Rose Bowl – UCLA Bruins
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The Rose of College Football
One of the most storied stadium in all of college football, the Rose Bowl is an iconic structure to any college football fan. The Rose Bowl has been the site of many classic college football moments as well as the host to five Super Bowls. The Rose Bowl itself opened its doors on October 8, 1922 originally in a horseshoe design. By 1928 the south end was closed in to complete the iconic bowl design that it is known for today. The one event the Grand Lady is known for hosting of course is the annual Rose Bowl game, played every year on January 1 traditionally between the Big Ten champion and the Pac 12 champion (most years at least).
After previously calling the Los Angeles Coliseum home, the UCLA Bruins would move to The Rose Bowl in 1982 despite the fact that the stadium is 26 miles from campus. Today, capacity at the stadium is over 92,000 with a record attendance of over 106,000. The Rose Bowl is even marked as a National Historic Landmark, a testament to its long and storied history.
Food & Beverage 4
Even before you enter the venue, Lot H has a pre-game Fan Zone setup south of the Rose Bowl’s signature entrance. Inside the Fan Zone fans can choose from various food options, including Fat Sal’s. This popular sandwich spot serves up huge sandwiches from $10-$14. A Fat Texas BBQ comes in a 12 inch toasted garlic hero with BBQ pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon, grilled onions, melted cheddar & mozzarella fries, mayo and honey bbq. The concourse is basically ringed by concessions, making it easy to navigate through the wide variety of food to whatever menu item catches your eye. Concessions are marked by extraordinarily large signs advertising whatever is available at that particular stand, something that makes it very easy to choose from the options as you walk. Every stand is different, meaning there’s food options for just about any palette beyond the usual burgers and dogs. Chicken bowls from Teri & Yaki are available for $11, Beer brats, sausage or pulled pork from Robins Wood Fired BBQ are $12, $20 with fries. If you got a hungry group of four Robins also offers up Rose Bowl Super Size Bodacious BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos for $30, stacked with nacho chips, garlic fries, pulled pork, nacho cheese, Robin’s Mad Dog BBQ Sauce, pepperoncini, cherry peppers and jalapenos.
If you got a sweet tooth Kona Ice serves up shaved ice treats from $5-$8. The flavors vary and you get to choose as many tropical flavors as you please from a mobile cart, from tigers blood to ninja cherry to a mystery flavor or a flavor of the day. The small $5 cup should be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Oh yeah, if you should get this can’t miss sweet treat long before kickoff, that kid in you may want to hang around the mobile cart and play around with the different flavors for your shaved ice as you work your way toward the bottom.
Beverage options are just as plentiful if not more so. Alongside the Coke products, ranging from $5-$8, you can get all kinds of lemonades and juices, iced coffee, and hot chocolate, for those cold November evenings. For being in a major venue the price of concessions is surprisingly reasonable.
As soon as you turn the corner into the valley and see the classic sign, you’ll know you’re in for a good experience. The fact that it’s the Rose Bowl alone makes this worth the trip. The lots around the stadium will be packed with Bruins tailgating for the game, creating a very traditional college football pre-game atmosphere. Perhaps the coolest part of the whole experience is the spectacular view of the San Gabriel Mountains surrounding the stadium, visible from inside and outside the stadium. As you pass the roses and through the ticket gate below the classic Rose Bowl sign, take in the experience. If you don’t already know you’re somewhere full of history, the Court of Champions will remind you. The score from every Rose Bowl game adorns plaques on the south end of the stadium below the famous Rose Bowl sign. It’s heaven for any college football fan. Around the stadium, the stone fixtures and roses make you feel like you’ve gone back an era in college football history while still enjoying all of the modern amenities of today’s stadiums. As you walk down the tunnels and glimpse the field, linger for a moment and soak in the view of one of the most classic fields in football.
Though UCLA fans do a pretty solid job of filling the stadium, games rarely do sell out, even when crowds exceed 70,000 plus. While passionate, they are definitely a notch below the rabid fan bases in the country in terms of numbers and noise. The stadium itself is beautiful but the spread out bowl design doesn’t hold sound well. The raucous crowd can sound a bit far away and the bands at halftime can be difficult to hear when you’re not seated right down on the field. That being said, the traditions are all there. From the UCLA 8-Clap to the walk to the field behind the UCLA flag bearers, it’s a great college football experience through and through.
There’s no disputing the quality of the area around the Rose Bowl, as there aren’t many more picturesque settings in the country. The Rose Bowl is at the bottom of a valley at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, whose peaks rise above the stadium and are visible from anywhere inside or outside. Beautiful sunsets over the mountains behind the press box are not uncommon sights here, and they tend to be more than impressive. The neighborhood immediately around the stadium is unique in its relation to the Rose Bowl. You won’t see the iconic stadium as you’re winding through traffic. Instead, you’ll be in quaint neighborhoods with streets lined with palm trees and beautiful homes. Suddenly the expanse of the Rose Bowl parking lot opens up in front of you on the valley floor with the celebrated Rose Bowl sign visible on the front of the bowl. It almost seems a hidden gem that is a part of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
In terms of finding some good food options, Old Town Pasadena has plenty and is only a quick jump across the highway to the south. Bar Celona or Buca di Beppo are popular food options to try, although there will be no shortage around that Pasadena area. Slater’s 50/50 is a restaurant with a huge selection of local beers, but the specialty here is the bacon theme. Almost everything has bacon in it, and the 50% bacon burgers are absolutely spectacular.
