At the end of every college football season, there may be no fan more passionate about their team's berth in the Rose Bowl than the local florist. Fans worldwide support their teams with symbols, and no single symbol is more recognized in college football than that of the long stemmed rose. While updating your Twitter or Facebook account with "We're going to Pasadena!" may suffice for the average fan, there is nothing like buying up as many roses as possible and holding a tightly-pedaled flower high in the air at the start of the winter season to symbolize what the team has accomplished.
With cities nationwide clamoring for new stadiums every 20 years, it is rather amazing that this facility has been hosting events since 1922 with no end in sight. 2011 would mark the 97th edition of this memorable experience, with the Wisconsin Badgers making their seventh appearance and the Texas Christian Horned Frogs making their debut.
The site is a National Historic Landmark as the United States has recognized it as an important part of this country's history. The stadium now has a capacity of over 92,000, and year after year those seats get filled (and then some) because the Rose Bowl Game is an experience like none other. Below is commentary on the 97th edition of the game in the Stadium Journey language.
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".
Being that the stadium is now eligible for social security, I was expecting some rather antiquated and limited concessions. Within my first ten steps on the concourse, I quickly learned that I could not have been more incorrect. With such a wide concourse, there was plenty of room for temporary food vendors. Many of these stands had televisions behind the counter, allowing fans to continue to watch the game while standing in line.
Some of your more typical food items found at most permanent stands included the hot dog ($5), cheese or pepperoni pizza ($5 per slice), nachos ($6), pretzel (parmesan or cinnamon flavors for $5), churro ($4), popcorn ($5), Red Vines licorice ($5), M&M's ($5), or peanuts ($5).
Some of the more exciting food options included beer brats ($10), tri-tip sandwich ($10), garlic fries ($8), sweet kettle popcorn ($8), bacon cheeseburger ($7), bacon dog ($7), ultimate pulled pork or beef nachos ($10), teriyaki chicken and rice ($8), catfish with Cajun fries ($10), southern fried chicken with cajun fries ($10), shrimp and cajun fries ($11), chicken wings (hot, barbeque, or naked for $10), jumbo chili fries ($10), chicken or steak on a stick ($5 or $8 with side of rice), burrito ($8), 3 tacos ($10), or the famous El Cholo bowl (chicken, beef, or mixed with rice, beans, onions, cilantro, and salsa for $10).
For dessert, you may want to try the frozen lemonade ($5) or Lindes glazed almonds (sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon). The almonds are delicious, but do come at a premium. Small packs were $8, Medium Packs were $9, and the Large was $20.
There was also a very popular funnel cakes stand offering the typical treat with powdered sugar for $8. If fans wanted to step up for $10, the two flavor options were "the works," which included strawberries, powdered sugar, and whipped cream and "chocolate delight," which included powdered sugar, whipped cream, Oreo cookie sprinkles, and Hershey's syrup.
The beverage options included Coke products in a white souvenir cup for $6 (or bottled option for $5), bottled water ($4 & $5 sizes for Sparkette and $5 & $6 sizes for Fiji), coffee ($3), Rock Star energy drink ($4), and regular, strawberry, or cherry lemonade ($5).
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, strawberry, lemon, or pineapple based juices for $5. 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.
In a contrast from when the UCLA Bruins play their home games here. The Rose Bowl did serve alcohol, which consisted mostly of Budweiser products. Draft beers ran for the hefty price of $10 for a 16 oz cup. Unfortunately this year's contest did not offer souvenir cups with the beer purchase. Bottled Miller Lite was also available for $9. Wine (chardonnay, white zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon) was available for $8 and margaritas for $10.
Without even setting foot into the state of California, most college football fans understand how meaningful the Rose Bowl game is. Simply driving into the parking lot or walking around the stadium area is sure to give all of the fans the cliche excitement term: "goosebumps."
Rarely will you see a more passionate outpouring of school support than at the Rose Bowl game as it seems almost every fan was wearing red or purple on this particular day. Although the fans were already donning their team gear, many of them still would wait in line for over 20 minutes for an opportunity to purchase gear with the Rose Bowl emblem on it. Many fans even expressed disappointment in that some of their favorite items had sold out.
Rarely is there a Rose Bowl game that does not offer blue skies, warm weather, and beautiful views of the San Gabriel mountains, which quickly puts all fans in high spirits and gives them high hopes for their team's chances on this particular day.
When the team buses arrive to the stadium, one would think that riots are beginning to occur as all fans rush to the barriers to scream their support and get photos of their favorite players entering the stadium.
