By Michael J. ARVIZU
For the first time since its dedication in 1923, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is offering guided tours to the general public.
The first set of tours was offered to about 200 guests on Saturday morning after a ribbon cutting ceremony inaugurating the tours took place outside of Stadium A gate. Rose Bowl officials described the tours as an opportunity for people to see parts of the Rose Bowl that are generally closed off to the public, such as the spacious visiting and home team locker rooms, press box and the field itself.
“This program provides an opportunity to present the Rose Bowl – this long-standing organization and institution – to the entire world,” said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Guests were also taken to a classic locker room, circa 1922, where Rose Bowl memorabilia from decades past was exhibited. Some of the artifacts were unearthed during the stadium’s renovation and include items such as bottles, an antique turnstile and bench seats.
As part of the renovation process, Rose Bowl officials consulted with the Pasadena Heritage Society in order to maintain the integrity of the original stadium, said Rose Bowl tour guide Amy Borton.
“They understand that we need upgrades,” she said. “But they worked to make sure that this is still the ‘Rose Bowl.’”
The new tours are being offered as the stadium prepares to host the 100th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2014, following the Tournament of Roses Parade. The bulk of the renovations to the stadium – dubbed “The Next 100 Years” project – are also underway and scheduled to be completed in 2014. During each tour, guests are given a glimpse into what those renovations are; the tours pass by some of the newly-renovated areas including the luxury pavilion and skyboxes. Some construction was still taking place during Saturday’s tour.
“We think there is a demand for it,” said Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn of the tours. “There’s going to be excitement for it; it’s an opportunity to let people come see things that they’ve never seen before.”
Former Pasadena City College football coach Harvey Hyde sees the new tours as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Every time you watch a game … you can say you’ve been there,” he said.
Jeremy Hughes of Phoenix was in town Saturday visiting family with his wife and son. As an Oklahoma State Cowboys football fan, Hughes feels the Rose Bowl tours are a chance for fans to experience the stadium up close and perhaps consider attending a game.
“It’s one of the greatest places to watch a college football game,” Hughes said, adding that he hopes his team will make an appearance at the BCS National Championship Game to be played at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6. “Attending a football game at the Rose Bowl has always been on my bucket list, so to speak.”
The Rose Bowl holds many positive memories for Pasadena resident Donna Soldwedel. Soldwedel’s husband, the late Fred W. Soldwedel, served as president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses in 1987. The Rose Bowl tours, she said, will allow the stadium’s neighbors to become “aware of the importance of having events at the Rose Bowl and maintaining the Bowl in a safe and pleasant way.”
“I think my husband would be fascinated and so pleased to see some of the safety features, the things that concerned him over the years, taken care of,” she said, referring to safety improvements that will be made to the stadium’s infrastructure.
As he was making his way to the air conditioned press box and luxury boxes, Alhambra resident Edward Acevedo was on the phone with family, telling them about the progress of the tour. Acevedo has attended three Rose Bowl football games in his lifetime so far.
“It’s just beautiful,” he said of the luxury boxes. “In my lifetime, I’ll never be able to get those seats here! So I want to come to the tour and see what other people get to enjoy. If it wasn’t for the tour, I would never have the opportunity to do this.”
Back at the A gate, Borton had the distinction of directing the first ever tour group of the stadium on Saturday. A self-described history nerd, Borton said the tours offer a way for people to connect to and be personally familiar with a historical icon.
“They get to connect with something that’s such a big part of our community and be part of our football legacy,” she said. “To really connect with something so important, huge and classic – that speaks a lot to me.”