BERKELEY -- All of 12 years old, Ryan Sanchez had a simple answer when asked what he was looking forward to most about the reopening of Memorial Stadium.

"The new turf," Sanchez said. "And I'm waiting for that cannon to shoot off."

Yes, Cal fans were happy to be home Saturday as the Bears played their first game in their newly renovated facility after spending the 2011 season at AT&T Park.

A capacity crowd of 63,186, the majority clad in blue and gold, streamed through the gates to reacquaint themselves with a Berkeley institution -- Saturday football in Strawberry Canyon.

And, although the Bears lost 31-24 to Nevada, the mood in the stands was positive.

"They did a really good job," Javier Sanchez, Ryan's father, said of the renovated stadium. "This is really something to come to."

That enthusiasm extended to the neighborhood around the stadium. Fraternities and sororities were alive again with pregame and postgame parties, BART was packed with fans on their way to the game, and the bustle of game day again was present along Piedmont Avenue.

Fans entering the stadium were greeted by, well, greeters. Students and volunteers were enlisted to help direct people to their seats, holding signs that said "How Can I Help You?" Even police officers wore buttons asking the same question.

That didn't eliminate first-game confusion, but it did limit it to an extent.


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The new Memorial Stadium offered its share of upgrades, and fans took note. Three club levels on the west side of the stadium enjoyed frequent use. The field club, in particular, bustled before the game with fans watching big-screen TV coverage of other games around the country.

From a nuts-and-bolts perspective, fans seemed happy with the improvements. Wider concourses proved their value and then some, considering the capacity crowd that packed the stadium.

"You can actually move around," said one fan while walking the hallways.

Gone were the decrepit bathrooms lined with troughs along the west side of the stadium, replaced by modern facilities that kept the lines to a minimum.

The new restrooms were limited to the renovated concourses though, as fans on the east side of the stadium were welcomed by a familiar lineup of portable facilities.

"They promised all these new restrooms, and we've got porta-potties," said Evy Smith, a Cal graduate and longtime season-ticket holder. "$300 million for porta-potties. We thought they got rid of those."

And then there was Top Dog. The iconic Berkeley eatery set up shop in the stadium for the first time, using portable grills to dole out hot dogs, bratwursts and the like at three booths in the southeast corner of the stadium.

At $5 a sausage, prices were a bit higher than normal, but that didn't stop fans from extending lines far into the walkways. That made the going a bit slow when walking on that side of the stadium.

Follow Ben Enos on Twitter @ben_enos.