Cal's new Memorial Stadium ready for first game

August 24, 2012 6:52:09 PM PDT
U.C. Berkeley's new Memorial Stadium is set to open a week from Saturday. The fences are still up, but not for long. And when the stadium is filled on September 1, if the big one hits on the Hayward Fault, the 62,000 people inside the stadium could be among the safest in the Bay Area.

The 1923 facade, based on the Roman Coliseum, was restored and preserved. And even with most of the rest of the stadium being basically gutted and re-built, fans should still recognize the stadium they've always known.

"I think they'll see that it looks the same," STUDIOS Architecture co-founder Darryl Robeson said. "We got a very high compliment from of the major donors at Cal who came to see it and what he said was you know what you've accomplished is it looks like Memorial Stadium."

Only now it's much more open with a bigger concourse, restored views, and it's much safer. The rebuild was necessary to bring the 89-year-old building up to modern seismic standards. It sits right on top of the Hayward fault.

"It's perfectly safe. I want to be here during an earthquake," said Dave Friedman, Cal engineering alum and lead engineer on the Memorial Stadium renovation.

The $321 million project was built in 21 months. But the planning was in the works for years. And at times it seemed it might never happen, with legal battles and environmentalists opposed to removal of some trees.

"But when Memorial Stadium opens to 62,000 fans next Saturday, I believe that everyone will be pleased," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said.

The field was lowered 4-feet to improve sightlines for fans in the lower rows. And the university club level on the 8th floor has an open space that can be used for more than viewing football games.

"Same place you came six days a year, now we think this is gonna be an asset for the campus 365 days a year," said Joseph Diesko, vice president with HNTB Architects.

Cal football head coach Jeff Tedford says he and the team are happy to be back from their temporary field across the bay, "AT&T did a great job for one season over there of hosting us, but there's nothing like being home, there's nothing like our players walking through the north tunnel. The pride and tradition that goes along with that, you just can't explain."

University officials say they're selling 1,700 tickets a day for that September 1 game, when Cal faces off against Nevada. They expect it to be a sellout.


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