The almost 90-year old Rose Bowl is going through the financial ringer while poor oversight by the Rose Bowl Operating Company ("RBOC") , plagues renovation costs for a budget heading towards the $200M mark. The answer seems to be with inviting the National Football League ("NFL") to temporarily hold 13 games per year for 5 years at the Rose Bowl while a franchise is set up at Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles.
The Pasadena City Council voted 7-1 to approve amending the Public Lands Ordinance, allowing the NFL to consider the Rose Bowl a temporary home, as well as, the council certifying the Final Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”).
Now, let's make this clear, I am a big NFL fan though without calling allegiance to any one particular team, I do have many players I follow throughout their careers. There is nothing like going to a game and losing your voice after cheering and ruckus. The electricity of the crowd can get anyone involved, including the novice. I love football.
Renovations: 3rd Down and 42M:
The RBOC is reviewing its Rose Bowl renovation project, which started in January 2011 with a budget of $152,000,000 and now has now reached the $194,000,000, reports the Los Angeles Times. You do the math. It’s a $42 million overage the community is now straddled by, unless the NFL can save the day.
It seems the 3-person committee overseeing the costs related to the project including Pasadena District 5 Councilman and RBOC Chairman, Victor Gordo and Pasadena District 7 RBOC committee member, Paul Arevalo need to do similar math. How does a board in charge of oversight of the Rose Bowl renovation costs get to the point where they are now having to review their original ill-conceived plans and budgets?
Back in October, Arevalo told the board, "At this point, we're looking at working with some world-class firms that have significant experience in stadium renovations and they're going to (offer) a kind of bird's eye perspective on the project."
To have a project get this out of control in such a short period of time is nuts. Not only are there cost overages, but now litigation is mounting, both of which are very familiar to Arevalo, as his day job is the City Manager for West Hollywood where legal costs for the city continue to climb yearly due to poor management and counsel oversight.
Player’s Strike and Management Lockout:
The latest in events plaguing the RBOC is it has not been able to court the right bids for its Rose Bowl Renovation and Improvement Project, as they had to reject the recent offers for Phase 3A Field Level Construction. All bids were 1-3M above the RBOC's estimate of $4,500,000.
The RBOC was also recommended to reject the Earthwork / Site Storm work / Asphalt Phase 3A improvements as all three bids were grossly over the estimated $310,000.
Council did move into contract with Phase 3A Concourse Structures for the amount of $3,450,700 with KAR Construction, Ontario, CA attached to do the work. Oddly, the RBOC approves this when the estimated budget was for only $2,242,000.
Who is running the show over there because following a budget isn’t too difficult if created with realistic guidelines? Decisions are becoming alarmingly arbitrary by the RBOC committee.
The contractors who cannot land a contract with the city are equally frustrated with the RBOC while residents worry about Sunday NFL fans creating noise pollution and congestion to a park-like area of Pasadena, as the city tries to solve the financial stress of the Rose Bowl renovations. If the RBOC were a business, people would be fired. The city should act on the same impulse and investigate why such gross differences in budget versus actual totals for the renovation project.
“Band-Aid” Solutions for Losing Team:
The answer the RBOC has for Pasadena at the moment through their recent review costing $400,000, is to increase the current ordinance to large events from 12 events per year to 25 or more events per year. Daniel S.Barrett of the Barrett Sports Group, LLC ("BSG"), Manhattan Beach, brought in to review the NFL plan, estimates Pasadena could generate income of $5M-10M if an NFL deal was struck.
Gordo sees a tremendous economic engine for the city of Pasadena and surrounding area. "Any deal would have to be respectful of surrounding park land. This is a stadium in the middle of a park," Gordo said. "Any deal would have to be respectful of the surrounding neighborhood. This is a stadium in the middle of a neighborhood." Gordo then goes on to state, "Pasadena must position itself to negotiate with a team." It's economics, folks. Plain and simple, how can we make several tens of millions of dollars in a few short years?
The city of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Stadium will host an NFL team for up to five years:
- if the City of Los Angeles signs an NFL team to a contract
- if Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles gets approved and built
- if Pasadena residents in nearby neighborhoods do not protest the added traffic and noise
- if at the required second reading of the EIR on December 3, the council votes to finalize action
- if an NFL team signs a contract with Pasadena to use the stadium in the interim between coming to Los Angeles and the completion of a stadium in Los Angeles.
The December 3, 2012 second reading of the EIR will be very important evening for neighbors and residents to attend the Council Meeting to voice their opinions about the EIR and impacts to the city both positive and negative.
Sadly, both Gordo and Arevalo are looking for Band-Aid solutions for a bigger problem seen here with the Rose Bowl’s financial mess mounting and the community is just beginning to see true mismanagement at its finest. A deal with the NFL would surely take the pressure off of the 3-person committee and settling the overages incurred with the project. But, the question is whether or not those responsible should continue on the project or be removed?
With Gordo and Arevalo rubbing elbows with many developers around town, one would think they had the system covered and the community protected from escalating costs. We would be wrong to assume. This is not the case. Now, “The Band-Aid” has to be used out of the coach's playbook. The city deserves more community-minded commitment and financially conscious representatives than Arevalo and Gordo.
23-Skidoo - EIR Alternative #2:
Within the draft Environmental Impact Report ("EIR"), there is mention of a Reduced Attendance Alternative indicating if a temporary use of the Rose Bowl Stadium by an NFL team, Alternative #2 would limit the attendance at the Rose Bowl to 50,000 fans per NFL event. The stadium could hold an estimated 88,000 fans. Due to the adjustment of 38,000 fans, the EIR suggests this approach would not be feasible due attendance the NFL could find elsewhere.
This opinion by BRG suggests the average of 67,270 of all NFL stadium attendance is a far cry from the Alternative #2 condition of only 50,000 attendees. Just to give you an idea, Oakland's attendance is on average of 50,000 per NFL game. They seem to be doing just fine. It's the RBOC who want more attendees. More attendees equal more money! Why not scare people into believing "Alternative #2" would never work?
Alternative #2 of the draft EIR was a very sound and doable situation for a temporary stadium for the NFL, if the NFL chooses to use the facility, at all. There are many better-suited stadiums around town with better infrastructures to accommodate a temporary NFL stadium than the Rose Bowl. The NFL just presents an easy way out for the Rose Bowl Operating Company of a very bad financial state they are experiencing. Sometimes the modest approach is better in the end.
"Do-Overs" Not Allowed:
If only the NFL could act in the same manner as the RBOC and add 'Do-Overs" to the mix. What a lively event those games would be. In turn, the RBOC should adopt a better approach to its oversight and start to manage the Rose Bowl with integrity and without sloppy management. The board itself should be under review and all fired! The city should clean house and revamp a troubled board. Economic trends are always shifting. Why is it the RBOC does not shift with the times before it's too late?
Ultimately, the residents and people of the community surrounding the Rose Bowl lose this financial game. This is for sure. If the NFL had to chose between the Rose Bowl or the Los Angeles Coliseum, at Exposition Park, the new home of space shuttle Endeavor, I would put my money on the Coliseum. Even though the LA Coliseum Commission is no better that the RBOC, and equally corrupt, downtown Los Angeles has better infrastructure for the 93,600 fans the Olympic stadium could accommodate, along with MTA alternatives.
At the end of the day, it is plain and simple. The Rose Bowl Operating Company is a mismanaged mess. Why would the NFL chose to settle for less in Pasadena when the obvious choice for any temporary accommodation for the NFL is the Los Angeles Coliseum? After all, I am a USC fan.