She was hopping—her lively old self, basking in the shadow of San Gabriels.
As Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo said Saturday, the venue was “alive, energetic, and host to two of the greatest college football programs in the country.”
“A great day for Pasadena,” he added.
The home team, the Bruins, lost 48-45 in a thrilling game to the Trojans, who kept their College Playoff ambitions alive. But the more than 70,000 fans packed into the 100-year-old arena for the classic battle through town Saturday night ignited a moment of propriety for the jewel of a stadium struggling for survival in a time when the shadow of multiple stadiums loomed large. Billion dollar, The high-tech giant SoFi Ever expanding road in Inglewood.
yes. The teams needed to win. But so did The Rose Bowl itself. For Gordo, he got it after three difficult years for the stadium and the city’s ownership of it.
For starters, this is the first time the Bruins have played the Trojans in the Rose Bowl since 2020. The crowd for this season’s game was expected to be over 70,000, a stark contrast to the game that wasn’t played in the stadium. during the epidemic. shortened season.
No one saw that a global pandemic would cripple California’s thriving economy. Among the economic carnage was the badly damaged Rose Bowl, just a few years after completing a costly renovation. What was a self-sustaining city-owned project soon became the subject of heated discussion in Pasadena City Council meetings about its debt and dwindling balance sheet.
Ya Rose Bowl ppl 👋🏽🌹 pic.twitter.com/H7IYSz8aX1
— James H. Williams covers football at UCLA (JHWreporter) November 20, 2022
In April 2021, the operating budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 reflected a net operating loss of $3.9 million, leaving an available cash balance of approximately $4.3 million. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem – creating debt obligations that have become, according to a consulting firm’s report, “the biggest weight” of the stadium’s financial projections. In the end, the city will have to dip into its public fund to keep things afloat.
The city made approximately $11.5 million in debt service payments in fiscal 2021, with additional payments projected. And as debt service payments increased, so did stadium revenue gaps, which initial estimates ranged from $5.4 million to $7.7 million annually over the next several years, according to records.
All the while, not everyone was convinced the cost was worth the investment in a city-owned stadium, especially given the growing security costs and ongoing capital improvement needs of an aging stadium.
The Pasadena City Council considered whether the Rose Bowl should be sold or leased to a private operator because the 100-year-old stadium was facing more than $200 million in outstanding debt.
Local officials know that large events like Saturday’s Rose Bowl rivalry game can draw crowds as a result. But UCLA doesn’t always find itself ahead of the polls, so officials are hopeful that concerts and more football exhibitions will fill gaps in stadium attendance and the balance sheet.
Stadium hosts, college leaders and members of the Pasadena City Council think UCLA’s pending relocation to the Big Ten could also shock some life into a debt-ridden Rose Bowl stadium, once thousands of eager fans from states like Ohio, Nebraska and Michigan find their way to the sunny beaches of Southern California in days. Saturday.
This year hasn’t always been pretty.
The giant Rose Bowl crowd on Saturday contrasted with the empty stands earlier this season when 27,143 fans attended the game against Bowling Green in September.
The number was well below the previous figure of 32,513 set in 1992, but the 29,344 fans showing up for the South Alabama game a few weeks later set the record for the second-smallest UCLA game crowd in Rose Bowl history.
The problem isn’t limited to this season alone, as 32,982 fans attended last year’s home opener against Hawaii.
“It’s embarrassing but we couldn’t fill the Rose Bowl in 1988 when we were the number one team in the country,” says UCLA tweeted Troy Aikman in September. “Does anyone else at UCLA think it’s time for a 30,000-seat campus stadium?”
Experts attribute the low turnout to the heat, students not returning to campus at the start of the college football season, and non-conference opponents not getting the crowd excited.
For Saturday’s game, the north end of the stadium was mutilated over the student section, and the crews added a second set of tarps on the south end, reducing the maximum capacity from about 69,747 to 53,390. Without any tarps, the maximum capacity would be over 90,000, similar to the attendance. which was witnessed by the Football Champions Tour during an exhibition in late July.
But Gordo said on Saturday that part of the reason the stadium won the game is because it portends better days to come.
“We can expect to see more of these big games as we move into the Big Ten Conference,” he said. “We’ll have teams like Michigan and Ohio State visiting with their own fan bases and a deep following that loves good football and the Rose Bowl. I think it’s going to be great for the stadium and the city and the regional economy. … I’m excited. I think we should all be excited.”
The UCLA Board of Regents is scheduled to finalize a decision on this move to the Big Ten next month.
If the season is compared to a football game, it is clear that UCLA came back in the fourth quarter after struggling early on.
Was the rally enough to declare the season a financial triumph for the 100-year-old arena?
On Saturday’s game, Gordo said he looked “optimistic.” “The combination of major and minor events at UCLA launches the stadium into an economic hit. We flip it. We manage it.”
UCLA athletic director Martin Garmond echoed Gordo, with cheers from the crowd.
“The Bruins stepped up all over the place,” he said on Saturday. “The atmosphere is lively and I greatly appreciate everyone who got to their seats before kick-off. The energy was great, and you can tell our players feed off that.”