Rose Bowl Redesign Plans Revealed

Thu April 24, 2003 - National Edition

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Plans to redesign the 81-year-old Rose Bowl in hopes of attracting an NFL team were unveiled Tuesday. The project, yet to be approved by the City Council or the NFL, would cost an estimated $500 million.

”If I was an NFL fan, this was a pretty good day,’ said John Moag, a Baltimore investment banker hired by the Rose Bowl Operating Co. to lead the project.

”The NFL is very interested in getting back into the market. We wouldn’t be going through this exercise if they weren’t,’ he said.

The area has been without an NFL team since the end of the 1994 season, when the Raiders moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles and the Rams left Anaheim for St. Louis.

”We are developing an offer to give to the NFL. Hopefully, they accept that offer. That offer contains a commitment from the NFL that not only do they make the improvements to this building, but they provide an NFL team to play there.’

The league is interested in the offer.

”We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the Rose Bowl group in the near future, to review in greater detail the plans that were unveiled today,’ NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. ”We also will discuss with them what changes or additions, if any, may be necessary to make a refurbished Rose Bowl suitable for an NFL team and future Super Bowls.’

The reconstruction involves reducing the capacity of the 92,000-seat stadium by one-third, adding suites for corporate customers and building underground parking.

The stadium would be expanded from about 400,000 sq. ft. (37,161 sq m) to a million square feet by excavating to the field level to accommodate restrooms, a concession concourse,underground parking and other amenities.

”Not a penny of taxpayer money is going to go into this,’ Moag said. ”The deal is very simple. We basically turn over the opportunity to make revenue out of this building to the NFL in return for their spending about $500 million to give us a truly renovated stadium.’

The NFL’s expected revenue sources include personal seat licenses, deposits on suites ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, and naming rights to be sold for a minimum of $10 million a year. The Rose Bowl Operating Co. also would impose a 10 percent ticket tax.

A historic preservation tax credit of 20 percent could be part of the project’s future financing, if the stadium retains its National Historic Landmark status, Moag said.

About 140 suites would be located above the bowl’s rim so the signature view of the San Gabriel Mountains would not be obscured.

”The hardest part of this process is complete and that is the development of our proposal,’ said Moag, who helped move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. ”We think we have something that works.’

The project is not without its critics.

The renderings also were shown to about 200 people at a town hall meeting. Residents raised questions about financing, traffic, noise and bright stadium lights. There also was concern about how the plan would affect the Arroyo Seco.

Linda Vista resident Norman Parker said he wanted Rose Bowl officials to keep neighborhood concerns in mind as the plan moves forward.

”We do believe any stadium that gets professionalized is definitely going to change the character of the arroyo,’ Parker said.

Preservationists want the Rose Bowl to remain a historic landmark. Pasadena Heritage officials met with the architects and Rose Bowl Operating Co. officials last week to view the designs.

”We were encouraged by the presentation and see the new stadium proposal as a significant step in the right direction,’ the group’s advocacy committee said in a statement.

However, it said, ”No real design work has yet been undertaken and many specific details have yet to be developed.’

Residents who live in the expensive neighborhoods above the stadium are worried about noise and losing the park-like atmosphere of the Arroyo Seco that attracts walkers, golfers, joggers and soccer players.

”There’s not much that’s different here and we see that as the most important feature of this design concept,’ architect Jon Knight said. ”We’ve actually brought the original field back to its 1922 configuration, which was a complete oval.’

Moag said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has seen the design.

”He is committed to making this a preservation project,’ he said. ”We think we left him very impressed as a result of what he saw.’

The City Council is expected to consider the project in mid-May.

NFL owners will meet May 20-21 in Philadelphia, where they will see the proposed redesign. ”I’d hope to come out of Philadelphia with a commitment from the NFL,’ Moag said.

He said Rose Bowl officials haven’t spoken with any NFL teams about relocating to Pasadena, including the San Diego Chargers, who plan to move their training camp to nearby Carson.

”The NFL would like to see this project move sooner rather than later,’ he said. ”Yet they certainly have not identified any team that is going to move.’

The deal is contingent upon an environmental impact report on the site, which could take up to nine months.

Construction would take 23 months, forcing UCLA’s games, the Rose Bowl game and the BCS game to be temporarily relocated.

The traffic plan is not complete, although only season ticketholders would be allowed to park around the bowl. Others would have to use shuttles and light rail to reach the stadium, which is accessed by residential streets.