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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1933 as Men’s Gym, renamed to Harmon Gym in 1959, the arena was renamed again to Haas Pavilion in 1999 after major renovations. The arena is off Bancroft Way between Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues in Berkeley, California, in the bustling downtown neighborhood surrounded by bars, restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores.
The California Golden Bears have made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and won the National Championship in 1959. With Mike Montgomery at the helm, they hope to continue the recent success and become a perennial contestant in the tournament.
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".
Haas has a good variety of food and drink but at a slightly higher price than some of its contemporary venues. A polish sausage will run you $6 and a bag of popcorn $4. Bottled water or soda is available in 24-ounce bottles at a gulping $4. Peet's coffee will run you $5.
Other popular items include the pulled pork sandwich, jerk chicken sandwich, BBQ nachos and clam chowder in a bread bowl, all for $8.
For dessert, a variety of candy is available for $3. Magnum ice cream bars, Lemon Chills and chocolate malts are $5.
Gameday begins just outside of Haas Pavilion with a few activities for kids and a beer garden for the adults. Typical domestics are available as well as brews for local craft brewery, Black Diamond.
Haas Pavilion now seats 11,877 at capacity and is surrounded by a beautiful, memorabilia-filled concourse. A stroll around the concourse will reveal awards and achievements by the Golden Bears in every conceivable sport. One of which is a really cool Rose Bowl pennant featuring the final score of Cal's 13-0 win over Alabama in 1938.
In addition to the national anthem, the entire crowd stands and sings "Hail to California."
The wacky Cal band is posted up with the student section along one of the sidelines. Between the band and the students, they encompass the entire sideline, several rows deep, in what is known as "The Bench."
Rather than hanging banners and advertisements from the rafters, Haas Pavilion has a facade that hangs about 20 feet from the ceiling that is covered with honors like conference championships and retired numbers. The only bummer is that, from your seat, you can only see the side of the facade opposite of you. That is unless you are sitting in the first 20 or so rows and even then, you'd have to turn around to see what is displayed there. And if you are too high up, it tends to mess with the sight lines.
Berkeley is one of the most famous (and infamous) cities in the Bay Area. The beautiful buildings of downtown have seen the political movements and student uprisings of the last century. It is both one of the most expensive places to live in California and the home of the infamous tree-sitters who lasted nearly two years staying day and night, in oak trees.
All of this is the backdrop to a truly vibrant neighborhood with unique shops selling anything from animal skins to bongs and restaurants as unique as the city they call home.
Not far from Haas are two Berkeley-based craft breweries, Triple Rock and Jupiter, both located on Shattuck Avenue. Jupiter is probably the nicer, less-crowded of the two, serving specialty pizza in a more sit-down style while Triple Rock is a louder, more student-focused bar. Both serve great beer.
Saturn Café serves diner-style vegetarian food and Cancun is the most popular taqueria near campus. There are also dozens of Indian, Thai and Vietnamese options as well as your choice of bars and cafés.
If you're looking for something a bit on the nicer side, I recommend Zatar. They serve delicious seasonal Mediterranean food, but keep in mind it is cash only.
Lastly, the Cal-Berkeley campus is absolutely beautiful and worth a stroll.
You could tell there was a bit of a buzz leading up to the game against #10 Oregon (in Feb, 2013) Cal fans were in their seats well before tipoff and were rowdy throughout. They even rushed the floor after defeating the Ducks 58-54.
The section I was sitting in was mostly season ticket holders. They were engaged throughout and were often imploring their Bears by first name: "C'mon Allen!"
Cal basketball crowds have been kind of hit or miss the last few years but the fans came out nicely for the resurgent Bears.
The University of California-Berkeley is within walking distance to the downtown Berkeley BART station and several AC Transit bus lines. Driving can be a bit problematic during rush hours after work and after class. Parking is available for a $20 fee and is pretty much mandatory since parking on the surrounding streets is prohibited without a neighborhood pass. Neighbors will also rent out their driveways for bigger games.
Getting into the gym is a breeze as there is ample space to move about the entrance ways as well as multiple staircases to get to your seat. There are also plenty of concession stands and clean restrooms within reasonable distance to any seat.
Since the surrounding neighborhood is convenient for food and drink, you really can make an entire day or evening out of this trip.
The one issue inside is the legroom. I sat in bleacher seating (about 80 percent of Haas is bleachers) in a section that was full. I'm an average build 6'1" guy and ached from the angle my body was forced into (I stretched for the entire halftime). I was constantly worrying about kneeing the person in front of me while in turn, being kneed by the person behind me, while getting cozy with the folks on either side of me. Letting people pass to get to the aisles was ridiculous as my feet took up the entire walkway. Point is, be prepared to get to know your neighbors during sellout events.
This was a bit of a letdown. $15 gets you a seat high above either baseline, while a sideline seat is $25 for a bleacher seat, and $50 for a chair-backed seat. With parking and concessions at a high clip this seems a bit extravagant. You do get a good product as the Bears field a solid squad on the bubble of the tournament and the Pac-12 allows for reasonable foes, I just thought the prices were a bit high.
You can certainly save some money by taking public transportation and walking to the game.
I love the memorabilia from all the sports scattered around the concourse. Old team photos from the nationally-acclaimed rugby team, trophies from the swim teams and pictures of the baseball greats are on display.
Cal has honored four former players by retiring their numbers: Darrall Imhoff, Alfred Grigsby, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and Oakland-native Jason Kidd.
Lastly, an extra point goes to the Cal band who are excellent at mixing Cal classics with their own spins on current hits. Their dancing, which isn't as acclaimed as their music, is just as energetic.
I highly recommend taking a BART train to the game as this will cut down on expenses. Make sure to get there early and experience the buzz in the surrounding downtown area.
A weekend afternoon is well-spent at Haas Pavilion and downtown Berkeley.
Member Review by ryannorris
The new home of the California Golden Bears opened in 1999 at the site of its predecessor, Harmon Gym, in Berkeley California. The arena is off of Bancroft Way between Telegraph and Shattuck avenues in the bustling downtown neighborhood surrounded by bars, restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores.
Haas Pavilion now seats 11,877 at capacity and is surrounded by a beautiful, memorabilia-filled concourse. A stroll around the concourse will reveal awards and achievements by the Golden Bears in every conceivable sport. One of which was a really cool Rose Bowl pennant featuring the final score of Cal's 13-0 win over Alabama in 1938.
Once inside the pavilion you'll notice the rectangular facade enclosing the court about fifty feet above the floor. Implemented within the facade are advertisements, big-screens, championship banners and retired numbers; notable of which are Jason Kidd and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Oddly, the interior of the rectangle is only viewable from the opposite end of the court as the backside of the rectangle is your view on your side of the court.
Though Haas Pavilion seats over 11,000 spectators there is only one bowl of seating. This creates an intimate atmosphere for a larger building, which was important when upping the capacity from the old Harmon Gym. A student supporters group and the band shack up at one end of the court and are active from before tip-off through the end of the game.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Dec 20, 2014
Wonderful place that retains history yet has upgraded to a contemporary venue. Steep seats on the side mean even the 25th row is on top of the action. Food was terrible though, the bacon-wrapped dog a tasteless ripoff at $7, but that was the only negative. You can park on Bancroft Way for $2.75 an hour, 2 hour max from Monday to Saturday that expires at 6 pm, and there is 8 hour parking along Shattuck Avenue, where you can also find the great Jupiter bar. I saw a non-conference opponent and there was a $5 ticket special, hence my high ROI score, but beware, prices rise for conference games.
2181 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
1920 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
2175 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 845 8505
2134 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
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