Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Questions persist over Cal's stadium project

Cal took the next step toward renovating its football stadium by announcing Monday the hiring of an architect, but that step also illustrated just how far this project has to go.
University officials selected Kansas City-based HNTB to upgrade and seismically retrofit aging Memorial Stadium. Considered a leader in college stadium designs, the architect has overseen projects at Ohio State, Purdue and Oregon State.
That's the good news.
Everything else seems to fall under the wait-and-see category.
Cal officials said Monday they don't know what the renovations will cost, what they will look like -- beyond the initial and vague concept they outlined in February -- or even whether the timeline for construction will require the Cal football team to play elsewhere for a season.
"A lot depends on once we have a design and we have a timeline, as it relates to what the construction will consist of," Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said. "We will build from there."
Here's what officials do know.
They want the detailed design in place by this fall. That will include an environmental analysis. The definitive cost estimate will follow, hopefully by the end of the year, said Tom Lollini, associate vice chancellor for facilities.
With that in mind, Lollini added, construction could begin after the 2006 football season. The Times had previously reported that the project was tentatively scheduled to start after this upcoming season.
"We are on track with our working timeline," Lollini said.
To date, cost estimates have ranged from $160 million to $180 million.
Barbour said the athletic department has raised more than $40 million for the renovations, including $25 million from an anonymous donor, which Cal received in the past month.
As for the minimum total she hopes to collect, Barbour declined to set an exact amount. "The minimum will be what the thing is going to cost," she said. "Any time you start throwing out numbers, then they become the minimums and the fixed amounts, and if those change, you're answering a lot of questions about why."
She added that the target number for fundraising will depend on the cost estimate attached to the final design.
"When we have that number, it will bring great definition and clarity to the project," she said.
What it won't bring is certainty.
Two of HNTB's recent clients exceeded their estimated budgets for college stadium renovations. Michigan State spent $3 million more than planned on its $61 million renovation of Spartan Stadium. Ohio State's stadium cost $37 million more than the $150 million estimate.
However, HNTB also oversaw construction at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium, which met its $70 million budget.
As of now, Cal has negotiated only initial fees with HNTB, Lollini said. The architect's fees for schematics and construction won't be finalized until a full plan is developed, he added.
The final design also will dictate what happens to Cal's football team during construction. Initial renovation plans have called for tearing down the west side of the stadium. Despite that, Lollini suggested Cal might still play at Memorial Stadium during construction.
Oregon State has done that at Reser Stadium, where HNTB is adding an upper deck and parking structure.
"It's a little more tricky when you have existing stadiums," said Tony Gonzales, vice president of HNTB's Los Angeles office. "We did that at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, so we know it can be done."
Any displacement of Cal's football team will not extend beyond one season. Barbour was emphatic on that point.
"One season, maximum. That was one of our goals," she said. "We made that loud and clear when we spoke with the architects."

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