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  • Scott Bultman

Rose Bowl – Rose Bowl

Photos by Scott Bultman, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Rose Bowl 1001 Rose Bowl Dr Pasadena, CA 91103

Year Opened: 1922

Capacity: 92,542


Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl is called "The Granddaddy of Them All" for its pomp and circumstance each year. From the parade each morning that is nationally televised to a big game in the afternoon, this is a must see for sports travelers and fans. Fans in and around the Rose Bowl last year were in for a treat as this would be the first ever playoff semifinal game under the newly formed college football playoff system. This game featured the #2 high flying Oregon Ducks vs the #3 unbeaten Florida State Seminoles. As if this game needed anything else special, it would showcase the previous two years' Heisman trophy winners taking each other on. This sidebar matchup between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota would be only the third game in college football history featuring two Heisman trophy winners facing each other in a game.

The site is a National Historic Landmark as even 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 101st edition of the game in a Stadium Journey language.

Food & Beverage 4

While the food and beverage vendors are not in typical form (all are on a single concourse with no sightlines of the action), there is plenty of room for temporary food vendors, similar to what you will find at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Many of these stands had televisions behind the counter, allowing fans to continue to watch the game while standing in line. The variety of food stands at the stadium was vast and anyone with a specific appetite could walk away happy. One stand offered Fan vs Food Italian Beef & Sausage Sandwich ($30 for a whole sandwich, $15 for a half, and $10 for a third), and beef or pork ultimate nachos ($10).

Some of your more typical food items found at most permanent stands included hot dog ($5), french fries ($5, get them "Texas Pete" style for the same price) bratwurst ($8), cheese or pepperoni pizza ($5 slice), popcorn ($5), Red Vines licorice ($5), M&M's ($5), or peanuts ($5).

Some of the more exciting food options included beer brats, tri-tip sandwich, garlic fries, sweet kettle popcorn, bacon cheeseburger, bacon & cheese dog, nachos, teriyaki chicken and rice, quesadillas, burrito, tacos, or the famous El Cholo bowl (chicken or beef, with mixed with rice, beans, onions, cilantro, and salsa).

The normal fare that you will find at most stadiums was prevalent as well. I had a foot long hot dog and a pretzel for eleven dollars and it hit the spot. 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 started at $8.

The beverage options included Coke products in a souvenir cup for $10 (or bottled option for $5), bottled water ($4 & $5 sizes for Sparkletts and $5 & $6 sizes for Fiji), coffee ($3), Rock Star energy drink ($4), and regular, strawberry, or cherry lemonade ($5). I am a collector of souvenir cups but was not willing to shell out ten dollars for one. Especially since I got some free cups outside the stadium from a sponsor.

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. Bottled beer was also available for $9, Wine (chardonnay, white zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon) was available for $10 and margaritas for $10.

Atmosphere 5

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 cliché excitement term: "goosebumps." Never have I seen so many people taking pictures of the stadium as was witnessed before and after the game. Seeing a sun kissed stadium on TV turn into a beautiful sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains has to be seen in person at least once. On this particular day, close to record cold temperatures did not put a damper on the festivities. 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 yellow, green, or maroon 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. I was fortunate to catch the Oregon Ducks escort and what a sight it was to see the designs on the buses and fanfare rolling through. 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 occurs, this year being a stealth bomber.

Neighborhood 4

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. Fans can also knock off many other venues on their list as the Los Angeles Kings, Lakers, Clippers, and Anaheim Ducks are all likely to host a home game during the week. 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 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.

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 The 35er. 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.

Fans 5

Both fan bases gave each other some good-natured ribbing but nothing seemed excessive or over the top. There seemed to be a 60-40 split in favor of Oregon supporters vs Seminoles faithful. Most of the chants and ribbing were directed at either Jameis Winston or the lack of national titles won by Oregon. Oregon fans populated the western and northern parts of the stadium while Florida State fans were in the eastern and southern portions of the stadium. My tickets were in the Florida State cheering section despite being a neutral fan.

The marching bands for both schools were lively and kept the crowd enthused during the game. Due to the one sided game in the second half, many Florida State fans left at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Though they were disappointed on this day, they could take solace in the fact that they had won a national title the year before.

Access 3

I was impressed with the transit options to and from the Rose Bowl. I took the metro gold line to Pasadena and took a free shuttle to the game. The wait times looked scary leaving the train station as everyone was going to the same place. However, the shuttle area was well marked and I was on a bus in under 15 minutes. Leaving the stadium and taking the shuttle is something I wouldn't recommend. The wait times were anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. Take the mile and a half walk to the gold line station instead and skip the line. The area is well lit and there were police along the way to help with questions. I was able to get right onto a gold line train without waiting.

Police and security at the train station help keep the lines and crowd flowing well both to and from Pasadena. My only quibble was the lack of signage on my walk to the station. Luckily, I followed the crowd and asked a friendly officer along the way.

Getting there by car is not so easy. 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 an 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.

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 or 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 are three scoreboards in the stadium, but I found that all three left something to be desired in terms of the stats they provided. I did, however like the Rose Bowl highlight clips from games past during television timeouts.

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.

Return on Investment 5

During years where the new college football playoff games are at the Rose Bowl, $150 and up for a game ticket seems like a bargain compared to getting them online. In years where it will be host to a regular but major bowl game, the price may be a bit excessive. However, they have sold out every game since 1957. The atmosphere, a classic stadium, and a great warm weather setting make this a must see game at least once in your lifetime. For a major event, I thought tickets, food, and souvenirs were priced fairly. Some of the shirts were overpriced a bit but this writer needed one to proudly wear.

As with any game, you can choose to indulge or be frugal so return on investment for a big event like this is what you make of it. If you factor in the price for a flight and hotel for out of town fans, the expenses add up quickly. Not driving and taking transit can save a lot of money. Indulging in free samples during the pregame tailgate can save you some on food costs inside the stadium. Most seats in the stadium are close to the action. Fans can live like kings in the new box seats which give you more leg room and an actual seatback. Or you can spend ten dollars for a nice souvenir seat cushion and sit in a regular seat.

Extras 5

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 home of the first ever bowl game, played back in 1902. The Rose Bowl holds many prestigious records. 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 an NFL Superbowl at 103,985. This game was played in 1980 and featured the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Los Angeles Rams (Superbowl XIV). Since its inception, this venue has hosted 5 NFL Super Bowl games. It is now part of the college football playoff rotation.

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 19 Heisman Trophy winners (Reggie Bush also played here), 29 National Championship teams, and featured countless consensus All-Americans.

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 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?

Final Thoughts

Going to a Rose Bowl is big enough but the added bonus of the college football playoff semifinal made it a must see game. While it isn't in the rotation each year, the regular bowl game will always feature a great game involving two high ranking teams. The renovations to the stadium did not compromise the classic look or feel to the stadium. The experience, the parade, and the pomp and circumstance make it a must see for any sports fan.

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