Posted on November 9, 2020
UCLA football will make its return to the Rose Bowl for its home opener Friday. With no fans—not even family and friends of the players—allowed in to watch the game, there will be an eerie lack of noise.
However, this won’t be a new feeling for the team.
The Bruins averaged just 43,848 fans per game in 2019, going 2-4 in their Pasadena games. The 90,000-capacity stadium feels hollow when less than half of the seats are filled.
There are multiple reasons for fans to search for other things to do in Los Angeles. A 7-17 record in coach Chip Kelly’s first two years stifled any excitement generated from his hire. Additionally, the quarter system means students aren’t on campus until the end of September, meaning poor attendance in the student section is common early in the season.
The location of the stadium is one of the biggest detriments, though. The Rose Bowl sits more than 25 miles from UCLA’s campus, meaning buses have to be used to shuttle students over. The hour-long drive during high-traffic hours often feels like a waking nightmare for fans.
While the feeling of walking into the Rose Bowl is magical for some Bruin fans, the stadium is admittedly out of date compared to some of the newer stadiums in the conference.
The Rose Bowl is historic. But it’s time for the Bruins to join the 21st century.
UCLA could build a new stadium to try and get some buzz, but doing this while in a major financial deficit would not be the smartest. Plus, there’s nowhere near the school that could house the new field to make it worth the price.
Luckily, there’s a brand new stadium down the 405. SoFi Stadium—the multibillion dollar home of the NFL’s two Los Angeles teams—is the best option for UCLA to move its football home games.
SoFi is just about 15 miles away from the campus, and it’s basically a straight shot down the freeway from Westwood. While the freeways can always be busy during the year, the 10 mile less distance will mean a world of difference to students without cars.
The facility is also part of the new Hollywood Park area, which is expected to feature new restaurants and entertainment opportunities. With all these attractions, fans will have a reason to come to Inglewood, even if the Bruins continue to underperform on the field.
The stadium only holds 70,000 fans, although there is the possibility of extensions for major events. UCLA will have to sell fewer tickets because the capacity is lower, but the stadium will feel fuller than a half-empty Rose Bowl, and they’d get to do it in a slick new NFL-level place.
It may be tough to share the stadium with two NFL teams, but there’s always ways to work these things out, and new Athletics Director Martin Jarmond should be able to pull the strings.
The Bruins are in dire need of a revitalization. This would be a huge first step in regaining some interest from departed fans and putting UCLA back on track to being nationally relevant once again.
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