the maximum number of rows in any section and the number of sections at Cal Memorial.

I walked the top row in each section and found that sections nestled against the hillside had one more row than sections buttressed by the iconic Western Wall. I prepared forms for my seat capacity survey and printed one for each section.

Later, while walking the aisles at Cal Memorial, not only was I reminded that there were sheltered seats under the scoreboards (I had forgot about them!), you could get inside the scoreboard structures, climb to the top of the scoreboards, and there were only 72 rows in the sections under the old Press Box. In short, I learned about the similarities and differences of the sections. But I digress.

The results of my seat capacity survey (1995) found that there were 74,676 seats, a difference of 316 seats from the official 74,992 seating capacity cited at that time for sold-out games. I merely assumed that the difference was in the Press Box seating capacity, which was quite large in those days, although not as large as the new Press Box will be.

Changes to Seating Configuration since 1995

Since 1995, Cal Memorial has added ADA seating at the top of Sections P, PP, R, and RR; the old Press Box was demolished for seismic reasons and a new temporary Press Box built in 2001, Sections W, CC, K, and OO were tarped and then un-tarped in 2003; the Gold and Blue Zones were painted and established in 2003; and reserved seating was established in the Gold and Blue Zones in 2007.

In between the last game of the 2010 season (November 27, 2010 vs. Washington) and the scheduled re-opening on September 1 against Nevada, 31 of California Memorial’s 48 sections will have been demolished and rebuilt to current seismic standards, restrooms and concessions upgraded and seating arrangements reconfigured.

Based on the 1995 seating capacity survey and noticeable and verifiable changes since then, I estimated Cal Memorial’s 2009 (and 2010) seating capacity at 71,972 exclusive of Press Box seating; my estimate is that Cal Memorial held 173 more people than the official number.

In 2012, I estimate that Cal Memorial seating capacity will be 62,710 (including the 472 seats in the University Club located in the new Press Box; my estimate is 7 seats less than the officially quoted figure of 62,717). This number is based on the seating charts that are now available online through

That represents an estimated reduction in seating capacity of 9,237 seats. So, where did Cal Memorial lose those seats? A comparison is in order.

Comparing 2010 with 2012

Basically, the best way to execute a comparison of the 2010 configuration vs the 2012 configuration is to create a spreadsheet that subtracts the seats in the CMS 2010 configuration from the seats in the CMS 2012 configuration. The most difficult parts of the comparison or the overlay, is (1) calculating losses due to expanded legroom and elbowroom in the ESP section and (2) comparing the 4 sections that were split between either ESP seating and Benchbacks (Sections FF and H) or Benchbacks and standard seating areas (Sections E and II).

The overall comparison took into account six factors: aisles, ADA seating, vomitories, other miscellaneous changes, legroom, and elbowroom. Here’s a breakdown of estimated overall losses (or gains) and the estimated numbers for Donor and Non-Donor sections:































The 9,709 seats lost are all in the bowl, not the Press Box. The University Club located in the Press Box will add back 472 seats. Including the gains from University Club seating, the estimated total seat loss is 9,237 seats. As a check on these estimated numbers, subtracting 9,709 from 71,972 equals 62,735; a difference of about 25 from my estimated 62,710 seating capacity. The difference (25) is about 0.04% of my estimated 2012 seating capacity. These estimated numbers seem reasonably close to accurate.

Remember, those numbers are estimates: I do not claim that these numbers are unerringly accurate. I do claim having put more than a little thought into how the numbers should be calculated and studying the configuration of Cal Memorial both past and future.

Seating losses summarized and briefly explained

Aisle losses were basically calculated by taking whatever number difference was in each row up to a maximum of 2 seats. I would skip over rows that I had marked as having been former or future vomitories and rows that were lost to ADA seating. For those rows, I assumed a loss of 1 seat per row and modified the formula accordingly. Aisle losses ranged anywhere from 58 (Section NN) to 110 (Section L) and 114 (Section II).

Vomitory losses were actually quite modest in non-donor sections. In some non-donor sections, there were gains approaching or exactly the same as the seat cost of the former vomitory (Sections B, CC, K, LL, and XX). Only in MM and M were the losses as much as half of a vomitory (25 in M, 48 in MM). NOTE: Section M had an original vomitory on one aisle (with Section LL), but not on the other aisle (with Section MM); Section MM had no original vomitory touching either aisle.

Vomitory losses in the Benchback and ESP sections were actually greater than in non-donor sections. Part of the reason being that there were more vomitories in those areas, especially in the ESP sections (8 ESP vomitories compared to 2 former vomitories (FF-G and GG-H): total losses of an estimated 184 seats).

ADA losses were almost as great in non-donor sections as aisle losses. ADA deck losses ranged from about 207 seats to about 248, depending on the sections and the seats lost in rows 27 through 33.

ADA decks are in front of most of the vomitories throughout the stadium. In non-donor areas, there will be 7 ADA decks; Benchbacks sections will have 2 ADA decks. These 9 ADA decks follow the same pattern: the equivalent of 7 standard rows are eliminated and the front of the deck is designated for wheelchair use. There are also stairs rising to both aisles adjacent to the decks: the stairs typically result in a loss of 2 seat s in 2 rows in each of the sections across those aisles.

ESP sections will have 8 ADA decks, although those decks will be smaller than the non-donor and Benchback ADA decks. 6 of the 8 ADA decks are in front of vomitories that are immediately adjacent to the walls dividing the ESP section from the Benchback seats; 2 ADA decks are directly in front of the Press Box at the tops of Sections G & GG.

The most stunning seating losses were from the expanded legroom of Benchback and ESP rows. By far, the greatest losses occurred in ESP sections G & GG, which lost an estimated combined 802 seats to legroom expansion. 802 seats represents about 24.6% of the seats in Sections G & GG in 2010.

Miscellaneous losses and gains were realized in a number of areas, most of them too small to mention. The biggest miscellaneous loss of seats was in Sections I and EE to the Press Box. 500 seats were lost in these two section to the footprint of the Press Box in what had been rows 65 through 74. Sections F and HH lost 14 seats to the Press Box.

The two biggest miscellaneous gains were 260 seats in the Student Section and 139 seats over South Tunnel. In Sections S & SS, Rows 1-5 were shown as available seats once again. These seats had been tarped over by the BearData sign.

In Sections M & MM, rows 14-24 saw gains of between 2 and 3 seats in each row as the top of the South Tunnel was lowered to Row 13. A total of 139 seats were added.


While there will be many fewer seats at Cal Memorial when it re-opens, we will see a stadium in far better shape than when we left it in November 2010. Here's to many more years of Cal football at the greatest stadium on earth!

The opinions expressed in a FanPost are, in every way, reflective of the opinions of every California Golden Blogs Marshawnthusiast. Moreover, they are reflective of every employee of SBNation, including Tyler "Blez" Bleszinski.

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