By Jill Painter, Staff Writer
PASADENA – The college football season doesn’t kick off until later this month, but the $175 million Rose Bowl renovation project already has hit crunch time.
There are 23 working days remaining before UCLA’s Sept. 8 home opener against Nebraska, and Darryl Dunn, the general manager for the Rose Bowl Operation Co., is confident the stadium will be ready then.
Jackhammers, drills, cranes and empty spaces make it look like it will be anything but ready for college football.
The million-dollar question is: Will the Rose Bowl be ready for the opening day? Dunn and project supervisors get asked all the time.
“Oh, yes,” Dunn said. “The intention for this season is that we’ll have about one-third of it that needs to be done in order for us to accomplish what we need to accomplish. The whole thing won’t be complete. But the necessities, in terms of all of the operations for broadcasting, public-safety areas, media, premium seat holders that have existing contracts, we have enough and feel very good about our schedule.”
As of Friday, the project was five days behind schedule on the pavilion – which is home to the luxury suites, broadcast booths, press box, coaching booths and other requirements for games. Construction crews ran into delays because of unexpected hazardous materials like lead paint.
Only 35 percent of the pavilion needs to be completed, per guidelines of the three-phase renovation project, by the season opener, according to Dunn. During the days between games, construction crews will continue to work Monday through Thursday to have the pavilion ready for the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl.
Chris Pomey, the superintendent of the renovations, said the renovations will be ready Aug. 31, nine days before the first game, so the final week can be about moving furniture and such for games.
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In order to be football-ready, crews are working from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. There are an estimated 250-280 workers on site daily, according to Pomey.
The city has approved the late-night shifts.
“We anticipate hard work in August,” Dunn said. “We’ve talked with our project management and they feel great. Come UCLA-Nebraska, people are going to be impressed by what they see.”
Pomey is calm, so Dunn takes cues from him. Pomey worked on the Michigan Stadium renovation project, which is similar to the Rose Bowl’s renovation. Pomey is from Ann Arbor, Mich., and was wearing a Michigan polo under his fluorescent yellow construction vest last week.
He also carries an iPad in the back pocket of the construction vest which has the layout plan and all of the deadlines his crews need to meet.
There was no panic around the site Friday. One worker was humming “Close to You” by the Carpenters, and there was a big smiley face imprinted on a wall in the north end of the press box that will be closed until January.
“This is common for us,” Pomey said of the state of the project. “Any phased project we do, we’re accustomed to the project being this way. We build our schedules based on this.”
Permanent power is scheduled to be ready Aug. 13.
On Sept. 6, crews will complete a major cleanup and safety inspection. A fire chief toured the facility last week. Pomey told him all would be clean and up to code by the time fans will be walking through those tunnels.
On game days, there will be plumbers and electricians on hand in case problems arise in the pavilion.
There are some luxury suites that already have bamboo flooring, granite counter tops and cabinets installed. Some don’t have any of those things.
There are 1,000 premium seats under contract to be done for this season, but Pomey said he believes they will have more than 1,000 seats ready for use.
The Rose Bowl will feature seating outside of the luxury suites, much like those at Staples Center. Those benches are created, but there are no chairs there yet.
The first two stories of the pavilion are concrete to keep the historic look of the stadium, so fans will be used to that.
Right now, it looks very much like a major construction project.