The fans eventually take their seats and if the sight of a bowl with over 90,000 people doesn't get you excited enough, you'll soon hear the explosion of fireworks as both teams come running from their respective tunnels led by team flags spelling out the school's name.
You'll want to pay close attention to the national anthem as shortly after completion, fireworks are set off from mid-field and a flyover consisting of four jets occurs rather quickly.
After the ceremonial coin toss, fans can prepare themselves for 60 minutes of entertainment. As long as the game is within reach for both teams, fans can expect boisterous reactions to every single play.
Of course if the game 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 will not forget.
Eventually the contest comes to its dramatic conclusion and the ticker tape pours from the corners of the football field. The award presentation ensues and you hear the emotion of these athletes; expressing how important this win means to them, on the stage that is the Rose Bowl.
As the Rose Bowl is often part of a larger trip, many fans stay in Los Angeles for the week leading up to or following the New Year's holiday. Prior to this year's game, I noticed many Wisconsin and TCU fans at the Los Angeles Kings, Lakers, and Clippers games leading up to New Years Day.
Before or after the game, you can visit the Hollywood Boulevard, any one of the studio tours, Griffith Park, the Getty Museum, Venice Beach, the Santa Monica Pier, the Orange County beaches, or any one of the other sites in Los Angeles.
On most reviews, the neighborhood is characterized 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 include 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 Slider's. They also have a variety of interesting dishes, 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. Try and pop in during their happy hour (Monday - Friday 3-6 PM & Sunday - Wednesday 10 PM - Close). During these times, you can find domestic pints for $3.50 (others for $4.25) and half price pizza and appetizers.
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 on 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.
For any normal human being to wake at 6 AM or earlier on New Year's Day is quite the accomplishment, but for the Tournament of Roses Parade and game, hundreds of thousands of individuals do not think twice about hopping out of bed at such an early hour.
Upon entering the stadium, I noticed many of the Wisconsin fans "bullying" many of the TCU fans along the concourse. I had to applaud the Badger fans for acting just as a big program would, but simultaneously applaud the TCU fans for maintaining composure in such hostile circumstances.
Once I was in my seat, my jaw dropped to the ground. The stadium was 75% red. Sure, Ohio State had outnumbered Oregon in the previous year, but this was nuts. I guess Wisconsin is one of those schools that "travel well."
Being so small in number actually amplified the presence of the TCU fans. Seeing the high concentration of purple towards the endzone behind the TCU bench really seemed to pull the group together. I chatted with many fans throughout the stadium, and they all (Wisconsin fans included) felt that the TCU fans were much louder and involved during the contest. Maybe it was because Wisconsin had been here before or maybe it was because TCU had so much more to play for, but regardless, these fans were extremely passionate.
When it was all over, both fan bases had a good showing. The Badger fans maintained their sportsmanship while leaving the venue and the TCU fans stayed and showed their support until the final Horned Frog player had left the field.
The access portion is probably the only portion of the Rose Bowl that I have any qualms with. Located in Pasadena (found a little more than 15 minutes - 13 miles - northeast of downtown Los Angeles), the city is easily accessible from the 110 or the 210 freeways. Unfortunately for the traffic flow, or fortunately for the scenery, 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.
With well over 1 million individuals attending the Rose Parade, traffic from the parade route can cause a five minute trip to take well over a hour. As you approach the lots closest to the stadium, you can expect standstills of 10 minutes or more trying to get to your parking spot. I could not pinpoint exactly what caused such significant delays, but they were rather painful as I was eager to soak in the atmosphere surrounding the stadium.
Parking is a bit of a wildcard with spots going as low as $15 and as high as $80, with most spots somewhere in the middle. Many fans will park on residential lawns and walk down to the stadium to avoid the congestion getting out. While many of these spots are cheaper and offer easier exits, they are not sponsored by the Rose Bowl and there is no security in these lots.
Some of the parking is immediately surrounding the stadium and other parking options are actually on a fairway of an 18-hole golf course. With so many vehicles on the property, there is staff on hand to help you locate your vehicle. If any given fan can still not locate their vehicle after the game, there are individuals nearby to help them locate it.
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.
My most important piece of advice to anyone going into the game would be to begin making your trek to the stadium early and make sure you are headed to the appropriate gate number. As most fans begin to head to the gates 30 minutes before kickoff, it creates backlogs like many have never witnessed before. Depending on the integrity of the security guard checking bags, it can take 20 minutes or more from the time you get in line to the moment you step through those gates.
