(This is the second in a four part series taking stock of just how momentous Saturday’s opening game against Nevada will be, coming home to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.)
I think it is important to remember just how much has transpired to get us to now. I started off with a post that mostly covered the pre-Tedford activities. Now onto the actual events, with more links to good historical data to keep in your cap than will fit in a 10-gallon cowboy hat, that led to Saturday’s bonanza…
It took 3 years for Tedford’s success (2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons) to really take hold to the degree that progress on the Simpson Center was possible. The first key move the University made to make it happen after Tedford was hired, was to hire Sandy Barbour in September of 2004. As the deputy Athletic Director at Notre Dame she had been responsible for the construction of a 100-000 square foot sports center. Cal needed an AD who knew how to do capital projects.
By the end of 2004 and throughout 2005 Sandy aggressively reached out to Cal’s biggest donors to raise the money needed for the “High Performance Center”. In November of 2005, Cal released its plans for a sports facility immediately to the west of the CMS.
The plan had many facets, but the following was clear:
- Construction on the HPC would start after the 2006 season
- The HPC would be ready for the 2008 season
- The stadium renovation would start at some unstated (but soon) date after that (Ken’s note: I can’t find a link to back this up, but I remember it originally starting after the 2008 season, with 2009 being the away year and 2010 being the re-opening of the CMS)
- The plan would also include upgrades to the academic facilities for both the law and business schools
The University spent most of 2006 going through the process of formalizing those plans:
- From May 8th, 2006 to July 7th, 2006 the University circulated the EIR, a necessary first step to its approval and giving us our first glimpse into the specific plans.
- On October 31st the EIR was completed.
- On November 14th, 2006 the UC Regents building committee decided to delay on formal approval of the EIR, but did approve the funding plan.
- On November 16th, 2006 the full board of UC Regents approved the funding plan
- On December 5th, 2006 the UC Regent building committee approved the EIR
That is to say, things went reasonably smoothly, although the UC regents delay of one month on approval of the EIR was a bit troubling.
Whether or not that was meaningful, could be considered a matter of debate. The City of Berkeley voted in September of 2006 to hire a lawyer to prepare to sue the UC if they approved the project. So it seems likely that no matter how quickly it was approved, there was going to be a lawsuit.
Nevertheless, before the Regents could put their official stamp of approval on the project, local and longtime Berkeley activist Zachary ‘RunningWolf’ decided that he wasn’t going to sit, on the ground anyway, still while the trees were cut down. So on December 2nd, 2006, the day of the 2006 Big Game, he and a handful of activists climbed into the oak trees and started a tree-sit.
3 days later, the UC Regents officially approved the EIR and thus the HPC project.
The opponents of the project didn’t waste any time in filing lawsuits against the project. Between December 11th, 2006 and December 19th, 2006 three different lawsuits were filed. One was by the City of Berkeley. A second was by the Panoramic Hills Association (the homeowners association for the houses above the stadium). The final was by the newly and specifically for this purpose formed “California Oak Foundation”, the legal entity for the tree-sitters.
The very first request of the lawsuits was that an injunction be put on construction. Seeing as how the University was intent on starting right away, the court acquiesced on December 21st, putting a preliminary injunction pending a full hearing, to be held on January 23rd. Just under a week later, on January 29th, Judge Miller confirmed every Cal fan’s worst fear and granted an injunction while the case was heard.
It’s worth taking a short segue in the issue of the value of the tree-sitters and their impact on halting construction. The reality was that it was the injunction starting December 21st that was what put a halt to construction. Considering there were only a handful of days between formal approval of the project and the lawsuits, there was really no opportunity for Cal to start construction. The tree-sitters were the publicity machine for the struggle, but in practice had no impact on halting construction.
Far more important was the involvement of the City of Berkeley. Without their participation, the Panoramic Hills Association (PHA) and the California Oak Foundation (COF) would have had to put a bond for $10 million dollars, something the COF would have no means to afford and the PBA wouldn’t have had the stomach for. However, when a municipality gets involved, no bond is needed and there is no risk of having to pay out the increase in construction costs.
Amidst all of the legal wranglings, the University was continuing to push forward with preparations for the project, including the remaining fundraising. On December 21st, the same day as the injunction was put in place, the name for the HPC was announced. It was to be called “The Simpson Center”
Meanwhile, back in the bat ca… er back in the courts, as with all Environmental Impact cases, things went slowly. On May 25th, 2007 all of the necessary filings were made to the court. In all 198 different documents with 40,055 pages were submitted to the court. Originally oral arguments were supposed to be heard over the summer of 2007, but between various additional filings, motions and briefs, the in-court phase of the trial did not begin until late September 2007.
