Rose Bowl Stadium: The Story of an L.A. Icon

Stanford vs. Michigan State, 100th Rose Bowl Game | Photo courtesy of Rose Bowl Stadium, Facebook
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The world-famous Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena has hosted five Super Bowls, gold medal matches for two Summer Olympics, two FIFA World Cup Finals, superstar concerts and the annual Rose Bowl Game for which it’s named. Sports Illustrated has named Rose Bowl Stadium the number one venue in college sports and one of the Top 20 Venues of the 20th Century.

History

Rose Bowl Stadium under construction in 1921
Rose Bowl Stadium under construction in 1921 | Photo licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1922 and is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark and a California Historic Civil Engineering landmark. The stadium was designed by architect Myron Hunt, who also designed the Ambassador Hotel and Henry Huntington’s house, which later became the main gallery of the Huntington Library.

Rose Bowl Stadium was expanded several times over the years. Originally built as a horseshoe, the stadium became a bowl when the southern stands were completed in 1928. At a modern capacity of 92,542, Rose Bowl Stadium is the 18th-largest stadium in the world, the 12th-largest stadium in the United States, and the 11th largest NCAA stadium.

ROSE BOWL GAME

Aerial view of the 2011 Rose Bowl Game
Aerial view of the 2011 Rose Bowl Game | Photo courtesy of Rose Bowl Stadium, Facebook

Known as “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl Game is the oldest of America's college football postseason bowl games, first played as the "Tournament East–West football game" at Tournament Park on Jan. 1, 1902 and played annually since 1916. Michigan routed Stanford 49-0 at that first game and was crowned national champion. Since then, the Rose Bowl Game has been home to 19 Heisman Trophy winners, produced 29 national champions, featured 211 consensus All-Americans and honored 117 college football legends by inducting them into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

The Rose Bowl Game is notable for many firsts: the first local radio broadcast of an East-West bowl game in 1926, the first transcontinental radio broadcast of a sporting event in 1927, the first local telecast of a college football game in 1948, the first national telecast of a college football game in 1952 and the first coast-to-coast color telecast of a collegiate football game in 1962.

The Rose Bowl Game has traditionally hosted the champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences. Beginning in 2015, the Rose Bowl Game became part of the College Football Playoff system, and will host one of its semi-final games every three years. During non-Playoff years, the Rose Bowl will return to its Pac-12/Big Ten matchup. The College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game will take place at Rose Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1, 2018. The game will feature the No. 2 CFP-ranked Oklahoma Sooners vs. the No. 3 CFP-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

UCLA Bruins

UCLA vs. USC football game
Photo courtesy of UCLA Football, Facebook

Since 1982, Rose Bowl Stadium has been the home stadium of the Bruins, the football team of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Bruins had previously played their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1928. With the Oakland Raiders scheduled to move into the Coliseum at the start of the 1982 NFL season, UCLA relocated its home games to Rose Bowl Stadium. The Bruins went on to win two consecutive Rose Bowl Games in their new home stadium, the 1983 and 1984 Rose Bowls. UCLA has participated in five Rose Bowl games since moving to the stadium.

On even numbered years, Rose Bowl Stadium hosts the rivalry game between UCLA and the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans, alternating with the L.A. Coliseum. The winner of the UCLA-USC game takes possession of the Victory Bell, a 295-pound brass bell from a Southern Pacific railroad locomotive. After losing to their crosstown rivals three years in a row, the Trojans have returned the favor and currently hold the trophy. USC leads the overall series, 47–31–7.

SOCCER

United States vs. Colombia, 1994 World Cup at Rose Bowl Stadium
United States vs. Colombia, 1994 World Cup | Photo courtesy of Rose Bowl Stadium, Facebook

Though it’s best known for hosting American football games, Rose Bowl Stadium is also one of the most decorated soccer venues in the world. The stadium hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final, the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Final and the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Match, making it the only venue in the world to host all three of international soccer's major championship matches. Coincidentally, both World Cup finals were scoreless after extra time and decided on penalty shootouts; Brazil defeated Italy in the 1994 men's final, and the United States beat China in the 1999 women's final. The photo of Brandi Chastain celebrating her winning spot kick landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and has since become an iconic image of women’s athletics in the U.S.

