[Photos] Beautiful New California Memorial Stadium, Gameday, Tradition & Excellence

Fellow Golden Bears,

I know many of us are still recovering from the sting of the loss Saturday. And that's all right. Though our football team lost, I believe Saturday also showed us a huge win for Cal that we can still enjoy. Yes, I'm primarily referring to the completed California Memorial Stadium renovation project (see photos below). No matter how the team performed, I was so impressed by what I saw of and at the stadium that the trip "home" was totally worth it.

And what a trip "home" it was. Banners flying around the stadium and volunteers welcoming us all said "Welcome Home!" I've heard that phrase used before in other places and thought it quite cheesy. I didn't give it much thought during gameday. But now, I feel it was quite appropriate in this case. It had been almost two years since we had a home game in Berkeley. I almost forgot what it felt like...and it wasn't until my first tailgate of the day that the immense energy and excitement of gameday in Berkeley started coursing through my veins again.

I used to give campus tours as a student tour guide, and I remember telling prospective students and their parents that the three key things I loved about Cal that set it apart from other places was its excellence, tradition, and diversity. I'm glad to say I still love the campus for these reasons, and hopefully the following photos will help share that.

Cal has fostered excellence in so many ways over so many years. We've had students and alumni perform at the highest levels in the world, including at the recent London Olympics. Hopefully, we'll be successful in recruiting student-athletes like Missy Franklin to fill the swimcaps left by legends like Natalie Coughlin. Speaking of Missy Franklin, I managed to randomly bump into her on the way up to the game. She was kind enough to snap a quick photo before going on her way.


All photographs Copyright 2012 Duc Bieu Pham,

And let's not forget that Berkeley attracts artistic excellence, too. Here are DJDave & LaeCharles of Fog and Smog, Internet celebrities and rap sensations best known for their videos "Berkeley Enough," "Whole Foods Parking Lot," and "Yoga Girl."


My alma mater asked me to help out the Class Reunion Campaign and the Blue & Gold Homecoming Reunion Weekend Event. I gladly obliged. And one of the duties that followed was marching in this class banner procession and participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand re-opening of California Memorial Stadium. Each graduating class at Cal has its own distinct class banner, and from what I recall, every single banner from the present day dating back to 1910 was there (yes, over 100 banners)...and I think the banner for 1870 might have been there, too. Talk about tradition. I suddenly felt connected to a long line of Cal Bears and part of a long proud tradition. How often do you see all these banners presented together? Here, we see former ASUC President Misha Leybovich '05 take part in the procession, too.


I was proud to carry the banner and pose with fellow '02 grad (and current Gilroy City Councilmember) Peter Leroe-Muñoz. The last time we posed with the banner might have been at the 2002 Commencement Convocation when famous Olympic skier Jonny Moseley spoke (and yes, he would later enroll at Cal).


The sky was initially a bit gloomy, but the weather didn't end up raining on our parade. In typical Strawberry Canyon fashion, the sun would come out soon. As the proud tradition spanning two centuries that is the Cal Band took the field for pre-game, the crowd's energy and excitement cranked up to electric levels.



From what I understand, all the banners were carried by student volunteers, and all those volunteers are members of the Rally Committee.


I'm used to the Cal Band starting the season with slower tempos in general. However, the speed of this ripple bow reminded me of the energy at Big Game. Did anybody else notice a fast ripple bow?


The huge ribbon across the 50-yard-line was connected to all our smaller ribbons along the perimeter to effectively create one long ribbon around the field that we would cut simultaneously with the Chancellor, donors, and VIPs. The anticipation and countdown drove the stadium wild! Such hope! Such optimism! Such excitement for the future!




Tradition: I'm so glad to still see Tightwad Hill in all its glory. I know that there are Cal fans that would complain about all the changes to the gameday experience over the last few decades. Fortunately, this tradition is still around.


Clouds on their way out...most beautiful views of football in the world on their way in...



I enjoyed living at I-House as a student and have appreciated its architecture from many angles. I had never seen it like this. I definitely got the impression that somebody put a lot of careful thought into how the "new" stadium would be laid out and what we would see from all angles.



I loved the attention to detail. For all us Cal nerds out there, how much cooler does it get than blue backlit Script Cal elevator buttons?


How inviting do these areas look for hanging out? Such an improvement compared to what we had before.



Script Cal cocktail napkins were not surprising to me...but the stirrer sticks with footballs and blue & gold spheres seal the deal. *Loving* this attention to detail. Cal Athletics & Cal Dining had the opportunity to get this (and many other things) right, and they did.


I loved the clean lines, simplicity, class, and elegance of the Stadium Club. Less definitely resulted in more. Such an inviting place to lounge, relax, and enjoy your time with friends and family.

As a student, some of the nicest facilities on campus I remember were in Soda Hall or at the Haas School of Business. They were on the fancier side, compared to the rest of campus. We had come to expect our cash-strapped public school to make do with aged and aging facilities. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the charm of using the same chairs/blackboards/desks that had probably been around for decades. But I've also come to learn and appreciate how one's surroundings contribute to how one feels and how one can perform. When you feel like you're in facilities that are the best, you believe that much more that you are meant to be the best. And I think that's what Cal Athletics has done here. These facilities feel way nicer than Soda & Haas. Is there any college campus with nicer facilities for its fans and donors?






Check out the attention to detail with "Roll On You Bears" on the cups and the beautiful Script Cal cookie. Such detail could have come out corny, but it looks like Cal Athletics and Cal Dining stayed on the side of classy instead. Yes, the disposable dining ware looks to be made out of thin wood. Compostable cutlery in green Berkeley, right?


Half-time! Time to watch the Cal Band and Cal-invented card stunt tradition!


Glad that Rally Comm kept it classy by honoring our opponent with the "Nevada" card stunt.


Please pass your cards (gently) to the left... ;)


Cal Athletics class yet again. Loving the lettering that spells "University of California" on the alumni side.






I'm glad that only a small concrete ledge stands between you and the action.





Still beautiful sightlines from Sections Q & QQ.



And when the game is over...even if our football team's nice to be reminded of the world-class excellence that Cal Performances brings to campus, like the LA Philharmonic's Gustavo Dudamel.


And what are hungry and thirsty Bears to do after the game? Find the Cal Band's "Break-Off" subset roaming around Berkeley, of course. Here's a peek at Pappy's, the replacement to "Blake's." Here's the view from the entrance toward the wall that formerly housed Blake's bar on the ground level. The far left corner leads to a back open-air patio of sorts.


Here's the wall with the entry/exit to the left.


Here's where the Blake's basement "stage" used to be.



Here's the view of the Cal Band taking over the open-air "back patio."


And here's what it looks like once the band has left.


In conclusion, our football team lost, but Cal Athletics, Cal Dining, and Cal fans everywhere won. We've got a state-of-the-art stadium and gameday experience to be proud of. Gladly, there are enough reasons I love Berkeley that the football team's performance doesn't have to ruin the amazing day I enjoyed on Saturday, especially the evening Campanile concert where "Sons of California" was played.

I'm so proud to be part of an outstanding tradition that embraces classiness and excellence. Great friends, food, drink, and music all contribute to a great gameday for me. The great stadium is icing on the cake. Congratulations, Cal Athletics. You really hit it out of the ballpark with this one.

Duc Bieu Pham

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