So on May 18th, my son and I had an opportunity to tour the New-old Memorial Stadium to see the progress and some of the cool new features within. We showed up at 4:00 PM, since there is a skeleton crew only from 4:30 - 6:00PM, and a brief window to tour an active 24-hour construction site. After the jump, many, many more photos.
(click on photos to embiggen)
The meeting room was in The Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance, and overlooked the football half of the center. Cool! After some brief remarks from Sandy regarding the intense passion that Cal fans possess, which has led to both the construction of the SCSAHP and the renovation of Memorial, it was time to don protective gear and tour the site.
WHAT? We aren't in the first group? Ah well, but the first group didn't score Cal Football legend David Ortega for a tour guide:
Behave, or I will tackle you, you wouldn't like that.
So instead of heading out to Memorial, we toured the The Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance first.
Mr. Ortega talked intelligently about how the new center would allow our athletes to get the best possible workout in the most efficient manner, but I wasn't taking any notes.
You can't workout without the all important mirrors - looking good!
It really is quite impressive, but I forgot to photograph the underwater treadmill.
I hope these photos are doing Memorial justice, because I can not emphasize enough how beautiful it is now. To be honest, it pains me a bit to say this, but it was hard to see how elegant and graceful the John Galen Howard design was in the recent past. The area near the stadium had become junky with parking, porta-potties and even the trees that those silly treesitters sat in, which all obscured the beauty of the stadium. Now you can really appreciate the architectural details of the structure.
I also like that while the Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance blends in perfectly with the stadium, the new University Club and pressbox/media center is instead a contrasting modern structure of steel space frame and glass (the wood planking you see above will be translucent glass when complete). More on this later, but next we go inside.
One of the seismic expansion joints (credit Kodiak's dad)
(credit Kodiak's dad)
Then we went down to near field level
You can't believe how huge the pressbox/University Club is until you're there. It stretches from goal line to goal line and will house the press and video, lights, sound and a swank Club for Cal high rollers, with awesome views (we'll get there next). The level of the field is dramatically lower; the plan is to lower it 4 1/2 feet , which doesn't sound like much, but in person it's shocking, and really effects one's perception of the field. It has more of the feel of the Roman Coliseum, with high walls to protect the spectators from the wild bears (no such luck for the opposing team).
Mr. Ortega told the story how the team was practicing when Loma Prieta hit, and that the players could see the earthquake waves ripple through the stadium. The press box at the time swayed back forth eight times, and then started shimmying. The Cal players not from California started to sprint towards the North tunnel, but the Cali boys told them to stay put.
So next we ascended to the aforementioned University Club (and how I know they'll be done on time? They already have passenger elevators working! Those bastards from the State Department of Industrial Relations, are absolute sticklers for every detail).
(Sorry for the lack of a polarizing filter on these shots.)
Inside the University Club: (credit Kodiak's dad)
Inside the Stadium Club, looking at the I-house:
The view from the other side of the University Club:
Pretty impressive, no? The Cal rep was telling us that the University club is not just a game day thing, they think it would be great for wedding receptions, 50th birthday parties, and other events Cal Alumni and fans could host in this incredible setting. The views in both directions are truly fantastic.
Anyway the tour was over and it was time to leave.
Some final thoughts:
I have a feeling that the new/old Memorial is going to be much louder; I think the pressbox/University Club structure will reflect sound back from the student section, and the lower field will amplify this sound. We will be likely gaining an greater home field advantage than we have enjoyed in the past.
I figured out where the missing seats went, most of them were lost to wider aisles to accommodate required handrails, and handicap seating. A few were lost to the wider seats in the ESP section as well.
With the increased depth of the of the playing field, this is going to make rushing the field an interesting proposition. I guess I would have done it without thinking when I was 19, but no way I'm leaping over that railing now. It will be interesting dynamic to see how this plays out in the future.
For my taste, this is a perfect job to preserve and modernize the stadium where Andy Smith's teams were unbeaten over a span of five years, and where the greatest play in College Football occurred. I know it wasn't inexpensive to accomplish this feat, it's always more expensive when you are both trying to preserve a historic structure, work within an existing frame, and on top of an active earthquake fault line. But for my (ESP) money, it was well worth it.
And if you are any kind of Cal fan, you will not want to miss a single game this season; the California Golden Bears are back where they belong in Strawberry Canyon, long may they roar!
Until September 1st: We'll be back. Go Bears!!!