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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
California Memorial Stadium has been the home to the Golden Bears football team since 1923. After spending one season at AT&T Park, the Bears are back in their renovated and retrofitted home in the Berkeley hills.
As part of the renovation, Memorial Stadium reduced its capacity to 63,186 from 71,799, although the stadium had an excess of 80,000 for periods of time earlier in its history. The capacity reduction was only a bi-product of what were necessary renovations. Memorial Stadium lies along the very active Hayward Fault and was causing the old stadium’s foundation to “slip” millimeters, year after year. The renovation allows for this slippage while keeping the seating area safe from collapse.
Of late, Jeff Tedford has come under heightened scrutiny with his under-performing squad combined with the expensive new stadium and the attached student-athlete training facility.
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".
Memorial Stadium has shiny new concession stands that provide an impressive array of options for the Cal faithful. The main selections are located in the main concourse that focus on the main stadium fare. At "Oski's Place" you'll find hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and pretzels w/hummus cup. Sodas are $4 and water is $3.
Around the top rim of the seating area you'll find speciality stands. At the Top Dog stand you can choose from the HHHot Link ($5) and the chicken apple bratwurst ($5).
At Bonehead's BBQ you could choose between the pulled pork sandwich ($9) and the brisket ($10). The chicken and waffle stand is self-explanatory ($11), but they also carry speciality mac & cheese ($6).
The Bay Area is known for some of the best weather in the nation, and September afternoons are its specialty. You can't ask for a better showcase for new Memorial Stadium than that.
The new layout of the stadium is much like the old one in that it still has its distinctive bowl style, creating good angles from whichever price range you occupy. Its position, nestled in the hill, allows for a unique collegiate experience in the form of "Tightwad Hill." There are always a few dozen people amongst the trees, catching the game for free.
From what I could gather, there was nothing much in the way of tailgating. Most people parked in generic parking lots and walked from there. I did find that many people packed lunches and beers and found a shady spot on campus to imbibe. The campus cops didn't seem to mind the open consumption of alcohol, although I never saw any of the tell-tale signs of crazy parties, they were all subdued. Also, the environmentally conscience Berkeley residents picked up after themselves, leaving no trace behind.
The game I attended was the 2nd of the 2012 season, an out-of-conference tilt with over-matched Southern Utah University and the electricity certainly took a dip from the week prior. The stadium was probably about 90 percent full, but the empty seats seemed to be concentrated near each other.
One of my favorite things about going to any Cal game is the awesome band. This is Berkeley, and they embody the wacky nature of the community. They are wild, they are talented and they are entertaining.
Lastly, Oski the Bears mascot, looks splendidly sartorial in his Cal cardigan.
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.
There are a couple main drags near the Berkeley campus. One of them is Telegraph Ave, butting into campus near its heart. Telegraph often times blurs in to campus. Shattuck is more restaurant-centric and is probably where people go in Berkeley when not wanting to get too near campus. Euclid Ave is the quieter of the three streets and often overlooked, but they have great bars and restaurants without having to push your way through the crowds.
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. Any cuisine is available from Indian to Cuban, burgers to pizza. One of my favorite signs in town is the one that designates a restaurant as Pakistani/Indian/Mexican. I'm intrigued.
Not far from campus 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.
Top it all off with a beautiful campus, perhaps the most beautiful public school in the state.
I'd estimate there were about 55,000 fans in attendance for this low-interest game against Southern Utah; an impressive showing after their disappointing opening weekend against Nevada.
The Bears got off to a slow start on this Saturday and the fans were quick to jump on Tedford and his scheme. The fans immediately around me knew that they had tough games coming up on the road at Ohio State and USC and were dissatisfied with what they saw. Ultimately Cal boatraced SUU and all was forgotten, for a week.
The fans were engaged throughout the game and I appreciate that those in the stands are every bit as diverse as the region they represent.
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 varying prices and is pretty much mandatory since parking on the surrounding streets is prohibited without a neighborhood pass. Many residents rent out their driveways for up to $50 on gamedays.
