The iconic Rose Bowl looks amazing on television, but Husker fans who remember 2002 remember it's unseemly underbelly. Renovations currently underway will try to fix some of that. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Many Husker fans have unpleasant memories of Pasadena's Rose Bowl. For some, it was getting demolished by Miami in the national championship game. For many others, it was the stadium itself. Our new Big Ten fans rave about the Rose Bowl and how wonderful it is, but on that January night ten years ago, the stadium could only be described as a poorly managed craphole. Does that sound sacrilegious to our fellow Big Ten neighbors? Absolutely, but no matter how they've deluded themselves into buying into the myth of the Rose Bowl, the fact remains that the Rose Bowl was a substandard facility.
Oh sure, there's the parade and the long-standing tradition of the Rose Bowl game. There's the primo timeslot on New Years Day, with no competing broadcasts and no worries about the game ending before people on the east coast head to bed to be ready to work the next day. There is the stunning location of the mountain valley and tailgating on the golf course. Outside the Rose Bowl is a great experience (traffic aside).
The stadium itself was a dilapidated obsolete relic in 2002. It took 90 minutes to get from the entrance line to our seats that day. Concession stands and bathroom facilities were overwhelmed that day, and the concourses overwhelmed. And those claustrophobia-inducing tunnels into the seating areas? They call them vomitories for a reason, as the thought of getting stuck in there when they crumble would strike fear and induce vomiting in the most steadfast.
I'm somewhat surprised it took this long, but renovations to the Rose Bowl are currently underway. Those vomitories are being dug out and expanded to meet modern standards for egress. (Did you know that it would take over a half hour to evacuate the Rose Bowl pre-renovation? Just imagine what would happen if an emergency were to occur!) Ten years ago, I was too angry at the incompetence and disorganization of the Rose Bowl's organizers to worry about the claustrophobia...or maybe it was the fear that I was going to miss kickoff. But in hindsight, I remember looking at the archaic tunnels and wondering how a relic like the Rose Bowl passed fire codes as I scrambled inside.
Renovations began in January 2011 and have continued through the first eight months of the year; work ceases in the fall to allow the stadium to host UCLA football games as well as the Rose Bowl game. Besides expanding the tunnels, the press box is also being expanded to meet the modern needs.
Of course, this is California...and the same Rose Bowl committee responsible for the 2002 fiasco, so the original three year, $152 million dollar plan is already a year behind schedule and $35 million over budget. But since this is also the same nearly-bankrupt state of California, they are trimming their renovation plans rather than find more money to do it right. Some of the vomitories won't be rebuilt and some concession stands won't be expanded. But the press box and suites will get the upgrades to keep the big money flowing into the albatross.
Despite all of the issues around the renovation, the Rose Bowl stadium will be open and ready to go on Saturday. The Bruins average about 55,000 fans at the Rose Bowl, and the Nebraska ticket office has already sold 8,000 to fans. Countless other Husker fans have bought tickets either from the Rose Bowl or from UCLA fans who don't want to be bothered to attend. Could the Huskers have the home field advantage on Saturday with more fans?
After all, Roses are red.