This Saturday, thousands will be congregating at Stanford Stadium for the first of (only) five times this fall. You all know Stanford Stadium. It's the old bowl that the Cardinal have called home forever. It's where we go to tailgate in the Eucalyptus Curtain. It's where we hang out with old friends, make new friends, and razz fans of the opposing team. It's where many of us learned the right moment to jump during "All Right Now." It's where we all gather on crisp autumn Saturdays to watch our young heroes in cardinal red and white get the job done. It has been the home of consistently entertaining college football in the Bay Area.
It's also the place where you feel like you're almost removed from the action because your seats are so far away. It's also the place that can feel downright cavernous and empty at times, even though there are still 50,000 people in the house. It's also the place that can be a bit rough on the body, what with the lack of seatbacks for most sections, unforgiving aluminum bleachers, and minimal legroom.
That's not to say that checking out a game on The Farm is a primitive experience with none of the bells and whistles of a 20th-century stadium. The gnarly wooden bleachers are long gone. A Jumbotron, such as it is, was installed on the north scoreboard. And one of the happiest days in Stanford Stadium history occurred when an elevator to the press box was finally put in place before the 1997 season.
Even so, Stanford Stadium's disadvantages have not been lost on opponents. Mike Price of the Washington State Cougars once half-joked that Stanford Stadium was a great place to coach in because you could almost always think clearly without being distracted by noise, and that players have no problems hearing the audibles and signals. Last year, UCLA head coach Bob Toledo wisecracked that playing games at Stanford Stadium was like "playing in a Safeway parking lot" (something tells me that judging from how last year's game turned out, Toledo now shops at Ralph's).
I love Stanford Stadium. As a Denver Bronco fan, I loved Mile High Stadium too, but that place had some pretty sizable flaws. I feel the exact same way about Stanford Stadium. It is the home of the almighty Card, but, as I'm sure we are all well aware of, the place could stand a few improvements. With that in mind, I decided to put my Urban Studies degree to use (for the first time since graduation, I might add) and play architect for a little while. If I had a blank check and a blank slate to make not only some practical improvements but also to get creative and make the Stanford football experience even more unique, what improvements would I make to Stanford Stadium today?
And yes, I know that they're trying to get the 2012 Olympics here, and that Stanford Stadium is an integral part of the deal, but let's face it: Stanford football is much more fun, much more important (to me, anyway), and much less corrupt!
First, the practical improvements…
Get rid of the track. This is a no-brainer. The only time it really gets used is during the Wacky Walk graduation ceremonies. When Stanford hosted the big track meet back in June, was it at Stanford Stadium? No, it was at Angell Field, across the way. Not only does the track sit largely unused, it also places fans miles away from the action, even if they're in the front row. Take out the track, drop the field down a few feet, and stick a few rows of seats in between.
Drop seating capacity to at most 60,000, with the ability to expand to 80,000 for Big Game and other big events. In a way, Stanford Stadium already achieves this with the "seat kill", which is kind of a fancy name for the red Stanford tarp that covers about 20,000 seats in the north end zone. And a permanent seating capacity of 60,000 might be a bit generous. But I think it would be nice to have a design that allows for the addition of at least 20,000 temporary seats.
Add an upper deck. There are few better ways to put fans on top of the action and to add to the intimacy of the place than to add an upper deck. The more vertical a stadium is, the louder and more intense the place seems to be. Head to an English soccer stadium and you'll see what I mean. Or, for a shorter and more convenient field trip, go to Husky Stadium up in Seattle. Running track aside, it's a good place to watch a game from a fan's standpoint and an intimidating place to play a game from an opponent's standpoint.
Put the entrances to the seating areas at ground level. The only ground-level entrances in the stadium are the tunnels on the west and south sides. If you're not sitting in those areas, you're looking at a far less convenient path to your seat. Admit it…did you ever think it made any sense whatsoever to go up 912 steps just to get into the stadium, then go down 583 more steps to get from the concourse to your seat?
Install real stadium seats between the goal lines, but leave the bleachers in the student sections and everywhere else. And the stadium seats must be somewhat comfortable. Last weekend while in Boston, I got a chance to check out Fenway Park for my first time. While it was a great experience sitting in section 30, just yards away from the Green Monster (it is Fenway, after all…Nomahhhhhhh!), let's just say it wasn't the most comfortable place to spend three hours. That wooden seat came up to greet me hard and fast (the only thing that was louder than the crack of the bat hitting the ball that night was the crack of the seat hitting my butt), and the next time I go there I'll probably have to buy the seat in front of me just so I can have some legroom. And I'm only 5'11"!
People must have been much, much smaller when that place opened up in 1912, and they couldn't have been that much bigger when Stanford Stadium opened up ten years later. Every fan that is sitting down at Stanford Stadium should be reasonably comfortable, except for the kids in the student section (who shouldn't be sitting down anyway) or the folks in the visiting section.
Add a few skyboxes. Put in enough skyboxes so that it makes sense financially, but don't go overboard like they did at the Staples Center in LA. I'm not a big fan of what skyboxes do to the ambience of stadiums and arenas, but they're a necessary evil. Plus, if you can afford one (or know someone who can), there are few better ways to watch a game. More champagne, Mr. Clardy?
Enclose the stadium completely. I never thought that open corner made much sense. Close it up, make it more intimate.
Now for some impractical improvements, things that you will probably never see at Stanford Stadium (or any stadium, for that matter), but it would be a lot cooler if you did…
The phattest press box of all time. I'll admit it. I'm a spoiled credential-carrying member of the media. That's why this is tops on my list of any major renovations to Stanford Stadium. No folding chairs would be allowed in the press box; all seats in the main press box would be leather recliners of the Barry Bonds variety. And there would be a hot tub and wet bar placed in the home radio booth.
