From the Westwood campus of UCLA to the Pasadena neighborhoods surrounding the Rose Bowl, officials and residents Tuesday cautiously applauded the Pasadena City Council's approval of a plan to give the aging stadium a $22.5-million overhaul.
The council's 6-0 decision late Monday clears the way for a sweeping renovation of the historic bowl, including theater-style seats, a permanent video board, new scoreboards, additional restrooms and extra concessions. (Mayor William Paparian was absent because of illness.)
Bowl boosters say the renovation will save the 73-year-old stadium from becoming a museum piece and secure its future as the home to UCLA football and the annual Tournament of Roses football game.
"This wasn't just a vote to stop the demise of an institution," said James Stivers, the Tournament of Roses representative on the Rose Bowl Operating Co. board. "This was a vote about the future of Pasadena."
UCLA officials, who have publicly bemoaned the bowl's outdated amenities, praised the council's move as a way to increase the bowl's chances of keeping Bruin football. But the university has not yet committed to the plan.
"This is a positive step on the city's part," said Steve Salm, UCLA's associate athletic director. "We're very interested in discussing the improvements, but we are not going to make a commitment 'til we know all the details."
The plan calls for $19 million of the construction to be paid for by a bond issue. The remainder will come from existing city, bowl and golf course accounts.
In recent months, the fate of the deteriorating city-owned bowl has become a matter of urgency as deal makers across Southern California--hoping to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles--have made proposals for new state-of-the-art stadiums. Faced with the prospect that such a venue could siphon off the bowl's users, including UCLA, whose lease expires in 1996, Rose Bowl officials began a push for an overhaul to retain UCLA and possibly offer the stadium as a temporary site for a professional team.
Under the plan, the city will issue certificates of participation, a kind of bond that can be approved by a council rather than a voter majority. The city will issue $21.5 million worth of certificates, but only $19 million will go toward construction, with the remainder going toward security of the certificates. The bonds, which will work like a city-guaranteed mortgage on the stadium, will be repaid over 20 years from the operating revenues of the bowl and the adjacent public Brookside golf course.
Although residents and officials agree that the renovations are sorely needed, some say UCLA's lack of commitment is cause for concern that the bowl could lose out to a state-of-the-art stadium--even with the overhaul--leaving taxpayers with the bill. "Without UCLA, we have a stack of cards that will come down," said Nina Chomsky, president of Linda Vista-Annandale Assn., which represents homeowners in an area west of the bowl.
Much of the bowl revenue that will go toward paying the debt would come from UCLA games. UCLA pays $250,000 a year to lease the bowl, and generates even more money in concessions and leases on stadium executive and club suites.
Councilman Paul Little has even suggested that the city allow UCLA to use the bowl rent-free in exchange for a guarantee that the Bruins stay for another 20 years.
"I'm all for the renovations," Little said, "but it concerns me that we're getting $20 million in debt over 20 years for a tenant who might not be there." Despite his misgivings, Little voted for the plan after a provision was added guaranteeing that money from city services would never be used to pay the debt.
City officials said if the stadium somehow loses all its events, the city will need to find about $1 million a year to pay off the debt.
The plan calls for a 25% to 30% increase in green fees at Brookside to generate an additional $741,000 annually. City residents would pay $26 rather than $20 for a weekend's round of golf.