Cal football fans should experience a pretty good game-day atmosphere during the 2011 season. The ones who can get a ticket, that is.
The university and the Giants announced Monday that they had reached an agreement for the Golden Bears to play their home games at AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium is undergoing renovation and retrofit in 2011. Cal also was considering playing at the Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park.
Of the three venues, AT&T Park has by far the smallest football capacity (45,000). Candlestick holds 69,732, while the Coliseum can accommodate 63,132.
But athletic director Sandy Barbour said all of the advantages that AT&T Park provides outweigh the potential for smaller crowds, especially because the move is for only one season.
"You look at all three of the possible venues, and they all had plusses and they all had challenges," Barbour said. "(The smaller capacity) was probably the only significant challenge that AT&T posed. What AT&T has to offer us and our fans in terms of the amenities, in terms of the setting, in terms of being in San Francisco and in terms of serving as a bridge to coming back to Memorial Stadium in 2012, this was the place to come."
Barbour pointed out that AT&T Park can accommodate Cal's 38,000 season-ticket holders. The Coliseum may have been a more viable option were it not home to both the A's and Raiders. That factor made scheduling problematic.
Candlestick Park also was appealing in that it has only one tenant in the 49ers, But that stadium was also the farthest away from campus. That might have made it harder for more fans to get to games, especially Cal students.
"Having our students is very, very important," Barbour said. "It's one of the many reasons we chose this venue."
Without going into specifics, Barbour said the financial models of all three venues were comparable. Cal pays the Giants for use of their facility and then the parties negotiate how all revenues are allotted. It was unclear immediately how the new arrangement would affect ticket prices.
Cal also felt AT&T Park could be used as a marketing vehicle for the renovated Memorial Stadium, which will be upgraded to feature more modern amenities.
"AT&T Park provides phenomenal pregame and postgame activities and opportunities, a beautiful venue located in San Francisco and provides easy access for our East Bay fans," Barbour said.
AT&T Park isn't a new venue for the Bears. Cal beat Miami there in the 2008 Emerald Bowl. Coach Jeff Tedford has gushed about the experience ever since and said he's excited the Bears will be calling the site their second home for a year.
"I'm very, very happy about coming to a place that's so familiar for us after playing here," Tedford said. "It's going to be great for our fans, and I think our kids are going to be get jacked up about playing here."
Giants president Larry Baer, a Cal graduate, said the Giants studied the plans for the new Memorial Stadium and hope to simulate the experience as much as possible at AT&T Park. He also said the configuration for football will be altered so teams can be on opposite sidelines during games. In past games played at AT&T Park, teams shared the same sideline.
"It's really our goal to simulate that experience here in 2011 so Cal fans can take a step forward to what they will experience in 2012 and beyond," Baer said. "We believe we can offer Cal and Cal's fans an intimate experience, a loud experience for football and an exciting experience."
Cal still has two open dates for September 2011 and was waiting on securing a home venue before moving forward. The Bears' Pac-10 home games in 2011 are against Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona and USC.