The hearings themselves would take far to long to go over, but here are some relevant links and nuggets:
After the trial wrapped up, it was back to the waiting game, with the side-show of the tree-sitters to keep us busy. In a separate court the University got permission to remove all the tree-sitters when they saw fit to do it. However, realizing that protecting the grove from re-intrusions while the injunction was still in place would cost more than leaving them there and have significant and unnecessary PR implications, the University chose not to act on that right.
Judge Miller had to rule on the case within 90 days, but we were assured that she’d rule much more quickly than that. But the days and nights passed without a ruling and 89 days later we got the 2nd possible worst news: another delay.
Judge Miller, instead of making a ruling, issued a ruling on a couple of items and ordered more evidence be provided in regards to other areas.
Over the remainder of December 2007 and January 2008 multiple filings and hearings continued to slow things down. It wasn’t until March 20th, 2008 that the actual hearing on the additional evidence Judge Miller requested was heard.
That started another 90-day waiting period, which we were assured again wouldn’t take that long. I vented my frustration at how long this could be drawn out, pointing out the length of the timeline:
- 12/11/06: Original case filed just days after EIR approved by Regents (and yes, that’s 2006)
- 1/23/07: Hearing held on Preliminary Injunction
- 1/29/07: Preliminary Injunction granted (notice how quick that was)
- 4/23/07: First documents submitted for hearings
- 7/11/07: First hearing briefs submitted
- 9/19/07: Start of “2 day hearing” to decide case (hearing delayed from original June estimate)
- 10/11/07: Final day of “2 day hearing”
- 10/26/07: Final briefs filed on hearing (90-day timer starts today, ends 1/24/08)
- 12/10/07: Judge orders additional evidence be submitted
- 12/26/07: Plaintiffs object to submitting evidence
- 1/11/08: Hearing on ojbection to additional evidence
- 1/23/08: Plaintiffs objection denied
- 2/22/08: Additional evidence submitted by both sides
- 3/20/08: Hearing on additional evidence (90-day time starts today, ends 6/18/08)
Judge Miller finally released her ruling on the very last day possible, June 18th, 2008. As the ruling approached, things got dicey at the Oak Grove, as seen by these two days (day 1, day 2) of live-blogging of the events.
Immediately after the ruling both sides had declared victory. My thoughts were a bit more mixed. The reality was that while the vast majority of the ruling was in favor of the University, there were a few concessions to the plaintiffs (The City of Berkeley (COB), the PHA and the COF). And much to my credit I for the first time had an accurate assessment of how long it would take to wrap up the remaining legal wrangling: The end of August 2008.
Throughout the remainder of June and July the legal wrangling continued as did the shenanigans at the Oak Grove. The legal wrangling got quite intricate at this point:
- On July 17th, 2008 Judge Miller issues a ruling promising to lift the injunction and rule in favor of the University.
- On July 23rd, 2008 COF lawyer Stephan Volker requests a retrial mostly just because he lost the last one.
- On July 25th, 2008 an appeal was filed.
- On August 8th, 2008, the appellate judge ‘rejects’ the appeal, but not in the way we’d want. Instead he indicated that Judge Miller had left a mess of an open case and needed to document and wrap things up before an appeal could be heard.
- On August 15th, Volker withdrew his request for a new trial, instead deciding to put all his eggs in the appeal basket.
- On August 20th I post my update on BearTerritory.net trying to explain it all.
Finally, on August 27th, a final judgment is issued and the injunction is lifted. However, there’s still the matter of the appeal and a possible injunction by the appellate court. Here I try to make sense of it all over at BearTerritory.net.
The appellate court, very unlike the district court, didn’t waste any time. On September 4th, 2008, the appellate court rejected the request for an injunction. And then the University didn’t waste any time cutting down the trees, cutting them down starting the following day, September 5th and completing it September 9th.
Yes, only 4 days.
The tree-sitters sat in those trees for 643 days, accomplishing nothing other than attracting attention to their ridiculous antics all to slow down what was at most 2 days of cutting to 4 days. What a waste of time.
With the court case won and the tree-sitters gone, the 2008 season was a quite one on the facilities front, with the University waiting until after the season was complete to start the project. After the season ended with a glorious victory over Miami in the nut bowl, the University went right to work, starting with excavation.
By the start of the next season, the 2009 season, less progress had been made than the original plan had indicated. All they had at that point was a reinforced hole in the ground.