The main thing I took away from my visit in terms of access was how WIDE the concourses were. There was plenty of room to get to your section, to food, to the restrooms, and perhaps most importantly, to the condiments! They had several condiment bars for every concession stand separate from the stands themselves, preventing bottlenecks.
Since the surrounding neighborhood is convenient for food and drink, you really can make an entire day or evening out of this trip.
The Cal football program has been quite disappointing thus far at their first year back at Memorial Stadium and the gloom of losing season certainly affects the return on investment. However, because of this cheap seats may be easy to come by. For the SUU game I paid $15 and sat about 10 rows from the endzone, a section or two from the goal post.
You can get through the door for $18 for non-conference games directly from the box office, but prices jump for the likes of Stanford, USC, and Oregon.
Food prices are decent considering your options but if you're up to it I recommend taking BART in and finding a place along Shattuck on a nice day for something different. You'll save a boatload on parking and have the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day.
There is a pregame tailgate-style event adjacent to Memorial Stadium where there are carnival games for children and a beer garden for those in need of nourishment. The brewery highlighted was local Black Diamond Brewery.
There is some sort of hall of fame dedicated to the Cal sports program but it seemed like it was only accessible to people with a certain type of ticket. Otherwise, there is no acknowledgement of games won or players honored.
Member Review by Nor-Cal Scott on Nov 27, 2012
The $321M renovations at California Memorial Stadium are awesome! Grand wide stairs take guests up from street level to the stadium via Gate 1. Upon entering fans can gather at Goldman Plaza where food is available and a Merchandise Tent. Entering the stadium you go up two short flights of stairs and enter the Concourse level. Now 3X as large as before the concourse offers many concession stands, restroom facilities, large TV monitors of the game, and you can hear the radio broadcast of the game. New larger video scoreboards are on both ends, and a "ribbon" scoreboard is on the new westside pressbox slash ESP Club Rooms (Endowment Seat Program = High Dollar Donor Seating).
Note: only 60% of the stadium was remodeled, it is a GIANT misconception that the entire stadium had upgrades. The visitors & student sections (the east & southeast areas, Sections N - VV) still have small concession tents & porta potties.
Parking on campus and in Berkeley is very limited!!! Heavy fines for parking tickets. What little parking there is on campus is sold to long time season ticket holders. It is HIGHLY recommended that you take public transportation to the campus. BART & AC Transit are great alternatives. Check the official Cal Bears website for info on GameDay Shuttles. ie: For a $10 round trip fair you can ride a coach bus from the Rockridge BART to the stadium. Both Rockridge & Downtown Berkeley BART stations have AC Transit stops, and are within walking distance, approx 2 miles & 1 mile uphill respectively.
Member Review by okstate on May 03, 2014
First, I want to say that I grew up going to college football games in the deep south. To compare this experience to the experience of a Southeastern Conference football game would be completely unfair so I will try to mitigate that as much as possible.
Food & Beverage: Like any sporting event, food is a little over-priced but they did have plenty of concession stands and some pretty cool souvenir cups
Atmosphere: I was there for the first game of the newly renovated stadium. The atmosphere on campus before the game was above average considering it was a pretty early game against a lower level opponent. However, the stadium wasn't quite at capacity for kick off and the fans didn't seem to really get into the game. There was a student standing on a platform in front of the student section telling people when to cheer. The whole thing just seemed kind of cheesy to me
Neighborhood: Berkeley is a very unique town with a lot of culture. There's plenty to eat in the local area
Fans: The fans weren't especially loud, although, I don't really blame them as their team wasn't playing especially well. The student section could have been a little more active
Access: I was able to park about a mile away for $20. I didn't spend a whole lot of time looking elsewhere
Return: I got about what I expected in return. Nothing life-changing but it was still entertaining
Extras: A few points here for the beautiful back-drop and the hill on the east side of the stadium where fans can bring a blanket and watch the game outside the stadium for free. A lot of character here
1920 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
2451 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
2366 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
1878 Euclid Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
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