And as much as I am looking forward to slopping on an embarrassingly amount of sunscreen and pretending to look cool at the beach, part of me will be thinking of Memorial Stadium on Saturday. As a former Cal football beat writer for the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune, I have spent a lot of time in that facility. Most of it was spent attempting not to trip over loose, rotting benches or dodging the rats that would come out at night while a few over-committed writers polished off their stories in the venerable press box (Venerable = old and rundown).
I have made the switch from covering Cal athletics for a major daily newspaper to promoting Cal athletics to the public in my new role as Assistant Athletic Communications Director in the school's athletic department. Recently, I participated in a "dress rehearsal" to test out all of the gameday activities that will take place during home games at the renovated Memorial Stadium, which opens Saturday against Nevada. Fans coming to Strawberry Canyon will notice striking changes to the ...ahem....venerable stadium, most noticeably in the facility's interior.
While the bowl and the field themselves look different - new chairback seats on the west side, two brand new video boards, raised seating to improve sight lines - the contrast to the pre-renovated stadium is even more striking inside - most notably, the concourse. No longer will fans have to weather forearm shivers to get from Point A to Point B as they travel to and from their seats. The main concourse is at least three times as wide, giving it an open, spacious feel.
The concession stands have been upgraded, with better choices and fresher food. The snack bars now have their own kitchens, whereas before the hot food had to be transported to the stadium from somewhere offsite. And there will be Top Dog - enough said.
And let's not forget the upgrade in bathrooms. The amount of toilets has increased exponentially, and they have been modernized for a sharp, clean feel.
Cal's football offices used to be located along the concourse of the stadium, and the only bathrooms staff members could use were the same ones in the concourses patronized by fans during games. Coach Jeff Tedford, who is known to burn the midnight oil in his office quite regularly, used to joke that he'd have to dodge the raccoons running around the concourse just to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
So as I take in an occasional hula dance this weekend, at least part of me will be thinking about the opening of that special stadium, one that isn't too venerable anymore.