Public Comment

Commentary: Big Game Yes, New Stadium No

By Christopher Adams
Friday December 01, 2006

I love the Big Game, even though I haven’t gone to one since Cal won “The Play.” I figure that even Stanford will keep their band under control to forestall such a disaster again. I love the Big Game because I am an alumnus of both schools, so no matter who wins I can cheer. I love watching the old Stanford alums in their red pants and little kids in their blue and gold caps and T-shirts walking by my house on the way to Memorial Stadium. But I think the idea of spending $110 million to renovate the stadium is an appalling idea.  

Forget for a moment the beautiful oak trees that will go as part of the project. Forget that the stadium will still be on top of an earthquake fault which the experts promise will give us the “Big One” (plus 7.0 on the Richter scale) in the next 30 years. All this is discussed and whitewashed in the University’s Environmental Impact Report. Instead, think for a moment of what $110 million means. If that amount were put into the University’s endowment, it would generate enough income to provide full tuition scholarships for 735 Berkeley students every year, forever. If that amount were given to UC’s newest and neediest campus in Merced, it would be enough for a school of management building, with money left over to endow a full tuition scholarship for every freshman expected next year.  

Why are we spending $110 million renovating the stadium? Presumably it’s because Stanford, with no fault to contend with and a lot of rich alumni, just spent $90 million on their stadium. What kind of scholarship help would an endowment of $90 million have created? I figure that even at Stanford tuition rates it would have been enough for 365 full tuition scholarships, forever. 

What we are facing here is simply an Athletic Arms Race, and it’s just as immoral as any other arms race. Sure, there are billionaires out there who may be ready to pay millions for the vanity of a stadium but not for a scholarship endowment. (Will it be renamed for one of them, thus forgetting the World War I dead which it now commemorates?) Sure, the tax code will give them a big break. But my question is: Is it moral to even propose spending this kind of money for this kind of purpose?  

Enjoy the game. May the best team win! (I can cheer whomever.) May the Big One wait until at least the day after the Big Game. But don’t rebuild the stadium. 


Christopher Adams is an architect and city planner who has lived for many years in Berkeley.