UC Regents Approve Retrofit Plan for Memorial Stadium

Jan. 19, 2010

BERKELEY - The Regents of the University of California gave formal approval for the retrofit and renovation of California Memorial Stadium Tuesday, allowing UC Berkeley to proceed with the $321 million project that will address existing seismic safety issues, modernize gameday facilities and services, and upgrade access for the disabled.

The campus intends to begin preliminary construction activities at Memorial Stadium in June 2010, with completion expected by the fall of 2012. The long-awaited endeavor, the core of which is a seismic retrofit of the historic building, will be financially supported by the Endowment Seating Program (ESP), an innovative financing model being used for the first time in collegiate athletics. No public monies will be used for any aspect of the project.

'I want to congratulate the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and our Capital Projects team for the excellent work that will allow the University to address significant life safety issues in a financially responsible manner,' said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. 'I am pleased that we are finally moving forward with a project that responds to the needs and interests of our student-athletes, staff and fans, as well as the residents of our surrounding communities.'

The primary effort on the west side of Memorial Stadium will address the need to significantly reduce seismic risk and ensure life safety for daily occupants, as well as for the hundreds of thousands of fans who attend games every year. The improvements will bring the stadium, which hosted its first game on Nov. 24, 1923 - a 9-0 victory over Stanford in the Big Game - to a level comparable to other major Division I programs while respecting the architecture and character of the structure by preserving the integrity of the western façade and bowl shape. When it reopens, Memorial Stadium's capacity will be reduced from 71,799 to 62,717.

When Memorial Stadium reopens in the fall of 2012, Golden Bear fans will notice a significant number of improvements to the facility, including three club levels for those participating in the ESP program, a new press box, wider concourses, and more restrooms and concession stands. Donor seating areas outside the ESP area will feature wider seats and greater leg room than in the current configuration.

Site preparation activity is scheduled to begin this summer with utilities work, reinforcement of the west wall and limited demolition of interior spaces. Major construction is slated to start at the end of the 2010 football season will be on a 20-month schedule to complete the project in time for the 2012 campaign. The Golden Bears will play at the stadium in 2010, then move elsewhere in 2011. Negotiations are underway to secure a suitable Bay Area venue for the 2011 season.

While construction is taking place, the Cal football team, members of Cal's Olympic sports teams currently based in the facility and other daily users of Memorial Stadium will relocate into temporary quarters that will be located primarily in the Strawberry Canyon area next to Witter Rugby Field. In the coming months, these temporary facilities will be placed on the parking lot adjacent to Witter Field and the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Center. In addition, modernized lighting will be installed in place of the current system that will reduce nighttime glare into the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood.

The renovation and retrofit of California Memorial Stadium - part of the SAFER program, the on-going, campus-wide seismic improvement plan - is necessary due to seismic deficiencies in the Stadium. According to David Friedman, a senior principal at San Francisco-based Forell/Elsesser Engineers, Inc., and the lead engineer for the project, these deficiencies require a full seismic upgrade of the western half of the stadium bowl. The additional engineering challenge in strengthening Memorial Stadium is created by the fact that it is situated directly over the active northern segment of the Hayward Fault. As the fault has the potential for rupturing and displacing during an earthquake, portions of Memorial Stadium that are directly over the fault require a unique retrofit to address possible surface rupture and displacement, in addition to that which is necessary for strong earthquake ground shaking.

The seismic engineering solution designed for the stadium's surface rupture zones is unique, though it utilizes conventional seismic engineering materials and systems.

'Just like any seismic retrofit, the objective for the surface rupture zones is life safety,' said Friedman, who is also a season-ticket holder to Cal football games. 'Although Memorial Stadium presents a unique problem, the solution uses basic engineering fundamentals and engineering materials. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the seats I occupy will be safe.'

In developing the plan, Friedman worked closely with Forell/Elsesser's peer reviewers, and the project has been approved by the campus's Seismic Review Committee. Other principals who have a stake in the project are HNTB (architects), Webcor Construction (general contractor) and UC Berkeley Capital Projects (project management).

The Endowment Seating Program (ESP), which is making the retrofit and renovation possible, provides long-term rights to approximately 3,000 seats in Memorial Stadium (less than 5 percent of total capacity). Donors to ESP will also have access to enhanced gameday amenities. By choosing to support ESP, donors and their future designees will receive seat benefits to Cal football for up to 50 years. All ESP seats are located between the 30-yard lines on the west side of Memorial Stadium.

As of Jan. 15, nearly 1,700 ESP seats have been sold with a net present value of over $215 million, which is in line with projections. Approximately 2,250 seats must be committed by the summer of 2011 to make the financial model work - a goal that is well within reach.

'Our December 2008 ESP launch was less than ideal due to the economic climate,' said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. 'But the response of our donors has been all I could have hoped for. Through their participation, they are sending a strong signal about their support for the project, for our program and for the experience of our 850 student-athletes.'

Revenue from ESP payments will be invested in a fund functioning as an endowment by the UC Berkeley Foundation and will help stabilize the budget for Cal Athletics. Beginning immediately, annual proceeds from the endowment will be used to support department operations.

For more information about participating in ESP, visit CalESP.com.

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