The hardcore UCLA fans are as loud and engaged as any fans in the country. Signs, cheers, blue and gold pom-poms and passion are all a part of the experience. Tailgate is raucous and large and the student section is huge and wild. These are all great things that make for a quintessential college football experience. However, UCLA may actually be a victim of the older and larger Rose Bowl, no matter how classic of a venue it is. Due to various factors, particularly its distance from campus, the stadium even during a good year for UCLA football rarely sells out. The wide bowl shape means that the loud areas can seem far away and more muted than they deserve to be. Basically, to be truly elite in 92,000 seat stadium, there need to be 92,000 seats filled with passionate fans.
As beautiful as the drive in to the area is, expect to have plenty of time to take it all in. Getting into the area on 110 or 210 is fairly easy (as easy as it can be in general Los Angeles traffic), but the fact that the stadium lies in the heart of a residential area with no major roads cutting through means going will be slow. Basically expect to be confronted with the option of parking far away and hiking to the stadium or waiting in endless traffic to reach the tailgate area. Arrive early, and choose wisely, because the narrow roads and direction of traffic make it impossible to change your mind. I’d strongly recommend the hike if you can’t arrive early enough to beat the masses out.
If you have no desire to drive to the bowl, parking in nearby Old Town Pasadena is also available, with prices ranging from $6 and up based on hours and length of stay. Parking in Old Town is a great alternative, especially if you plan on taking in some pre/post game entertainment and dining options. Free game day shuttle busses from the Parson’s parking lot on Fair Oaks Avenue are available for those of you parking in Old Town. Parking at the Parson’s lot is $15.
Once you arrive at the stadium, the gates are fairly easy to move through although security can be a bit of a choke point. The concourse is easily walkable and there are more than enough restrooms and concessions to make it easy to get to and from your seat quickly. If this is your first visit to The Grand ol’ Lady, I’d strongly advise you to show your ticket to the usher once you reach the bowl, because the seat numbering seems as if there is no rhyme or reason whatsoever. As classic and charming as The Rose Bowl is, once inside the seating bowl, you will definitely notice that this is no modern day venue.
This will be a constant point of confusion as the masses filling the stadium will constantly ascend and descend the long, narrow stairways to try and find their seats. Also noticeable, once you begin your ascent you won’t see many signs labeling the section you’re in. Seating can be confusing here. The rows are also relatively narrow so you won’t have much legroom between you and the row in front of you. The incline is so gradual that should you find yourself sitting behind someone really tall, you will be viewing the back of their head.
Return on Investment 4
At any cost, you have to go once. It’s the Rose Bowl. There is plenty of history inside this storied venue. Ticket prices are generally about average, ranging from $30-$40 all the way up to $100 or so, especially when UCLA is hosting it’s crosstown rival USC. Parking is the same with the ability to park for anywhere from $25 per car to $50 for RVs. Due to The Rose Bowl’s capacity, tickets for even the biggest games are generally available up to kickoff. UCLA is once again expected to be highly competitive in the Pac-12. If you have the opportunity, you will want to take in the crosstown rivalry when USC arrives in November. The atmosphere of a UCLA-USC game goes up several notches not only on the field but in the pregame festivities in the lots and the stands as well. Aside from intercity bragging rights and possibly a Pac-12 South title, the annual prize at stake between the two storied rivals is The Victory Bell.
I could go on and on about the nuances that make the Rose Bowl so worthy of a visit. If you have the luxury of attending the annual rivalry with Southern Cal for the Victory Bell in its bi-annual trip to the Rose Bowl, that’s a must do. How often do you get to cross off the Rose Bowl from your bucket list while attending one of the better rivalries in college football? The view from the Rose Bowl is stunning, with the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. Be sure not to skip the Court of Champions as you enter the gates. The “Rose Bowl” sign with the giant rose is one of the most recognizable logos of any stadium anywhere in the world and makes for a great photo opportunity. All of this lets you know that you’re entering a site of sports legends that transcends just football.
In this day and age of high tech venues, The Rose Bowl, with all its history and grandeur, maintains a natural charm lined with roses and other natural beauty. The Rose Bowl does not have some of the most up to date technological advances and amenities like many venues today.
In the mold of Soldier Field in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay and so many other historic locations, you can almost feel the ghosts of heroes past in the Rose Bowl. Despite its age and flaws, the Rose Bowl is and will continue to be one of the legendary sports venues in any sport. For that reason alone, you should plan a visit.
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