The Rose Bowl is a venue every college football fan yearns to see and it could be argued that no NCAA venue has more name recognition than the one in Pasadena.
While the venue is often thought of during college football’s postseason, it is the everyday home of the UCLA Bruins. The Blue and Gold have called the Rose Bowl home since 1982, after the team left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The stadium was built in 1922 and is currently one of college football’s eldest; even recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Despite its age, renovations began in 2011 to ready the stadium for its next 100 years of events. With a budget of $152 million, the renovations aimed to include a premium seating pavilion, larger tunnels, and new scoreboards. Fans will appreciate additional concession stands and restrooms, and a decrease in the amount of time to exit the stadium.
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".
Despite its age, the concessions are by no means antiquated. With such a wide concourse, there is plenty of room for temporary food vendors. Many of these stands have televisions behind the counter, allowing fans to continue to watch the game even while standing in line.
Everyday food items are actually moderately priced for a Los Angeles area sports venue. You can find your hot dog ($5), nachos ($7), pretzel ($5), churro ($4), popcorn ($5 for a bag and $7 for a refillable tub), candy ($5), and peanuts ($5).
Some of the more unique items include Chicharonies ($5), corn dogs ($5), 8-piece wings ($10), chili cheese fries ($10), kettle corn ($8), Cinnabons ($6), grilled Italian sausage ($8), funnel cakes ($8), tri-tip sandwich ($10), and beer brats ($10). With some searching, fans can find bacon-wrapped hot-dogs, bacon cheeseburgers, pizza, teriyaki chicken and rice bowls, burritos, and carne asada tacos.
One of the more notable concessions include Louisiana-inspired dishes of catfish/shrimp & Cajun fries ($12), Southern fried chicken tenderloins ($12), and po-boy sandwiches ($10).
On the beverage side, Coke products come in small ($4) and large ($6 with collectors cup). There are two brands (Sparkette & Fiji) of bottled water that offer two sizes each ranging from $4 to $7. Regular and sugar-free Rockstar Energy Drinks are available for $5. Everyday coffee is available at most stands for $3, but there are certainly some premium options including iced coffee, dark roast, and Ghirardelli hot chocolate.
While the above are your more day-to-day beverages, the Rose Bowl offers some of the most unique beverage options anywhere in sports. Sure, the 24-ounce lemonade with a twist ($5), isn't turning any heads, but the pineapple lemonade for the same price might. The brightly colored juice bins may peak your interest, so you can get any one of the lime, watermelon, lemon, or pineapple based juices. Lastly, I should mention the Horchata, which I had never even heard of prior to my visit here. Horchata is a beverage often served at Mexican restaurants made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, and barley among other things.
Despite alcohol being sold at the actual Rose Bowl game, there are not any alcohol concessions during UCLA games.
The Rose Bowl offers a pile full of atmosphere in itself and the Bruin fans do truly make it a special experience. The stadium bowl offers seating for approximately 90,000 fans and any time you are grouped with so much energy in one place, fans are sure to feel the excitement.
The Bruin fans do a great job of keeping things interesting, namely when they perform the "8 Clap." This cheer consists of 8 consecutive claps, lifting your right hand and shouting "U," followed by 3 claps, lifting the left hand and shouting "C," followed by 3 claps, then alternating hands and doing the same for the "L" and the "A." Then quickly they chant "U-C-L-A" while rotating hands and "Fight! Fight! Fight!" The band and student section bring the typical entertainment levels, but I was most impressed by fans spread throughout the balance of the large stadium. Chants of "U-C-L-A" and "Let's Go Bruins" could be heard every few moments.
Of course if the human element doesn't do it for you, just look up in the skies or off into the distance. The skies are often a beautiful blue color with some twists of orange and pink towards sunset. The San Gabriel Mountains provide some of the most majestic views for the television networks to show during gameday.
Make it a point to take a look at the mountains while the sun is setting; it will be an image you certainly will not forget.
The new scoreboards have certainly improved the viewing experience and are utilized to create some additional atmosphere. Former players are often interviewed on the big screen during the game, quickly kick-starting the memories of Bruin fans on why they are in attendance. Some fans are fortunate enough to get asked trivia questions on the big screen and all fans yell out the answer they believe to be correct. They also use the scoreboard for some visual games, including find the football behind the Bruin logo (similar to when they place a ball under a cap and scramble the caps).
One last note here would be to mention to check out the Bruin walk. Prior to every game, the fans line up and cheer as the team exits the bus and makes their way to the stadium.
