By DANIEL TAUB
What do you do with a stadium that is home to only one professional sports team, has limited TV exposure and is limited to having less than 20,000 attendees per event at all but a dozen events each year?
That's the question facing operators of Pasadena's Rose Bowl. As officials draft a five-year business plan for the stadium, they must balance the need to make a profit with the need to keep their neighbors happy.
Owned by the city of Pasadena, the Rose Bowl is subject to the control of the Pasadena City Council and the laws it enacts. Such laws include the 26-year-old Arroyo Seco ordinance, which limits the number and types of events that can be held at the historic stadium.
But as the sports market gets more competitive in Los Angeles, that's no easy job.
While venues like Staples Center in downtown L.A. and Edison International Field in Anaheim are booking as many events as possible as well as bringing in tens of millions of dollars through naming-rights deals the Rose Bowl faces limitations those venues don't.
Stadium officials who are now drafting the Rose Bowl's five-year business plan are looking at highly controversial changes, such as adding to the number of allowable events and even seeking a sponsor who would buy the right to put its name on the venerable facility.
"Our charge is still to try and make it a producing and active stadium, and that means we have to start looking at some other methods of doing that," said Daniel Castro, president of the Rose Bowl Operating Co., a city unit that manages the stadium. "We're looking at all possibilities."
Right now the Rose Bowl is far from empty and far from unprofitable.
UCLA's football team and the Los Angeles Galaxy pro soccer team both play their home games there. (UCLA is the biggest revenue generator; it brought in $1.1 million last year.) The stadium also is the site of the annual Rose Bowl game.
It also has been host to the Women's World Cup, which attracted tens of thousands of soccer fans this summer, and the occasional concert, such as the recent Lilith Fair. And it is home to a far less glamorous, yet moneymaking event: a monthly swap meet (which, as it turns out, is the most profitable enterprise, generating revenues of $800,000 annually while only costing $100,000 to put on).
Overall, the stadium and adjacent Brookside Golf Course which also is owned by the city and included in its budget realized profits of $1.8 million in the year ended June 30. Of that, $1.3 million goes to the city, and the balance goes to debt repayment and the stadium's reserves. (The Rose Bowl is paying down a debt of more than $30 million that came from installing new luxury suites, seats, concession stands, restrooms, a press box, a video board and other additions.)
Under the Arroyo Seco ordinance, the Rose Bowl can only host 12 events a year with an attendance of more than 20,000. When the Galaxy moved into the Rose Bowl, the Pasadena City Council approved adding five more 20,000-plus events a year but those five events can only be Galaxy games.
Rose Bowl managers are pushing for that ordinance to be revised something that may be taken up by the City Council in the next few months.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said that as the council considers the Bowl's five-year plan, it also will look at the Arroyo Seco ordinance. But amending or doing away with the ordinance might be a challenge. Those living near the facility have complained about the noise and traffic from big events.
Earlier this month, stadium neighbors fought to prevent the World Supercross Series a dirt-bike race expected to draw more than 20,000 but the council approved the November event by a 6-2 vote, with the two dissenters representing districts surrounding the stadium.
"That kind of event is more lucrative" than individual Galaxy or UCLA games, Bogaard said.
Attracting big events might become an even bigger issue. The Galaxy's contract at the Rose Bowl only runs through the end of next season, and the team is considering moving elsewhere. It also is looking for space where it might build its own stadium.
"We are looking at sites," said Sergio del Prado, general manager of the Galaxy. "We're also talking to the Rose Bowl about doing something here more permanently. I guess part of it is if we can find the land to do everything we want to do to grow the sport here in Southern California."
If the Galaxy were to move, it would not only result in the loss of revenues, but would jeopardize lucrative relationships with in-stadium sponsors such as American Honda Motor Co. Inc., GTE Corp. and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Those companies require numerous events at the stadium so that a large number of people will see their signs.
"Having the Galaxy there helps make the Rose Bowl a year-round facility," said Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn.
Among the more controversial ways of increasing revenues is selling the naming rights to a corporate sponsor. Todd Waks, director of West Coast operations for ProServ/SFX Sports and Entertainment, said the price tag likely would be far lower the $5 million a year Staples Center fetches from Staples Inc.
"A hundred million over 20 years?" Waks said. "Is that going to be a possibility? No, that's not foreseeable, just by virtue of the number of events each year."
The bigger issue might be whether Pasadena residents would accept a naming sponsor. There was an outcry last year when ABC Inc. signed on AT & T; as a sponsor for the Rose Bowl game, which was tagged "Presented by AT & T;" during the telecast.
"Many people have heard of these extraordinary naming-rights deals and they assume, because of the rich tradition of the Rose Bowl, they will be able to garner the same amount of money," said David M. Carter, a USC sports-marketing professor whose students studied the future of the Rose Bowl. "And that's really not the way these things get done."
Carter said the naming-rights issue is only one example of the overriding problem being faced by those drafting the Rose Bowl's five-year plan: They must make the stadium a financial success while keeping the community happy.
"The entire sports and stadium landscape in Southern California has shifted since the last business plan," he said. "Now is a great time, from a community perspective, to say, 'What do we want to do with our venue?' "
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