Exploring Memorial Stadium

Berkeley Connect Architecture students get a tour of the newly renovated stadium

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California Memorial Stadium is the home of the California Golden Bears – and one of the largest football-only stadiums in Northern California. Another unique quality? It is the only stadium built entirely on a seismic fault. The newly renovated stadium not only looks sleeker and more modern, it is also better prepared for an earthquake. It makes for some interesting architectural features, and Berkeley Connect Architecture students were lucky enough to explore it all, with Justin Panarese of Cal Athletics as their guide.

The tour started at Gate 1 of the stadium, and as Justin led the students into the stadium, he pointed out a plaque near the entrance. First built in 1923, Memorial Stadium was constructed in memory of Californians lost during World War II – hence its name  – with public contributions. When the stadium was renovated, the university chose to rededicate the stadium to all Californians who had lost their lives in service to the United States. Further on, Justin noted the many added features meant to prepare the stadium for an earthquake, including shock absorbers and plates inserted into the stadium.

Berkeley Connect Mentor Mia Narell noted the details on the walls of the stadium – concrete on wood panels that create horizontal lines for an interesting effect. She also asked about increased ADA accessibility, to which Justin responded by pointing out one new feature – benches intentionally spaced to allow wheelchairs to be parked in between them. “ADA accessibility is something we talk about a lot in architecture – both the emphasis on equal access and the fact it can create segregation,” Mia said.

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Next, Justin brought the group to the University Club, which rests on the top floor of the stadium. On one side was a balcony where students had an amazing view of the entire city (and all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge!). The other side offered an aerial view of the stadium. Not something you get to see every day!

As Justin continued the tour, he explained that the designers wanted to capture the history of the facility even as they modernized the stadium. The wood from the old benches, for example, now adorns the walls of the Field Club downstairs. Horizontal lines are prominent in this design, as well. The stadium also features a fitness center, which allows access to students with RSF membership, and Justin said that many more ideas are underway, including a full-fledged restaurant and study spaces for students. In the cafeteria, we saw several flat-screen TVs, only a few of the 120 televisions in this new stadium.

As students passed by a model of the stadium, Justin asked the students to talk about their own models. One student was working on a circulation model of a building in San Francisco. “Very different from this model,” she said.

In yet another part of the stadium, there are displays showcasing UC Berkeley’s legacy. We stopped at a display about The Play, the play that gave Cal a victory against Stanford in the very last second of the 1982 Big Game. Shocked that some of the students had never heard of The Play, Justin insisted they watched it on his phone. “You have to know The Play as a Berkeley student,” he said. In the display was a replica of the trombone that was smashed when Kevin Moen, on his way to scoring the famous touchdown, ran into a Stanford band member who had already come onto the field to celebrate what he thought was a Stanford victory.

Our last stop was the stadium’s high-performance gym, housed in its training center. Many were stunned by the sheer size of the gym as well as the rows and rows of machines that seem to stretch endlessly down the gym. Also prominent was a miniature football field where players can practice off the field.

“Amazing,” one student said at the end of the tour of the architecturally impressive stadium. Amazing it definitely was – and a great experience for aspiring architecture students on a Friday afternoon!

posted by Katherine Wang
Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant