Rumors and the report of rumors in California NFL stadiums

Lots of news today among the various California locales considering new or renovated NFL stadiums — though actually, “news” might be pushing it. Here, you decide for yourself:

  • Majestic Realty, the developers who want to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, now say they’ll redesign their stadium to be able to fit World Cup soccer there. “Because we’re building a new stadium, we could incorporate anything FIFA could want,” Majestic stadium architect Dan Meis told the Associated Press. Or to put it another way: This is still vaportecture for now anyway, but we can change it round if you like.
  • The Oakland Raiders are talking to city officials about a new stadium on the site of the Oakland Coliseum that would be, according to team CEO Amy Trask, “an anchor for, or a catalyst for, an urban redevelopment that provides economic stimulus for the whole region.” From the sound of it, this is code for “ballpark village,” but Trask didn’t provide specifics.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chimed in that he’s concerned about low attendance at Raiders games, and that he’d like the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers to consider a shared stadium. (Oakland claims it can build an $880 million stadium with no public money, though it apparently doesn’t count property and hotel taxes as public money.) He also said that the NFL needs to do a better job selling the stadium experience compared to staying at home and watching on HD TVs,, and specifically cited how great it is to watch in person at … a Raiders game: “It’s a great experience being there feeling that passion and excitement. It’s something you don’t get at home.” (Make your own joke about how “at home, it’s more crowded.”)
  • The city of Pasadena, meanwhile, actually made real news, approving a $152 million renovation of the Rose Bowl to take place over the next three football offseasons. The Pasadena Star News reports that “the project is expected to generate enough revenue to cover the debt service 1.475 times,” though it doesn’t provide details of whether this is via a more lucrative lease with UCLA or higher ticket prices or added tax revenues or what. The project would also be subsidized by the use of federal stimulus bonds, so taxpayers across the U.S. will each be tossing in a few cents for the Rose Bowl’s newly widened access tunnels.

Rose Bowl renovation: your tax dollars at work?

For those of you angered that our folks in Congress meet every so often to discuss the college football championship fiasco, consider that one reason a $163 million renovation of the Rose Bowl is being pushed forward is the possibility of tapping stimulus funds as one reason for doing so. The Rose Bowl with its huge capacity will host this year’s college football championship game on January 7.

A New York Times report on New Year’s Day suggested that Rose Bowl folks fear going in the same direction as the Orange Bowl (the wrecking ball) if something is not done, but Times reporter Billy Witz explains that plans to merge renovations with an NFL team met with a variety of obstacles. Among them, community opposition, with many having recollections of Raider fans converging on LA in strange and intimidating costumes before Al Davis took his ball and moved back to Oakland, as well as concerns that a Soldier Field-style renovation might occur. In that instance, the historic facility lost its landmark status, and rightfully so.

To avoid that problem, the Rose Bowl’s general manager, Darryl Dunn, has brought in Janet Marie Smith, best known for Camden Yards planning and Fenway renovation. As for why stimulus funds might be needed, Dunn indicated that they’d go after donors and look to events, but said, “We’re a stadium….We don’t have an alumni base.” The Rose Bowl currently owes $43 million on earlier renovation projects, so the $163 million renovation, if it moved forward, would push the renovation costs well above the $200 million mark. It is still small compared to the high price of recent professional sport venue construction, but 200 million bucks isn’t chicken feed either.

For those who are outraged by this, consider that you can fire up your TV this evening and watch the GMAC bowl, sponsored by a recipient of federal bailout money, and a few days later enjoy the Citi BCS Championship Game, sponsored, once again sponsored by a beneficiary of bailout funds. The Rose Bowl hopes to sponsor many more BCS games after renovations take place. If taxpayers seem to be funding the college football championship tournament both directly and indirectly, maybe we ought to have a little more of a role in fixing the mess!