My freshman year at Cal, back in the 2nd millennium, I lived in Bowles Hall. I often had to walk by Memorial Stadium on the way to class. I would walk by a grove of trees almost every day that was in front of the stadium. At no point, did I ever enter the grove. At no point did I ever think that the grove looked like a great place to spend time. At no point did I ever hear any friend say "Let's go hang out in that grove!" It was essentially a bunch of background trees nobody cared about. Ever.
Fast forward several years and the people who live in the houses around Memorial Stadium are concerned about Cal upgrading its football stadium to make it in line with all earthquake precautions. They sue the school and use a bunch of old hippies as pawns in their game. As the school was planning on cutting down the grove to make space for a MUCH NEEDED high performance center, the hippies invade the trees and live in them for several years. At one point near the end of the saga,the situation looks like this:
Thanks to the machinations of the hill people, this random assortment of trees is on essential lock down to protect the tree-sitters from themselves. It's an ugly and unfortunate situation. Fast forward a few years and Cal has won the lawsuit and almost finished up work on the Simpson Athletic High Performance Center. On Saturday, I quickly went by the SAHPC and Memorial Stadium before attending other Homecoming events like the Women's Basketball Open Thread and Baseball Alumni Game (more posts on those forthcoming). I can tell you that the landscaping they have done really helps make the new SAHPC (which looks amazing by itself) look even better!
So, let's take a look at this so called "Sacred Grove," more about the SAHPC itself, and check in on the update to Memorial Stadium.
IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL!
Most of these photos speak for themselves. So, I'll shut up!
Here is one of the main entrances to the SAHPC. I had actually not signed up for either of the tours given that morning. I had sorta just come on the hope that I could somehow talk my way in. So, I immediately screwed that up when I ran into one of our favorite Cal administrators, Monica Lebron. (who reminds you to donate to Cal Athletics at the Bearbackers site and the Give To Cal site). I asked her if the SAHPC was open and she said that it had closed, because the lacrosse team was getting ready for a game.
As great as it is to talk to Ms. Lebron, it's always a mistake to ask permission ahead of time! Then, when you go skulking around afterward, they know that you knew you were doing something wrong. This is really cutting into my skulking schedule! It's OK, because I wouldn't want to do anything to bother Cal Athletics. I don't need the lacrosse team to lose, because some shmuck was wandering aimlessly throughout the SAHPC. I walked around the permeter of the SAHPC and then went up to Vista Point per Ms. Lebron's suggestion.
There is a main plaza when you get to the top of the stairwell.
Here is the big room that will eventually become the weight room for Cal Athletics. It is so big!
This is a study lounge of some sort.
The plaza wraps up around the SAHPC. There is another plaza on the second level, but it is closed during construction right now.
If you walk to the top of the stadium on the east side, on the Gold Zone 20 yard line, there is an open spot for viewing. It is Vista Point:
You can click on this photo (or any one really) to make them larger for viewing.
Here are a metric shit ton of photos of the construction and some videos, too.
Then, I came around down towards the north side of the SAHPC. You can see more of the "Sacred Grove" here.
Here is the other side of the gym.
There was actually an open door to a football lounge and the football locker room. I took one step in, looked to my right, looked to my left, and then left. I heard the sound of people working in the locker room area. My neurosis is such that I I had newspaper headline flashing through my head like "Cal unable to move into Memorial Stadium for 2012 season thanks to random shmuck ruining locker room construction." The chance of which happening seems incredibly slim, but I'm nothing if not neurotic.
Another main entrance to the SAHPC:
More on the grove:
They even updated the sidewalks here:
So, in conclusion, I suck at talking my way into anything. The updates to the front part of the stadium are amazing. The landscaping of the "Sacred Grove" is so much better than how things were back in the day. Many kudos to all the people working on this project from Sandy Barbour on down. I can't wait for our student athletes to have the opportunity to fully use the SAHPC! GO BEARS!