Because that hole in the ground had taken away the walkway around the western rim of the stadium, the University put up an elevated walkway made of wood to carry the load. It was mostly a good idea, but it had a problem.
The walkway didn’t extend all the way around the stadium, It went about 40% of the way in on either side. So, if you entered on the north and had to get to the south side of the stadium, you couldn’t walk around the rim walkway like before. You had to head up to the concourse for at least the middle 20%. The same was true if coming from the south and headed to the north end. Of course once up there, only the very determined would head back down to the walkways.
The result was a DRAMATIC increase in the number of people in the concourse on the western side. This came to a head at the USC game with a packed stadium. Both Jason and I wrote separate posts about how bad it was. The University listened to the best of their ability, closing concessions in the concourse during the peak times and adding more security help to direct people to use the appropriate entrance, hopefully walking around the stadium outside the gates.
Amidst all of this, the University was plugging away on getting ready for phase 2 of the project, the renovation of the stadium itself. On September 17th, 2009 the UC Regents approved the funding plan for the retrofit. As part of the plan the Bears would play away from home during the 2011 season.
While the University was plugging away on the Simpson Center, things were otherwise pretty quite through the rest of 2009 into 2010. However, in the summer of 2010 the Appeal made some small news.
See, the Appeal had not been rejected back when the trees were cut down. All that had happened was the judge refused to put an injunction on the case. The result was that Cal could cut down the trees and continue with construction while the appeal proceeded. Since 99% of the lawsuit’s goal was to stop that from happening and attempting to indefinitely delay the project until the University ran out of time and money, once the project was underway, there was little value to the appeal.
But the PHA and the COF were determined and they continued with the case. Finally, in April of 2010, the PHA decided they had enough of paying for lawyers who were accomplishing… what exactly? So they proposed a settlement to the University and settled the case. This left the COF as the only plaintiff and Stephan Volker was back to working pro-bono (as the COF has no money).
Then in September of 2010, the COF officially lost the appeal, bringing an end to a gigantic waste of tax payer dollars (the courts).
This was all small news at this point, with Cal fans anxiously looking forward to the completion of the Simpson Center, which had now been extended to a 3 year project, instead of a 2 year project. Nevertheless, by the time the 2010 season had started, the Simpson Center was complete enough that the wooden walkways were gone and we could now walk on the roof of the Simpson Center, a preview of what life would be like after the stadium renovation. The nice wide walkway was wider than the original walkway to say nothing of the temporary wooden walkway.
Also on fans minds was the renovation itself. There had been a lot of speculation as to where the Bears would play in 2011. The main candidates were the Oakland Coliseum, Candlestick and AT&T park in SF. The Coliseum was a favorite of many as it was the closest and was football friendly. However, with conflicts between both the A’s and Raiders factoring in, it was just too schedule constrained. That left Candlestick, which was a better football park and constantly available, and AT&T, which has the nicest amenities, but had scheduling issues with the Giants and wasn’t ideal for football.
Enter Jeff Tedford and his measuring tape and he found a new way to layout the field, shifted slightly, so that each team could have their own sideline, something that hadn’t been the case in previous football games at the park. That was the last barrier to it being picked and it was announced on May 10th, 2010, that football would be played at AT&T park in 2011.
For the most part fans were pleased. That is, until pricing for 2011 were announced. The University, wanted to make the most of the opportunity, set prices high, hoping the reduced capacity and the significantly better amenities would give them some much needed revenue in a very tight time, both between the economic downturn and all the money that was being poured into the Simpson Center and CMS renovation.
The result, as I predicted, was very low ticket sales particularly in the big donor sections and a half empty, very small stadium for all games except USC. For USC, we were treated to the humiliation that Stanford used to get before they redid their stadium when the Bears came to town. More than half the crowd was rooting for the opponent.
And although AT&T was nice in some ways, it just wasn’t home. It was our time of wandering in the desert. A trial that must be endured. Better amenities were no consolation in a desolate time of soul searching and longing.
We knew how much we missed and loved Memorial Stadium for all of 2011. It added to the anticipation. Was there a day coming when we’d get the quality of amenities we had at AT&T in a football stadium? Would we get it on our home turf, our beloved Strawberry Canyon? Would all the years of sacrifice, of dealing with smelly tree-sitters, ridiculous court cases, dangerously narrow concourse walkways, portable toilets 100’s of yards from our seats, would it all someday be worth it? Could it possibly be true?
It comes true on Saturday morning.