On most reviews, the neighborhood is characterized mostly by the local bars and restaurants, however for this venue; you must first consider the surrounding scenery. Just outside the stadium, you'll find two 18-hole golf courses nestled at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. You'll find the typical Southern California palm trees as well as over 30 species of other trees surrounding the stadium. Once you arrive at the stadium, take a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and many of the beautiful homes constructed upon them.
While in Pasadena, be sure to check out the magnificent structure that is City Hall, the neighborhood known as Bungalow Heaven with its small craftsman homes, or the Norton Simon Museum, complete with sculpture garden. If you are looking for some stops before or after the game, be sure to head down to Old Pasadena, or "Old Town." This revitalized area spans 21 blocks and has a variety of shopping, dining, and beverage options.
One of the more notable spots in Pasadena is Barney's Ltd. This small establishment has some interesting interior decor and a rather extensive menu for its size. Most appetizers here run from $7-$10 and include many fried items. My personal favorite is the fried mushrooms and zucchini. Some other great options include their chili cheese fries, BBQ chicken quesadillas, crab cakes, and sliders. They also have a variety of interesting entrees, including Sam Adams Beer-Battered Halibut, most of which run $15-$20.
While I am not typically a fan of chain establishments, Yard House is one I've grown to love. This spot is certainly pricey, but with over 200 beer options, it's tough to go wrong. With a rather extensive menu, you can find the perfect dish to go with your beer.
If you are more concerned with just drinks and fun, perhaps you should check out the Old Towne Pub. You can expect to find live music here most nights of the week, so don't show up expecting to engage in conversation. Who could forget some of the classic beverage options such as "PBR" and their specialty shot, "the Loch Ness," for a rather inexpensive price.
Lastly to be mentioned here is Freddie's 35er Bar. This spot is located on the historic Route 66 and has a variety of fun beyond the beverage menu. Here, you'll find pool tables, a jukebox, and foosball in addition to approximately 20 beers on tap. This place is known to have some of the best specials in Pasadena and all-you-can-eat free popcorn. Weekends provide some extra fun as they have a DJ and dancing on the lower level.
The recent turnaround of the program once again has the Rose Bowl filled on gameday. The fans encourage one another to make as much noise as they can with the many gold and blue signs that read "make noise" or "louder." The fans were very on cue, when these signs were raised, the crowd quickly responded in a loud way. The fans also orchestrated some Bruin imagery with many posterboards.
Unfortunately, due to the often challenging exit process, fans start to head towards the exits before the contest may have been decided. While the renovations are expected to alleviate this issue, I would expect a similar trend to continue even once they are complete.
Pasadena is accessed roughly 15 minutes (13 miles) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. While the area is easily accessible from the 110 or the 210, the stadium is located in a mostly residential area with many small roads. There are limited entrances in and out of the Rose Bowl, so do provide yourself with at least an extra hour in advance of the desired arrival time. Rarely do you see traffic congestion as significant as you will see here. While the parking fee is a fairly steep $20, it is a bit different than your typical parking lot. Here, you'll park on a fairway of an 18-hole golf course if you are not in the preferred parking area. The staff here also seems to take some extra steps to help you locate your vehicle. Each fan receives a colored card with a map that can help them locate their vehicle after the game. If any given fan can still not locate their vehicle, the fans can go to the "club house" where staff members are on-hand to help them. This service begins one hour after the conclusion of the event. There seems to be plenty of room at all spots for tailgating fun and there does not seem to be all of the severe restrictions that so many LA-based sporting events enforce.
Once inside the stadium, the single concourse is fairly sizable. Unfortunately, the small tunnels often get very congested when trying to get to or leave your seats. Rarely will you quickly get to or from your seats. Speaking of seats, they are pretty tight. Most do not have cupholders and there is extremely limited space under your seats. On many occasions, the beverage under my seat has spilled due to the limited space and curved concrete. The restrooms are small, but there is a reasonable quantity and the lines do seem to move particularly fast.
You will find that most ticket prices range from $30 to $60 depending on where you sit. The Rose Bowl offers one of the largest capacities in college football, so tickets are not as challenging to come by as they are at some other venues. In fact, for the lower tier games, tickets can be had for under face value. Certainly much of the food has some higher price points, but it is also of much higher quality than typical stadium food. If you are trying to save a few bucks on food, purchase some at your local grocery store and cook it during the pregame tailgate.
