By Mitch Lehman
San Marino Tribune
Football isn’t the only attraction calling the tune at the venerable Rose Bowl these days, Rotary Club of San Marino members were told at a recent gathering.
Rose Bowl General Manager and CEO Jens Weiden, who is in charge of all revenue-producing events at one of the cathedrals of college football, spoke about the rise of music festivals there when he appeared at a club meeting on March 9 at San Marino Community Church.
Weiden was booked by club President-elect Barbara Bice, who herself is quite familiar with the arena, having worked as director of volunteer services for the World Cup soccer games held there in 1994 — no small task, since it involved a team of 2,000 volunteers. But that’s another story.
Weiden began his presentation with a short but comprehensive video highlighting the many benefits of the stadium, which was built in 1922 and was patterned after the Yale Bowl by architect Myron Hunt.
“Today the stadium is more vibrant than ever,” said Weiden. “It’s a place of passion, strength, tradition and honor.
“Our business may have changed,” he said, “but remember, it was built for one event,” the Rose Bowl Game.
He went on to explain how the venue is now a top attraction for music festivals.
“This is the best music festival site on the West Coast,” he continued.
Weiden said that the Rose Bowl was previously carried financially by revenues from Brookside Golf Course, but that has recently been eclipsed by music festivals, which now bring $4 million annually into the coffers compared to $3 million from golf.
“For our next 100 years, our setting will set us apart,” he said. “We are a 100-year-old building and we have to decide: How do we do things in a tasteful way? We want to make sure these buildings are used.”
Referring to SoFi Stadium, Weiden said, “We have a $5 billion star right down the road.” The new NFL home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers hosted last year’s Super Bowl.
“But we are so much more than a fancy location, we have tradition on our side,” Weiden added. “The owners of SoFi would pay another $5 billion if they could buy that.”
Weiden said that the Rose Bowl recently underwent a comprehensive study about how it was built that used all sorts of measurements, including lasers.
“How did they build the Rose Bowl?” he said. “We measured every site line and the Rose Bowl scored the highest of any stadium in the world.”
He also said the Rose Bowl’s iconic grass playing surface is still among the best in the business.
He thanked the many Rotarians in attendance for leading the stadium into the next century.
“You are a big part of that because you treat the Rose Bowl as a town square,” Weiden said.
He also said that USC and UCLA’s recent decisions to join the Big Ten Conference will increase the stadium’s visibility.
When it was time for the question-and-answer period, longtime Rotarian and former CBS news producer James Nash led off.
“I brought my son [there] to run and I brought both my son and daughter [there] to learn how to drive,” said Nash.
“So my memories are very personal. In that way, the Rose Bowl means something different to everyone.”
Weiden mentioned that 4,000-5,000 people per day perform their exercise routines in the shadow of the Rose Bowl.
“That is the magic that we cannot lose,” he said.