Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday lamented the lack of a Rose Bowl game in Pasadena come Jan. 1, but insisted the surging coronavirus has left no wiggle room for public health leaders to allow an exemption to players’ guests to sit in the stands.
“Look, when you’re in Southern California, you’re at 0% ICU capacity, we can’t make exceptions,” Newsom said Monday during his afternoon briefing. “We have to be stringent in terms of our rules and our regulations. We have to do everything in our power to mitigate spread and to mitigate mixing. What they asked for was contrary to that determination and to our medium- and long-term goals.”
Those goals are to stop a virus that has laid siege all year, but in particular just as the holidays and the bowl game season coincide.
Last week was the deadliest yet in L.A. County, where on one day COVID-19 was responsible for 138 deaths.
The pandemic has shuttered fan attendance at sporting events in California since March. UCLA has played its home games at the 95,000-seat Rose Bowl since its shortened season started in November, including its regular-season finale on Saturday night. But that was without anyone in the stands.
Last glimmer of hope
Despite state and county prohibitions on fan attendance at professional sports, the Rose Bowl — the “Granddaddy of Them All” —- still had a glimmer of hope going into last week after weeks of appeals by Tournament of Roses officials to allow player guests to attend.
But with coronavirus cases and deaths mounting steeply, as well as hospital beds filling up, the Tournament of Roses received word late last week that the state of California would not make a special exception for player guests at the game.
The game itself, now on its way to Texas, is part of the College Football Playoff system, which the Rose Bowl has taken part in since 2014. The game that was supposed to be in Pasadena is between Alabama, first in the final College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday, and fourth-ranked Notre Dame.
Alabama-Notre Dame featured
The Alabama-Notre Dame semifinal was placed in Arlington, Texas, because 16,000 fans will be allowed to attend the game and 3,000 at the other semifinal, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, playoff Selection Committee Chairman Gary Barta told ESPN.
Early reports had dubbed the Texas game as the Rose Bowl presented by Capital One. But on Monday, it was unclear whether the Rose Bowl name will even be used. The name Rose Bowl is co-owned by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and city of Pasadena.
On Tuesday, the Pasadena City Council will meet in a special closed session to decide on whether to allow the name to be used outside of the Pasadena venue. Officials said Monday that contractual issues — including the name — were still being hashed out by the Tournament of Roses, the city of Pasadena and the College Football Playoff organization.
If the Rose Bowl name is not used, it would be the first time in more than 100 years no Rose Bowl game was played after a college football season.
The first Rose Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1902. Not until 1942 was a Rose Bowl game played outside of the city: Oregon State and Duke played in Durham, North Carolina — the only time the game has not been played in Pasadena. The attacks on Pearl Harbor had just occurred on Dec. 7, 1941, and the West Coast was not safe for such a game.
Massive economic losses
The Rose Bowl — and the Rose Parade (which is not traveling to Texas, but was canceled) — typically are massive economic engines for the city and the region.
In 2020, it drew $4.4 million in net income event revenue for the Rose Bowl stadium itself, and that’s not counting the huge impact on venues throughout Southern California as tens of thousands of fans from competing teams flood the region from out of state.
Locally, too, restaurants, hotels, ride-hailing companies and retailers all depend on both the bowl game and the parade for their bottom lines.
Business and city leaders were mindful that the city — like so many across the region and the country — is already hurting from months of shutdowns and reduced business. There were no illusions that this year’s game would have been a boon for the city. Still, though, they said the loss of the game punctuated a tragic year of losses.
Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said Pasadena businesses are in the unique position of having the Christmas shopping season and the Rose Parade and Bowl to bank on at year end.
“That anticipation that you’re going to have two opportunities to really make a lot of money within the space of essentially a month, or a month-and-a-half … it’s a huge influx for retailers, restaurants, tour companies, they are not going to see the income. Whether they can sustain the business without that income remains to be seen.”
City Councilman Tyron Hampton, who represent’s the city’s District 1, voiced disappointment in the state’s red line.
“We can’t accommodate 4,000 people in a stadium that seats 95,000 people?” he asked, rhetorically. “There’s no frustration here. This is government overreach. Businesses rely on this game.”
Newsom, who is the target of a recall campaign, said he was mindful of the critique — similar to the pushback he has received from restaurant owners, religious leaders and others in the COVID era.
“Know that none of this is what we to do,” he said, stressing California’s pride in the Rose Bowl game. “It’s what we have to do to mitigate the spread.”
City News Service and Sports Editor Fred Robledo contributed to this story.
Source: Orange County Register