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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Prior to the UC-Berkeley soccer teams moving into it, Edwards Stadium was the oldest track and field-specific venue in the United States. Opened in 1932, Edwards Stadium holds a capacity of 22,000 spectators.
From Cal’s two soccer programs, the most recognizable names are likely women; Alex Morgan and Brandi Chastain. Chastain scored perhaps the most important goal in American soccer history when she buried a penalty kick to beat China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
Edwards Stadium sits at the southwest corner of Cal’s campus in bustling downtown Berkeley.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food selection is disappointing. With the sparse crowd, sad selection and high prices combined with the typical 3pm start time, I'm not even sure it makes sense to have food offerings.
Food is sold out of a sort of trailer with options like hot dogs ($5) and bottled soda and water ($5). These, along with candy seem to be the only options. Being in downtown Berkeley, do yourself a favor and hit a local restaurant prior to attending the soccer game.
Atmosphere is a tricky one. I'll admit it is odd to sit in a venue that is more than 90 percent empty but it somehow doesn't feel too lacking. Yes, the venue is much too large for NCAA soccer but the surrounding area makes for a wonderful backdrop.
All spectators sit on the west side of the stadium as well as both teams' benches. The field is lined by panels that show advertisements as well as accomplishments of the soccer teams and their players, including World Cup appearances.
From your seat, you will see many other Cal sports venues. Starting from your left, you'll catch the tennis courts, Evans Diamond and Haas Pavilion. Through the southeast corner of the stadium you'll see beautiful St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Above the building sightline, you'll see the Berkeley Hills. Go to the top of stands and look over the backside of the stadium and you'll see downtown Berkeley in the foreground and San Francisco in the background.
Two notes; one, all seating is concrete blocks. Bring a pad for the 2 hour event. The other note is that there is a pop-up canopy at midfield separating the two teams. The PA announcer and other officials sit here and it is a bit of a distraction to the game.
How is it that we should judge a neighborhood? Is it based on the bars and restaurants? Should we consider walkability and weather? Proximity to other major hubs? Historical/cultural relevance or available outdoor activities? No matter how you make this consideration, Berkeley will pass all the tests.
Berkeley has long been a hub for political activism. Nearby "People's Park" has traditionally been the meeting place for many of the most famous peaceful and violent protests. Currently home to many homeless people, the park is under constant debate regarding its future.
The immediate neighborhood has a seemingly endless variety of bars and restaurants. In fact, the neighborhood has been referred to as the "Gourmet Ghetto." For beer fans, there are two craft breweries within walking distance, both on Shattack Ave. Go to Triple Rock for popular beers IPAX, Bug Juice or Monkey Head. At Jupiter pair a Quasar with one of their delicious pizzas. While the Bay Area has several production breweries, both of these were here before the current boom and neither currently distributes in bottles.
The closest high-end restaurant is directly across the street from Edwards Stadium at Gather. They boast a menu chalk-full of local wines and organic produce and responsibly-raised meat options. Too fancy? On the other corner of the intersection is Saturn Café, serving diner-food with an entirely vegetarian menu.
Need a quick bite like pizza slices or burritos? Hit Cheese Board or Cancun Sabor. Indian or Thai? Udupi Palace or Thai Basil. Venus is great for breakfast or lunch, Zatar for Mediterranean, Saigon Express for Vietnamese sandwiches. There really is no shortage of options on or around Shattuck but there are also of plenty of familiar chain restaurants on Telegraph Ave if that is your preference.
The Cal soccer fans are a small, boisterous bunch. They are attentive and follow the run of play. However, they would certainly benefit from a smaller venue and sitting closer to one another.
It seems that the majority of the fans in attendance are family or friends of the players on the field. Soccer alumni also make up a prominent chunk of the fan base as they support their alma mater.
Cal's campus is located within a few blocks of the Downtown Berkeley BART Station. BART services almost the entire Bay Area. Because of the busy neighborhood and the fact you will need to pay to park just about anywhere around Edwards Stadium, I'd recommend using the train.
Though the stadium is large, they only open one entrance because that is the side that spectators sit on. You enter underneath the stands in a long narrow walkway and pass the ticket booth and concession stand on your left with the restrooms and staircases to the seats on your right. Getting around the seating area is easy with so few fans in attendance.
A Cal soccer game doesn't offer much beyond the game itself and the setting it's placed in. All tickets are general admission and adults are $10 with children and seniors at $5. One thing to note is that the day I attended, the ticket stand closed up shop just after the end of halftime so you could wander in after that free of charge. That is particularly frustrating after you've already paid to enter.
With the unappetizing food highly priced, I'd recommend eating one of the many dining options after a 3pm game for an early, enjoyable dinner. On campus parking varies by lot and meters downtown are $3/hour, typically with a 2 hour maximum.
The only added value I see in attending a game, other than the product on the field, is taking in the historical venue that is Edwards Stadium and the scenery around it.
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