Why UCLA’s plans for an on-campus football stadium were dashed and unlikely to be revived

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To hell with trouble. Matt Filippi is going to watch his UCLA Bruins play football, no matter what the headache.

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Hours spent in Friday afternoon traffic. The bus that would collect her from her tailgate on the opposite side of the Rose Bowl, which would require a long walk. Late night rides back to campus can feel like a funeral if the Bruins are lost.

15 Washington, who has made the same sacrifices to support his favorite team over the years, will see UCLA endure it all in an unbeaten battle of the Pac-12 Conference.

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“It’s a whole process every time,” said the junior psychobiology chief.

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Like many of his classmates, Filippi has contemplated what it would be like not to make that 26.2-mile slog from Westwood to Pasadena, like other college football teams, to take a short walk to the game. Watch with envy on television.

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“If we could tailgate to our fraternity house or Jans Steps or that kind of place,” Philippi said, referring to sites on or around campus, “I think so many people get into sports. And there will be so much hype around it.”

More than half a century ago, UCLA students experienced the buzz of home games very close to home.

Momentum was under construction for the construction of an on-campus stadium in 1965, when the Bruins played their home games at the Coliseum. UCLA Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy promoted the construction of a $6.5 million, 44,000-seat stadium, which would be perched on the hill to the west of the student athletic fields. It will be funded by student contingency fees, athletic income, and pledges from alumni and donor groups.

“The lack of an on-campus stadium is the missing component of the most productive and decorated collegiate athletic department in existence.”

— Former UCLA quarterback Gary Beban

A feasibility study was conducted. Architectural plans were drawn up and a stadium model was displayed to the student union. Among other amenities, the stadium will have a regulation football field and 440-yard, nine-lane track, exterior lighting, concession stands, restrooms, scoreboards, a two-level press box, team dressing and shower rooms, management offices and tickets. . the booth

There was pushback. The students voted against the motion twice and protested outside Murphy’s office. The campus newspaper, the Daily Bruin, ran an editorial opposing the stadium and used student fees to fund it. The most outspoken opposition to him was the director of the Westwood Community Planning Committee representing homeowners in Bel-Air, Brentwood, Westwood and South Westwood.

Former UCLA chancellor Charles E. Young, who was at the time as Murphy’s chancellor overshadowed efforts to plan the stadium, said this week.

UCLA plays Oregon at the Rose Bowl on October 11, 2014. UCLA averaged a record 76,650 fans in home games that season, but attendance fell to such an extent that the school added massive strings at each end zone to cover unused seats.
(Doug Benk / The Associated Press)

Young did his best to address the homeowners’ concerns, telling them that most people going to the games would already be on campus and that parking would not be an issue given the availability of spaces on weekends.

It was a losing battle. Governor Edmund G with the owners of the house. “Pat” Brown and University of California Regent Dorothy Chandler. Brown voted against Ronald Reagan in his 1966 election campaign, not to mention the enormous political contributions of those wealthy homeowners. Chandler, the mother of then-publisher Otis Chandler, appeared affectionate to the same homeowners who had helped with her fundraising efforts for the Downtown Music Center.

Ultimately, the Regents dealt a double blow to UCLA’s stadium efforts, Young said. Not only was the proposed football stadium removed, but none of the stadiums built at that location could later be expanded as a facility that could house a football team.

“It’s a damn, damn it, damn it,” Young said. “Not only can’t you do it now, but you can’t do it in a way that at some point in the future, if things change, you can go ahead and expand it.”

UCLA planned what would become Drake Stadium, an 11,700-seat track and field stadium that opened in 1969 and eagerly received UC Regent support, even though it was also funded from student fees. The football team continued to play with USC at the Coliseum until 1982, when another tenant joined the NFL’s Raiders.

Young, who had by then become chancellor of UCLA, transferred the Bruins to the Rose Bowl that same year, in a decision that was wildly unpopular with coach Terry Donahue.

“He said, ‘Chancellor, you’ve sounded the death knell of UCLA football,'” Young said, recalling Donahue’s concerns that the Bruins left central Los Angeles and that the black community was so important to team recruitment. was.

“If we could tailgate to our fraternity house or Jans Steps or that kind of place, I think so many people would go to the Games and there would be a lot of hype around that.”

— UCLA student Matt Philippic

But by the end of that first season, with UCLA playing in front of a crowd of 104,991 for their win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl game, Donahue was one of the biggest supporters of the Bruins’ new home.

Decades later, the Power Five remained the only conference team to play home games apart from a short drive from the UCLA and Miami campuses.

“The lack of an on-campus stadium is the missing ingredient for the most productive and decorated collegiate athletic department in existence,” said former UCLA quarterback Gary Beban, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1967.

Fan support at the Rose Bowl has waned over the years. UCLA averaged a record 76,650 as recently as 2014, but attendance has fallen to such an extent that the school added massive strings to each end zone to cover unused seats. For their first three home games this season, the Bruins averaged 30,072 fans, albeit with significantly fewer appearances.

UCLA has a better chance of making the college football playoffs than an on-campus stadium. Its Rose Bowl lease runs until June 30, 2044 without an opt-out clause, and the existing campus infrastructure that includes the LA Tennis Center and a parking lot under Intramural Field makes the expansion of Drake Stadium practically impossible.

“In my opinion, the idea of ​​an on-campus football stadium would still be DOA as it was several decades ago,” said John Sandbrook, a longtime UCLA associate for Young. “Today, the reality is that such a proposal, even if it could be made, would be highly disruptive to the operation of the campus on each weekend, the extent of which is much greater today than it was 55 years ago.

“Despite some people’s dreams, I think there will be little support, overall, for revisiting the 1965 verdict in the current environment, even on the small scale of 30,000 seats.”

That doesn’t mean that Philippi and her classmates can’t look out of the windows of their bus after reaching altitude 405 on Friday afternoon, yearning for what could happen.


Source: www.latimes.com

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