With Memorial closed, Bears find new lair

With Memorial Stadium currently undergoing renovations and on schedule to open for the 2012 season, the Cal football team has made a temporary home across the Bay at AT&T Park.

Opened in 2000 as the new home for the San Francisco Giants, the park is widely considered to be one of the best baseball venues in the country.

The New York Times, compiling rankings on Yelp, found it to be the third best, while Forbes Magazine considers it the top park in the nation. Both praised it for its unique architecture, accessibility, visibility and wide array of quality food options.

With the feel of a classic stadium emanating from the brick combined with new and innovative features and a prime location, AT&T Park is hard to beat. It has elements that no other ballpark can compete with.

But how does it compare to Memorial Stadium in terms of its ability to host a football game?

The short (and easy) answer is that it’s just different.

First off, the park is smaller than Memorial, with a football capacity just over 45,000 – resulting in a near sell out for tonight’s matchup with USC.

In Cal’s only home game so far against Presbyterian on Sept. 17, the crowd noise level was far from the intimidating roar it has been at Memorial for some of the bigger games in recent history.

“I hope next time we come here it is a little more like home-field advantage,” head coach Jeff Tedford said following the game. “It was really quiet out there.” Some of that can be attributed to the fact that there’s not a whole lot to get excited about when your team plays a school that is smaller than most high schools and plays in a noname conference.

But perhaps some credit can also be attributed to the placement of the student section in the end zone.

“We are used to having our student section right behind us where it creates a buzz and energy,” Tedford said. “It felt really dead out there today.” But for many fans, a quieter environment isn’t the only drawback to playing games across the Bay.

“I’m excited to go into San Francisco for the football games, but game days in Berkeley definitely have more excitement,” UC Berkeley sophomore Ken Szubzda says. “There’s just a better vibe when game day is on campus.” Others have lamented over the lost convenience due to the farther location – turning a three-hour game into an all-day affair.

“That journey over there can be a lengthy and strenuous one,” UC Berkeley sophomore Trace Travers says.

But for other fans, AT&T offers many amenities that the old version of Memorial never could.

The food is top notch (former Daily Cal sports editor Katie Dowd notes that the “garlic fries are still the best”), the folding seats are comfortable and the bay views are spectacular.

Additionally, many non-student fans have claimed that AT&T is actually more accessible than Memorial Stadium.

With a BART to Muni combination that makes highly convenient and efficient trips right to AT&T’s doorstep, attendees avoid the struggle of finding reasonable game day parking in Berkeley – which is often much harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

But there was something about Memorial’s simplicity that made it one of the best college football venues in the nation.

There was no flare, no gimmicks, no distractions, just a simple bowl shape in which every seat provided a great view of the game on the field – even if so many of those games were as ugly as they get (on second thought, maybe some distractions would’ve been nice).

But while AT&T Park is no replacement for Memorial Stadium, it is certainly a more than adequate venue to bridge the gap between the old and the new.