Looking back at the renovation of the Bears' football stadium

Ayon Kabir/File

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Since its opening in 1923 to host UC Berkeley’s annual Big Game against longtime rival Stanford University, Memorial Stadium has undergone plenty of renovations and has seen many students and football teams come and go from its perch overlooking the campus and the San Francisco Bay. This fall will mark the opening of the stadium after a yearlong hiatus, during which the enormous structure finally underwent a renovation to make it seismically safe and also gained a newly-built press box, as well as a new athletic center adjacent to the stadium. During this hiatus, Cal football games were moved to AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Renovations for the stadium cost approximately $321 million, according to the stadium’s website, which also indicated there will be 8,000 fewer seats than the stadium held before renovations. While premium club seats for alumni and others start at $40,000, UC Berkeley students can afford season football passes for $99 and single-game tickets for around $20. Furthermore, Cal athletics is on a path to make the stadium zero-waste, a plan it originally announced last fall as part of the 2020 campuswide goal in collaboration with Cal Recycling and Refuse Services.

But the path to get the stadium to its current condition was not so easy, as tree sitters protested against the building of the athletic center for almost two years and the construction also faced a lawsuit from the city of Berkeley and other groups. Despite these obstacles, heavy construction has come to an end, and though minor renovations will continue into next year, Cal football will be able to resume as normal with fans cheering the games on well into the future. The following timeline takes a deeper look from the time of the initial plans for the renovations to the years leading up to the 2012 football season.


Fall 1923
Memorial Stadium opens in time for the Big Game. It costs $1,437,982 to build.

Zero phase of the project. The press box, a significant seismic hazard, was taken down and replaced by a temporary press box.

A broad-based committee of faculty, staff, stakeholders, donors and administrators is formed to tackle the problem of the Hayward Fault Line running through the stadium.

February 2005
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announces plans to renovate Memorial Stadium.

November 2005
Birgeneau announces plans for a high-performance athletic study center as part of the stadium project.

December 2, 2006
Tree-sit against the building of athletic study center begins in the Oak Grove near Memorial Stadium.

December 11-19, 2006
Panoramic Hill Association, the city of Berkeley and California Oak Foundation file separate lawsuits against the university over plans to build the athletic center.

October 2007
Judge issues ruling that all tree-sitters must vacate Oak Grove; they do not.

March 2008
Judge officially approves Memorial Stadium renovation plans and writes in ruling that athletic center complies with environmental impact and safety reports.

September 2008
649-day tree-sit ends as injunction of construction on athletic center is officially lifted, allowing it to finally commence.

December 2010
Major construction is underway following Cal’s season-ending home loss to Washington on Nov. 27.

Fall 2011
The Cal football team plays its home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco while Memorial Stadium undergoes the bulk of its construction and renovation.

August 16, 2012
The Cal football team practices at the renovated stadium for the first time.

September 1, 2012
The Bears will open the season against Nevada at noon.