"A long time in coming... I hope the seats don't rumble too much during earthquakes," says Leigh Robinson, Class of 1961. He was talking about UC Berkeley's newly-retrofitted and upgraded football stadium. Construction crews are in a mad dash to complete the finishing touches before Cal's first game on September 1 when the Bears will take on the Nevada Wolf Pack.
To make sure the seats don't "rumble too much during earthquakes," engineers built in several structural solutions to safeguard against seismic activity. "There are pieces that straddle the Hayward Fault at the south and the north, and those are designed to move independently," Cal Assistant Athletic Dir. Bob Milano Jr. said.
The 89-year-old stadium will cost the university more than $320 million to upgrade. According to the Cal Bears website, premium club seats can start at $40,000 and up. They have sold about 70 percent of their premium seats and to make up the shortfall, they've hired a professional sales staff to target alumni. "Oh now you tell me," Robinson said. "I thought I paid too much at 25 grand."
University officials insist that the hefty bill will not fall on the backs of students but rather, it will come from a combination of selling the rights to premium seating, philanthropy, and revenue from private events. Final numbers are set to be released by the university in September. One Berkeley mom said she was just happy to have games back on campus. "I'm very excited. I know that last year, she had to ride BART into all of the games," she told ABC7 News.
The stadium is newer, but it's also smaller. There are 8,000 fewer seats, but it should make for a better experience. "We have massive circulation improvement, restrooms, food and beverage, sounds and lights and scoreboards," Milano Jr. said. And, improvements aren't only for the fans. The Cal Bears will get new lockers, showers, and play on a new turf system. There is so much to do and only 15 days to do it. "We'll be not unlike the Olympics, that we'll be sweeping up as the team buses roll up," Milano Jr. said.
There are still tickets available for game day. You can grab a seat in the south end zone for less than $20.