The stadium has also hosted the 2002 and 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, and the 1998 MLS Cup. From 1996 through 2002, the stadium was the home field of the Los Angeles Galaxy, who still host occasional matches there.

Super Bowl

For fans of American pro football, there is no bigger game than the Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL). Currently the Super Bowl is played on the first Sunday in February, nicknamed “Super Bowl Sunday” and widely considered an unofficial American holiday. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched annual sporting events in the world - on average, more than 100 million people in the U.S. are watching the game at any given moment.

Rose Bowl Stadium has hosted the Super Bowl five times. The first time was Super Bowl XI in 1977, when the Oakland Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings 32–14. The game was also played there in 1980 (Super Bowl XIV), 1983 (Super Bowl XVII), 1987 (Super Bowl XXI) and 1993 (Super Bowl XXVII).

Olympics

Rose Bowl Stadium has hosted two Summer Olympics gold medal matches - soccer in 1984 and track cycling in 1932. The 1984 Olympic Gold Medal soccer match between France and Brazil attracted an attendance of 101,799, breaking the previous Olympic Games soccer attendance record and setting the record attendance for a soccer game in the U.S. that stood until 2014.

Rose Bowl Stadium is one of several iconic Los Angeles venues hosting the L.A. 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

CONCERTS

In addition to sporting events, Rose Bowl Stadium has hosted concerts by some of the biggest acts in music history. Selected highlights include Depeche Mode in 1998 (recorded and released as the documentary film and live album, 101), Metallica and Guns N’ Roses (1992), Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII halftime show), The Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Tour (1994), U2 (released as the 2010 concert film, U2360° at the Rose Bowl), Beyoncé and Jay-Z On the Run Tour (2014), and The Monster Tour with Eminem and Rihanna. In September 2014, the boy band One Direction sold out three consecutive nights at Rose Bowl Stadium, the first music act to do so.

ROSE BOWL FLEA MARKET

Cameras at Rose Bowl Flea Market
Rose Bowl Flea Market | Photo courtesy of Nicolas Nova, Flickr

The incredible Rose Bowl Flea Market is held rain or shine at Rose Bowl Stadium on the second Sunday of every month. Boasting more than 2,500 vendor and 20,000 monthly visitors, it’s easy to see why it claims to be the largest flea market on the West Coast. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, from antiques and collectibles to vintage clothing and furniture, art, photographs, jewelry, ceramics and much more. Get there early for the best selection - special preview VIP admission from 5-7 a.m. is $20.00 per person, early bird admission from 7-8 a.m. is $15.00, express admission from 8-9 a.m. is $10.00 and general admission beginning at 9 a.m. is $8.00. Children under 12 are admitted free with an adult. NOTE: all vendors are not fully moved in and set up until 9 a.m. The public can shop for last minute bargains until 4:30 p.m.

AMERICAFEST

Americafest at Rose Bowl Stadium
Americafest | Photo courtesy of Rose Bowl Stadium, Facebook

Every July 4th, Rose Bowl Stadium hosts Americafest, a spectacular Independence Day celebration featuring “the largest fireworks show in Southern California,” live music, food vendors, crafts and much more. Families are invited to picnic or tailgate on the grassy area outside the stadium.

TOURS

Rose Bowl Stadium tour
Photo courtesy of Rose Bowl Stadium, Facebook

Rose Bowl Stadium opens its gates to the public for guided tours. Tours are not only an outdoor excursion, but a historical learning experience as well. Tour guides lead guests through behind the scenes locations at the stadium, including the classic stadium seating, original 1922 locker room, the Terry Donahue Pavilion, the Loge Lounge, the Working Press Box and more. Tickets are priced at $17.50 for adults and $14.50 for kids (5-12), seniors (65+) and students/military with ID.