How Many Rose Bowl Events Are Too Many? Pasadena Council Struggles Setting a 'Hard Cap'

Published : Wednesday, April 6, 2016 | 5:28 AM

While Monday night’s approval of the first-ever Arroyo Seco Music and Arts Festival was unanimous, a large portion of the discussion was taken up debating the question of exactly how many events should be held every year in the Rose Bowl.

An ordinance supporting the Festival’s authorization, which was approved that night by a 5-2 vote (with Mayor Terry Tornek and Councilmember Tyron Hampton voting against) increased the number of available Rose Bowl event dates — called “displacement events” — from 12 to 15.

Mandating an absolute limit on the number of annual events in the Rose Bowl is described by Councilmembers as setting a “hard cap.” Discussions on this topic dominated consideration of the ordinance in Monday night’s long meeting, which ran to just past midnight.

Despite this new, higher limit on the number of events in the approved ordinance, the City Council still has the power to approve additional Rose Bowl events at any time, depending on schedules and availability.

Councilmember Victor Gordo spoke against the hard cap on the number of events.

“We need to think about …  the idea of more national or international events at the Rose Bowl. When the Olympics come, are we going to say ‘no’ to an Olympic event?” Gordo asked. “Does this tie our hands as it relates to the financial needs of the city, or the capital goals of the stadium?”

“At some point, producers and promoters are going to be looking at other venues,” he added.

Councilmember John Kennedy, who eventually voted in favor of raising the number of events, also spoke to the idea of balancing the needs of the local residents against the financials of the stadium and the city.

“While the final arbiter of this decision is the City Council,” he said, “I would like to hear from the residents, the folks who are living and breathing this every day, what their thoughts are.”

It’s a broad agreement, this is a community asset, and “we need to think of this in terms of the larger community,” Kennedy continued.

Councilmember Tyron Hampton voiced his concerns about not only the number of local events, but the events’ effects on the community, saying that the Council needs to keep in mind the impact of crowds, fan behavior and traffic on neighborhoods, especially on Sunday evenings.

The focus on the “hard cap” limitation is motivated, observers say, by neighborhood concerns that the Rose Bowl will negotiate football games with the National Football League.

Darryl Dunn, CEO/General Manager of the Rose Bowl Operating Company, has said the stadium is not currently contemplating negotiating with the NFL and in fact did not even respond to the NFL’s most recent inquiries two years ago.

The Rose Bowl’s massive renovation has prompted initiatives to secure long-term licensing agreements to ensure that the Rose Bowl can honor its financing agreements, as well as sustain itself in general, Dunn said.

Dunn said he believes that the stadium has a “three year window of opportunity” because of the future competitive impact of the construction of the new Rams Stadium in Inglewood, and the concurrent renovations of the LA Coliseum.

“This coming summer we are having seven special events, and in five years, we might only have one or two, just because of the competition factor.” Dunn cited the upcoming the presence of one or possibly, two new NFL teams coming to Southern California, as well as the college football playoffs, which might also be staged elsewhere.

“We feel like we are in a much better position than we were a few years ago, but we will know more in three years,” he added.

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