Last Saturday was New Year’s Day 2022, and Pasadena was once again the focal point of the country and, indeed, the entire world. The Tournament of Roses’ Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game, returned to our streets and our Stadium in stunning fashion. For Pasadena, New Year’s Day is far more than a holiday or an annual event—it defines who we are as a City, for ourselves and everyone else. Education, athletics, nature, art, music, volunteerism, first responders, active and veteran military, and much, much more all come together in the spirit of renewal and hope that each new year brings. Simply put, there is nowhere anyone would rather be on New Year’s Day than Pasadena, and nowhere we would want the world to focus than right here.
Pasadenans take great pride in January 1st, and in the tremendous values that the day’s events represent: patriotism, tradition, teamwork, service, civic-mindedness, inclusivity, tolerance and community. We have been blessed by not only the efforts of the Tournament of Roses for well over one hundred years, but by the presence of the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium itself, one of America’s treasures that will celebrate its centennial this year. Designed by renowned architect Myron Hunt, “America’s Stadium” hosts not just the “Grandaddy of the Them All” (the Rose Bowl) but other legendary events, from the Olympic Games to World Cup soccer, college football championships to memorable concerts like the Rolling Stones and U2, even five NFL Super Bowls.
In recent years, however, the Rose Bowl has faced formidable financial headwinds. Managed by the Rose Bowl Operating Company (RBOC), but owned by the City of Pasadena, the Rose Bowl has seen increased competition from new and renovated regional venues and increased operating costs. These challenges are exacerbated by the significant capital needs of the Stadium — like other historic 100-year-old structures, the Rose Bowl requires constant maintenance and critical improvements to continue as an iconic, competitive venue for its next 100 years.
The Rose Bowl’s long-term agreements with its anchor tenants, UCLA and the Tournament of Roses, go a long way to address the Stadium’s needs. The RBOC works hard to attract revenue-producing events, while managing the impacts that large events can have on the quality of life of the Rose Bowl’s neighbors. And the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization formed in 2010 to support major Rose Bowl initiatives, has risen to the challenge by raising millions to support the Stadium’s upkeep and upgrade needs. Still, especially in the wake of a global pandemic that now spans four separate calendar years (2019-22) and severely reduced events at the Rose Bowl, more support will be needed.
The challenge of maintaining and revitalizing Pasadena’s unique architectural fabric is not new. We have met these challenges before. Much of the spirit and attraction of Pasadena are embodied in our historic bridges, City Hall, the Central Library, the Civic Auditorium and Convention Center, and other prized public infrastructure that continue to serve us well. We have funded the necessary renewal and protection of these structures so that they can continue their vital roles in the life of Pasadena. For our benefit and those of future generations, we should continue to do so.
If the Rose Bowl is to continue to serve and define us as a community, be an economic driver for local businesses, and a platform for Pasadena to the world for another century, we must accept the challenge to support the Rose Bowl and ensure that it remains one of America’s premier venues so it can host another 100 years of memorable events, especially on New Year’s Day. Pasadenans would not have it any other way, would we?
Victor M. Gordo is Mayor of Pasadena and former President of the RBOC, and Steve Madison is a Pasadena City Councilmember and an RBOC Boardmember. The views expressed here are their own.