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We Get Letters: No More City Money to the Rose Bowl

Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 12:44 pm

Dear Mayor Gordo, Members of the City Council, & Members of the Finance Committee: 

I have been a resident of Pasadena for 19 years and I live in District 4. I write to express my  deep concerns about the City’s past payments toward the massive debt on the Rose Bowl and to  strongly urge the City Council to commit to NOT spending any more funds from our General  Fund or from our fund reserves to pay the Rose Bowl debt. 

As of May 2021, the stadium had collected $197.72 million in outstanding debt from massive  renovations years ago. According to City staff, the City had to step in and pay approximately  $11.5 million of Rose Bowl debt in fiscal year 2021 and approximately $10 million in fiscal year  2022. Those very substantial debt payments were paid from the City’s General Fund and/or  General Fund reserves. Last year, former City Manager Steve Mermell advised the City Council  that paying the Rose Bowl debt had exhausted much of the City’s General Fund Operating  Reserve.  

For FY 2023, Interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz reports that the City will not have to pay the  Rose Bowl debt obligation this year. This is due in large part because the federal government  provided the Rose Bowl with a one-time $10 million Shuttered Venue Grant. But the FY2023  General Fund Five-Year Forecast shows a substantial increase in debt service for FY2024 and  beyond due to having to cover the Rose Bowl debt again. Even worse, according to Ms. Kurtz, with the resumption of debt payments, FY2024 and beyond are projected to have deficits in the  General Fund. (C. Kurtz Transmittal Ltr., p. 6.) This can result in a decrease in City services. 

The RBOC’s Proposed FY2023 Operating Budget projects a net loss of $4.6 million after  reserves. (RBOC Proposed FY2023 Operating Budget, p. 7.) What this suggests to me is that, unless somehow the Rose Bowl generates substantially more revenue this coming year than is  predicted, the City will have to pay millions of dollars more toward Rose Bowl debt starting  again in FY2024. 

Our City has a substantial need to adequately fund critical programs such as shelter for our  hundreds of unsheltered residents, assistance for renters who face eviction, affordable housing, and evidence-based violence prevention programs. We need increased City funding for these  programs, not the threat of decreased funding due to the City’s payment of the Rose Bowl debt.  For this reason, I urge the City Council to commit to not using General Fund money and/or City  fund reserves for Rose Bowl debt payments and to ensure that the City and the RBOC pursue other available options to pay the debt.  

At a special City Council/RBOC joint meeting on June 8, 2021, many options were discussed.  The RBOC can ambitiously pursue much more funding through donations and grants from  persons passionate about the Rose Bowl, including through the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation.  The RBOC can also pursue more revenue-generating opportunities such as sponsorships, naming  rights (e.g., Arroyo campus and/or its assets), more events, etc. The RBOC can also pursue  selling or leasing portions of the Rose Bowl property. I support all of these options. 

In conclusion, our City Council cannot continue to pay the huge Rose Bowl debt obligation and  yet fail to provide for the basic and critical needs of all of our residents. Please ensure that  Pasadena works for all of its residents. Thank you for your consideration of this letter. 



Sonja K. Berndt 

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