Once inside the stadium, the single concourse seems to be fairly sizable and fans can get around rather quickly. Unfortunately, the small tunnels leading to the seating area often get very congested when trying to get to or leave your seats. Again, significant congestion will occur, preventing fans from quickly getting to seats. Speaking of seats, there are often 20 or more in a row, so those in the middle can expect a difficult journey to land in their bench seats. The aisles are pretty tight and not conducive to quick entry to exit.
Most seats do not have cup holders and there is extremely limited space under your seats to place any belongings, so pack light. On many occasions, the beverage under my seat has spilled due to the limited space and curved concrete. There is a scoreboard behind each endzone, so regardless of seats, one of them will be visible to all fans.
The restrooms are small, but there is a reasonable quantity and the lines do seem to move particularly fast. Due to the congestion of the seating aisles/tunnels, I would recommend heading for the restrooms at first thought as it could be a long journey.
Most fans experience some initial sticker shock when they hear of the $145 face value on most of the tickets to the Rose Bowl. Clearly that price, regardless of location, is nearly three times the price of most tickets in college football. Of course, such a retail value is based simply on the laws of supply and demand. After all, the Rose Bowl has sold out every game since 1957.
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.
In many of my other reviews, the cost of attending a game is simply reflective of the ticket price and parking fees, but in the case of the Rose Bowl, many fans are traveling across several states, thousands of miles, and several hours from home. So, in this case fans must consider airfare, gas, rental cars, and hotel fees.
Ultimately, fans do not know when, if ever, their favorite team will have the opportunity to attend a Rose Bowl game again. With the constant rule and conference changes occurring in college football, this opportunity could be your last. The Rose Bowl is certainly a "bucket list" activity, so do everything in your power to ignore the cost of the event and give yourself a memory you'll never forget.
The Rose Bowl itself warrants some extra points. Known affectionately as "The Granddaddy of Them All." With a nickname like that, you can't go wrong. It was the home of the first ever bowl game, played back in 1902. If you were born back in 1902 and you are reading this review, I am more impressed than you can imagine.
The Rose Bowl holds many prestigious records. While the teams involved did not include Wisconsin or TCU, 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 Superbowl 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.
The Rose Bowl is also home to one of the "Big 4" of the Bowl Championship Series, hosting the National Championship Game once every four years. Since becoming part of the BCS, it has hosted three national championship games (2002, 2006, & 2010) and will again host in 2014.
The parade prior to the game, beginning at 8 AM Pacific time, is seen by approximately 40 million individuals every year. Witnessing the parade and its floats made from flowers is just as much a part of the experience as the game itself. Be sure to make the parade part of your experience, but plan ahead as parking and a spot on the route is challenging to come by.
Since its beginning the Rose Bowl has hosted 18 Heisman Trophy winners, 28 National Championship teams, and featured 191 consensus All-Americans.
The Oregon Ducks' berth in the National Championship Game this year allowed TCU to receive a spot in the Rose Bowl, but the contest typically features the winners of the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and Big 10 (with 12 teams) conferences. This agreement to feature these conferences began in 1947 and is currently the oldest intercollegiate postseason bowl agreement between two major conferences.
During your visit, take a few moments to take in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. Leading the way is a statue of an "anonymous" football player. The anonymity is an interesting touch, as there isn't one player who defines the venue and fans can wonder who is next to make their mark on the Rose Bowl. Behind the statue is a large wall that plays home 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 Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, where it lists the name and school from where the individual hails. Unfortunately all that 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? The 2011 inductees were Brad Budde (USC), Hayden Fry (Iowa), and Leroy Keyes (Purdue).
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. The idea of attending the game gets even the casual fan out of their seat for an opportunity to attend.
Year after year, the staff behind the Rose Bowl put on an impeccable show, making it only more and more desirable to next year's fans. Be sure to plan the Rose Bowl as the centerpiece of your vacation plans to Southern California, because the experience certainly cannot be beat. Fans who have experienced the venue reminisce about memories that will last a lifetime and those who haven't will continue to yearn to be there one day.
Congratulations to all fans from the Texas Christian Horned Frogs and Wisconsin Badgers who made their Stadium Journey dreams come true in 2011! I hope it was an experience you'll never forget!
Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on twitter @Big10Drew.
I have to give the rose bowl 5 stars when the extras include one of the most fabulous parades of all time. I went to the rose bowl in '98 to see my michigan wolverines and had a great time. The energy and the crowd were tremendous. We woke up early to hit the parade and then headed to the stadium for a great game in a great location.
I enjoyed reading this review and it brought back many great memories I had from the one chance I got to attend a game here. It was New Years Day 1998 watching my alma mater Michigan. The atmosphere and crowd were unforgettable and I have never attended another game like it.
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