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Rose Bowl to Court NFL With Luxury-Suite Towers

August 22, 2004|Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writer

Showing off a new design that would add almost 1 million square feet to the historic Rose Bowl, stadium officials on Saturday unveiled plans to transform it into a professional football venue.

Two four-level towers with 200 luxury suites, including a club level with separate lounge and souvenir facilities, would rise above the stadium's west and east sides, according to the new plan. An elevated concourse leading to seats would be added around the stadium's rim, and a plaza at ground level would include a museum and store. Concession stands, which are situated throughout the stadium grounds, would be tucked into the bowl's base.

The Rose Bowl has been courting the NFL for more than two years in hopes of becoming the home for an L.A.-based National Football League team. It is competing against a Carson landfill and the Los Angeles Coliseum. The NFL is expected to make a decision in May.

At the meeting Saturday of the Rose Bowl Operating Co., where the design was unveiled, some members said the NFL's interest is their best hope for reviving the 80-year-old stadium, which they said is in danger of becoming an obsolete money pit. If the stadium is chosen, renovations will be paid for by the NFL, officials said.

"When this opportunity came about, it was important for us to take a long, hard look," said Edward Garlock, president of the company's 11-member board. "Today, we begin that process."

The panel voted unanimously Saturday to begin environmental studies of the stadium design, the second major plan undertaken by the Rose Bowl group. The first, which relied heavily on building needed facilities under the current bowl, was rejected by NFL officials because of concerns about the cost of the underground facilities and the lack of certain amenities, according to Dennis R. Wellner, a principal architect in the firm HOK, which is overseeing the design process.

The new plan, Wellner said, addressed the NFL's concerns. But because of adjustments required, bowl seating would be reduced, from about 92,500 now to about 65,000 seats. Temporary seating underneath a new digital scoreboard would add 10,000 more seats for special events like Rose Bowl or Super Bowl games.

Wellner said that his firm's objective for the new design is to enhance and organize the spaces in the Arroyo Seco that are a part of the Rose Bowl facility. "We intend to cover this building with as much plant material as possible," Wellner said.

The design reflects that sensibility in its addition of green space in and around the plaza level and planting on the eastern tower that would flow down the building's side. One crucial feature of that plan for a greener stadium, however -- the transformation of a blacktop parking lot in front of the bowl into open green space -- is still subject to analysis, said Darryl Dunn, general manager of the Rose Bowl. But the plan does call for a reduction in parking around the stadium by almost 4,000 spaces, to 18,000, he said.

About 100 people attended the meeting, which was open to the public, and most who spoke gave the plans a mixed review.

Some said they welcomed the revenue that an NFL team, and its fans, would bring to the city's restaurants, hotels and shops.

Joe Brown, president of Pasadena's chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said he thought an NFL stadium would bring jobs to the city. "The NFL would bring in economic viability that this city is certainly going to need," he said.

Others expressed concerns about the plan's scope and the fact that the city has not yet held a public debate on whether it should have an NFL team.

Michael Schneickert said he resented the "NFL juggernaut" that he and others in the community felt had guided the plan so far.

The new design, he said, represents "a beautiful stadium. But this is not the Rose Bowl."

"The train has kind of left the station," he said. "I don't think they are talking to people about what they want."

Sue Mossman, head of Pasadena Heritage, a preservation group, echoed that concern. She said she was concerned that Pasadenans "are dancing to the NFL's drum. We should be in charge of the schedule," she said, "no matter how long it takes us to make that decision."

But Rose Bowl officials said they did not have that luxury. They cannot negotiate with the NFL until an environmental report on the new design is ratified by the City Council, and on the current timeline, a draft of that report will not be available until January. The city of Los Angeles has completed its report for the Coliseum site.

In the meantime, Garlock said, the new designs will be available for public review at the Pasadena Central Library, starting Sept. 1. Both the city and the Rose Bowl firm will hold public meetings before next May.

"We're going citywide," Garlock said. "We'll go to every council district, and any organization that is interested in hearing about this."

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