Porfirio Frausto, a member of the Rose Bowl Operating Committee, wore an NFL logo pin on his lapel Thursday. It was the first time he wore it since buying it at the Super Bowl a decade ago.
"Now's the time," said Frausto, a past president of the committee. "We said a long time ago that we'd get one at-bat with the NFL, one pitch. No strikeouts. Just one pitch. Now we're getting it."
Inch by inch, Rose Bowl officials are doing what they can to make their stadium NFL-ready, even though they concede a long string of hurdles must be cleared to adequately prepare the 81-year-old venue.
The RBOC on Thursday night agreed to allocate the approximately $150,000 necessary to conduct an environmental impact report that would study a total stadium renovation that probably would cost at least $400 million. The allocation must also be approved by the Pasadena City Council.
"We're doing what we can to keep the Rose Bowl a viable part of the community," said Bill Thomson, chairman of the stadium's tenant-search committee and part of a Pasadena contingent that met Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla., with a collection of NFL owners. That Rose Bowl group also included investment banker John Moag, Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn, City Councilman Steve Madison and Dennis Wellner of the architectural firm HOK.
"We made a presentation to let them know where we are in our process," Thomson said. "Our presentation was well received, and I think they continue to see the Rose Bowl as a viable possibility."
The plan is still in the early stages, Dunn said, and the group is continually working on devising a financing plan -- one that won't dip into the general fund -- and weighty considerations such as freeway access, parking, as well as neighborhood and historic-preservation issues.
Instead of trying to court an individual NFL team, the approach of the Rose Bowl group is to cater to the requests of the league, then allow the league to decide what team might relocate there and who the principal investors might be.
Thomson said the renovation process would require between one and two years, and ideally would be timed so that only one Rose Bowl game would take place elsewhere. He said a best-case scenario is a new stadium would be ready for the 2006 season.
"We certainly wouldn't want to disrupt the Tournament of Roses and the Rose Bowl game any more than would be absolutely necessary," he said. "We would try to begin the renovation work on a Jan. 2 or Jan. 5 or whenever, and then try to have it completed so they could play not the following January but the one thereafter."
He didn't rule out the possibility that, if the renovation came to fruition, the Rose Bowl game might be played in Dodger Stadium if the Pasadena stadium was under construction. But he added: "It's a baseball stadium, and I just don't know what the tournament or the conference might prefer."
In a brief presentation Thursday, Dunn showed a series of slides of the Orange Bowl, which the Pasadena group visited. That stadium is in serious disrepair, in large part because the city of Miami opted not to pay for renovations when then-Dolphin owner Joe Robbie wanted it upgraded for his team.
"We don't want to learn from ourselves, we want to learn from others," Dunn said. "What happened to Miami we feel we have a chance to prevent happening to us."
Later, RBOC member Robert Monk succinctly summed up the position of those angling to put an NFL team in the Rose Bowl: "We don't want a rust bucket here."