With parking at $20 you can get a chance to see the Rose Bowl and UCLA traditions for under $50. Sometimes it is the lower tier seats that offer the greatest views of the surrounding areas and access to the concessions. Regardless of the opponent, this is a value all sports fans should take advantage of.
The press box is a towering one that gets great views of the San Gabriel Mountains. The press box is lined with all of the championship banners from years past, really personalizing the stadium to feel like the home of the Bruins. There are some passionate rivalries in college football and of course, the USC/UCLA annual tilt is one of them. Every year, the two play for the 295-pound "Victory Bell". While I do believe attending any game here is special, clearly the annual match-up between the Los Angeles teams commands a ticket price often double of any other game.
The Rose Bowl itself warrants some extra points. It is known affectionately as "The Granddaddy of Them All." With a nickname like that, you can't go wrong. It was the first ever bowl game, played back in 1902. If you were born back in 1902 and reading this review, I am more impressed than you can imagine. The Rose Bowl holds many precious records. While the teams involved did not include UCLA, the stadium set a record for attendance at a bowl game in 1973, when 106,869 saw USC and Ohio State play. Not bound to college, it holds the record for a NFL Super Bowl at 103,985. This game was played in 1980 and featured the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Los Angeles Rams (Super Bowl XIV). Since its inception, this venue has hosted 5 NFL Super Bowl games.
While visiting, take a few moments to take in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. Leading the way is a statue of a football player. The anonymity of this player makes you wonder who is next to make their mark on the Rose Bowl. Behind the statue is a large wall that pays homage to the Chrysler Corporation Court Of Champions. Plaques from each year show the final score, the names of the head coaches, and the outstanding offensive/defensive players. Almost hidden in the bottom left corner of the wall is the Hall of Fame, where it lists the name and school from where the individual hails. Unfortunately all these Hall of Famers receive are small plaques with no real explanation of why these individuals are in the Hall of Fame. I imagine that there is somewhere else where the contributions of these individuals are a little more extravagantly noted?
Though it is growing in age year after year, the Rose Bowl remains a "top ten" destination on any sports fan's bucket list of stadium travels. While UCLA has not won big in recent years, they remain a viable tenant, representing the Rose Bowl and Southern California well. UCLA has produced 13 College Football Hall of Fame players and in time, will produce many more. Most individuals pass through Los Angeles at some point during their lives; so make it a point to stop in Pasadena and check out UCLA football.
Follow Drew's travels through Southern California on twitter @Big10Drew.
A rose by itself means little or nothing to the average college football fan. Sure, it may score some points with a significant other, but the rose eventually dies and you turn your attention to something else. Now if you put the word "bowl" in behind that rose, suddenly fans who have experienced the venue reminisce about memories that will last a lifetime, and those who haven't yearn to be there one day.
Wait, this stadium was built in 1922 and should be in the retirement community of stadiums, so why is there so much hoopla surrounding it? Well, it is a National Historic Landmark, so you can take your family and rationalize it as a study of American history. It has a capacity of nearly 92,000, so it gives you ample opportunity to meet new friends.
The Rose Bowl's current tenant has been causing a stir since 1982, when the UCLA Bruins broke up with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and moved to (literally) greener pastures. This split couldn't have been any more welcomed because the Coliseum is located in the heart of the campus of the Bruins' most renowned rival, the USC Trojans. Ironically, a team hailing colors of "true blue" and gold would be playing at a stadium that evokes thoughts of a shade of red.
The only thing that makes the Rose Bowl not a great place to go is the old splintery wood benches, single level tunnels to access seating, and a total lack of antiquate numbers of restroom facilities for a 100K plus stadium. Getting to and from the restrooms and concession stands can be an ordeal during halftime especially. The tailgating is excellent either on the golf course or in the grass parking lots, though restrooms are scarce there are plenty of places to get food and drink if you don't do your own. The Arroyo Seco is gorgeous and the weather is hard to beat. Overall a nice place if you're there on a game that's not near a sellout.
I had the opportunity to go and see my alma mater Michigan play in the Rose Bowl in 1998. It is an experience that I will never forget. While I don't remember as many of the specifics of the food, etc. I do remember the stadium being such an awesome and interesting place to see the game. Maybe because it was the rose bowl there was bit more mystique with the experience, but I really enjoyed my time at the Rose Bowl stadium and am lucky I had the chance to go there.
It has the history, tailgating on the golf course is awesome, but the place is a dump.
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