Memorial Stadium (Bakersfield)
Stadium's North Entrance
|Location||1801 Panorama Dr. - Bakersfield, California|
|Construction cost||$1.161 million|
|Bakersfield College Renegades (1955-present)|
Memorial Stadium is a double-decked concrete and steel stadium in northeast Bakersfield, California, near the Panorama Bluffs. It features a fast Bermuda grass football field with a high-centered crown and an all-weather track. Located at the corner of University Avenue and Mount Vernon Avenue on the campus of Bakersfield College (BC), it is primarily used for American football, and is the home field of the B.C. Renegades. The stadium holds roughly 20,000 people and was built in 1955. It is named to honor the war dead of World War I and World War II. A plaque at the finish line commemorates its dedication.
In 1955, Bakersfield College would move from its original location at Bakersfield High School, to a dedicated campus in Northeast Bakersfield. Memorial Stadium would be the first structure to be completed at the new site. In fact, during the first semester students were served lunches out of the concession stands because the cafeteria was still under construction.
For its first 40 years, Memorial Stadium enjoyed huge success based on its attendance of Bakersfield College football games. Lasting into the early 1990s, it was unusual for a B.C. football game not to have 12,000 fans or more in the stands. Games have been televised live and on tape-delay in the past. The stadium was the home to the first ever junior college bowl game, and California's formerly most prestigious junior college bowl game, the Kern County Shrine Club Potato Bowl. The Potato Bowl, established in 1948, was a fund raiser for the Shriners Hospital for Burned and Crippled Children in Los Angeles. The Potato Bowl no longer exists due to unfair fees demanded by the State Junior College Commission on Athletics (COA) to be a part of the reformed state JC playoff system. The Potato Bowl hence was replaced by the Golden Empire Bowl, which is part of the California J.C. Football State Playoffs, and is supported and sponsored by local businesses. However, the Golden Empire Bowl was not played in 2011. Sponsors cited a lack of ticket money for previous bowl games that left them losing money. These sponsors were hoping to break-even with their sponsorship every year as a way to serve their community.
Memorial Stadium has had numerous football games exceed attendances of 20,000. The largest ever crowd was 23,000 for a high school football game between Bakersfield High School and Bishop Amat Memorial High School in 1994. Memorial Stadium features an all weather track that was updated in 1989. Unfortunately, the track surface is in need of renovation. It hosts high school and junior college track events. The track was once the training track for the Soviet Union track teams when they visited the United States. It also was the track on which Jim Ryun established a world-record in the one-mile run in 1967.
Memorial Stadium occasionally hosts high school games. Until the early 1990s, it was the Friday night home field of both Highland High School and East Bakersfield High School on alternating weekends. Changes by B.C.'s college president in the mid-1990s led both schools to finally install lights on their own fields after decades of renting Memorial Stadium and other fields. Presently, Memorial Stadium is used for high school football games only when it is deemed that an existing high school field is too small to handle the anticipated large crowds; this generally occurs only during playoffs.
The stadium structure was retrofitted and overhauled in the early 1990s. All seats are reserved and are either aluminum benches with backs, or bucket style seats with arm rests. The lower half of the stadium, which was built into a pre-existing ravine, is enclosed with a horseshoe-shaped open end that faces to the southwest and offers views of downtown Bakersfield and the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Consequently, this offers an ideal setting for track events as there is a minimal amount of wind on the floor of the stadium that interferes with events and the acceptance of records as the prevailing northwesterly winds blow over the nearby bluffs and above the track and field surface. Consequently, winds very seldom affect games or track events. The upper decks are built of steel-reinforced concrete and sit opposite each other, overlooking their respective sidelines. On top of each upper deck are four light standards with 28 lights on each standard that provide field lighting. The lights were last replaced and upgraded in the late 1980s and offer a brilliantly lit playing surface. The home-side (eastern) upper deck features an enclosed, partitioned press box with rooms for each team's coaching staff, radio broadcasts, and media.
Teams dress in the nearby Dr. Romain Clerou Field House, located up the hill from the field next to the gym and swimming pool complex. The field house contains B.C.'s practice and game locker room and offers an adjacent locker room for a visiting team with showers. Teams often opt to use the larger men's locker room in the gym when visiting.
Adjacent to Memorial Stadium's playing surface, just beyond the open end, is a 100 yard long (91 m) practice field where the football team holds its practices. The practice field has also hosted football clinics, Bakersfield Blitz football practices, Native American pow-wows, and carnivals.
Memorial Stadium was the site of a world record time in the mile on June 23, 1967. The record time of 3:51.1 was set by American Jim Ryun during the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. It was the first of five occasions the stadium hosted the National Championships in the 1960s and 1970s, when the AAU would hold split gender championship meets.
The very first football game at Memorial Stadium between Boise Junior College and Bakersfield College in 1955 was broadcast nationwide on the Mutual Broadcasting System's radio network. Boise Junior College would later become Boise State University.
In 1963, Memorial Stadium hosted an exhibition fundraising football game played between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. This game was called The Children's Bowl.
When the Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s, Memorial Stadium was considered for, and finally turned down for, the L.A. Raiders pre-season training facility.
McDonald's used Memorial Stadium and the Bakersfield College swimming pool as a backdrop for its Olympic television advertising campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The top row of seats on Memorial Stadium's upper decks are higher above the playing surface than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's highest row is above the Coliseum's playing surface.
- Bakersfield Memorial Stadium. Bakersfield Magazine. October 2010. Accessed: 11-01-2011.