Stadium food and beverage concessions by Fatburger. Need I say more? You Southern California folks know what I'm talking about. Is there anything better than a bacon and cheese Fatburger with chili cheese fries and a strawberry shake? My heart skipped a beat just writing that sentence…
And is there any good reason why there's no Fatburger in the Bay Area? If they can put them in Vegas, in Arizona, and in Seattle, then why wouldn't there be a couple in Oakland? Can this please happen? Sorry. Let's move on…
Stadium club complete with a Hooters restaurant. They've got great wings. Seriously! Plus, the donors and sponsors and bigwigs need a nice place to spread out and chill. Could you think of a better place?
Prime rib man. How cool would this be? Why bring your own when the prime rib man comes right to your seat? Why is this not already happening?
By the way, I'm pretty hungry right now. Can you tell?
Remove the cyclone fence that rings the field. That's actually a pretty practical improvement. But I wouldn't get rid of the fence entirely. I would use it to surround the cal rooting section whenever Big Game is held at Stanford Stadium. They're the whole reason why Stanford had to adapt Brazilian soccer stadium-style security measures in the first place; why should we decent, civilized, storm-the-field-only-in-victory Stanford fans be forced to pay the price for every game?
On a few select Saturdays in the fall, there is no other place I would rather be than Stanford Stadium. It's our house and I love it. But I sure wouldn't mind fixing up the place a bit!
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
First a couple random thoughts on last week's game at Boston College: all things considered, I thought Kyle Matter performed very well. I was impressed by his poise and decision-making, and he showed a good arm. I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that a fifth-year senior quarterback, supposedly one of the Big East's best (which isn't that hard of a list to make) was outplayed by a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first-ever start…
Class move by Coach Teevens after a tough loss and before a tough flight - as we were boarding the charter to head back to the Bay Area, there was Coach standing at the bottom of the stairs to greet and chat with each of us before we got on the plane. The more time I spend with Buddy Teevens, the more I like him…
On the new uniforms - I love the jerseys (although they do resemble Louisville's unis), but I'm not that crazy about the pants…
Despite the laundry list of things that Stanford needs to work on (a list that y'all have covered in far more detail than I ever could), admit it…don't you feel at least a little better about this team and its chances this year?
Just one random Pac-10 thought since I didn't get to see that much other football this weekend (six hour flights and a Pac-10 unfriendly TV schedule will do that to you. I need to get TiVo)…UW athletic director Barbara Hedges got Rick Neuheisel to sign a contract extension worth mucho dinero early last week. What do you think was going through her mind when they were down 10-0 at the half to San Jose State at home?
I can't stress this enough - I love getting e-mails. I love hearing your thoughts on Stanford football not only during the postgame call-in shows but also here on this column. Each week I'll be posting the best e-mails I get here in this section of Clardy's Corner. Here we go…
On my list of Top 10 games last week, Alex in San Jose writes… "One of my favorite football games: Big Game 1990 - check into it. Not sure whether you were there at the time, but if so you remember it was @ Berzerkeley, when because of their bone headedness the Weenies gave us a game we perhaps shouldn't have won. We got a late TD pass from I believe Jason Palumbis to Chris Walsh to bring us within two points, then we missed the two-point conversion. We onside kick, and recover...then the Golden Boneheads proceed to give John Hopkins an additional 15 yards on his last-second FG attempt to make it a one-pt. win for the Cardinal! Nine points in the last 10 seconds - unreal! Tremendous drama to cap an otherwise disappointing 1990 season that saw the Cardinal go 4-7, if memory serves me, in Denny Green's 2nd year on the Farm."
It would have made my list if I had been there to see it in person. And also, it took place about three years before I arrived on The Farm. Even so, unquestionably a great game. How come ESPN Classic will replay the Screw of '82 but they won't replay this game?
Also on my list of Top 10 games, Dr. Doe from parts unknown writes…"Your #1 pick was an awfully good game. I still wonder how good Borchard would have been if he had stayed around to play QB a couple of more years - my bet is that he would have been a #1 draft choice and starting in the NFL instead of still playing minor league baseball. Will he be the next Stanford baseball player to decide to give football another try?"
After watching his team lay a major stinkbomb on national TV on Sunday night, something tells me Jerry Jones was trying to track down Mr. Borchard…
Again on my list of Top 10 games, Michael from parts unknown writes…"Great list. However, I would have snuck in the victory over Colorado in '94 (or was it '93?) Stenstrom threw a controversial touchdown to the tight end with less than a minute to go. Kordell Stewart had smoked our secondary all night, throwing primarily to Charles Johnson. Talk about a "wide-open" game."
That was actually the first Stanford game I ever saw! Stenstrom hitting Tony Cline in the back of the end zone against the Buffaloes in 1993 was definitely sweet. Kinda like the Washington game the following year—a big highlight in an otherwise forgettable year.
By the way, on the message boards people kept bringing up the U$C game in 1969. What happened in that one? Someone e-mail me on this because I'd love to get a history lesson. Also, in hindsight I'm kinda kicking myself for not finding space for the Sun Bowl or for any game from November 1996 on the list…
Got a thought on Stanford sports? Have any improvements you'd like to see made to Stanford Stadium? Know where to get some good tiramisu? E-mail me!
Troy Clardy hosts Stanford football postgame call-in shows, as well as Stanford football road pregame shows, Stanford basketball pregame shows, the Buddy Teevens Show, and the Mike Montgomery Show on Stanford radio network flagship station KTCT ("The Ticket 1050") in San Francisco. The Buddy Teevens Show airs every Friday morning at 7:20 on KTCT.