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 that was renovated in 2014 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.
Memorial Stadium was completed in 1955 before the remainder of the campus opened for students in 1956 when Bakersfield College would move from its original location at Bakersfield High School where it was founded in 1913, to the new campus in Northeast Bakersfield. Bakersfield College is the 2nd oldest junior college in California behind Santa Barbara City College. Ad hoc football squads were first created in the 1920s resulting in the moniker nickname "Renegades." Memorial Stadium would be the first structure to be completed at the new site. Football games were being played on site before classes were ever held on the new campus. 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. Attendance was so large that the college's academic extracurricular activities were all funded by football ticket sales until the 1990s.
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 COA is now known as the California Community College Athletic Association or CCCAA). The Potato Bowl hence was replaced by the Golden Empire Bowl, which was part of the California J.C. Football State Playoffs, and was supported and sponsored by local businesses. However, the Golden Empire Bowl folded 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 hosted the 2012 CCCAA state football title game where Bakersfield College defeated City College of San Francisco in front of a crowd of over 16,000.
Memorial Stadium has had numerous Renegade football games exceed attendances of 20,000. The largest ever crowd was 23,701 for a high school football game between Bakersfield High School and Bishop Amat Memorial High School from La Puente on Saturday, October 1, 1994. Bishop Amat, with a #1 national ranking, won 34-3. Memorial Stadium features an all weather track that was updated in 1989. Unfortunately, the track surface is currently (2014) 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. The track has hosted A.A.U. events and state high school meets.
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.
On Friday, August 29, 2014, Memorial Stadium hosted two high school games billed as the Kick Off Classic. Local schools Ridgeview and Frontier played in the first game with Ridgeview winning 42-21. The featured second game pitted Southern California power Oaks Christian from Westlake Village (ranked #19 in California) against perennial Central Section power and defending State Division 1 champion Bakersfield High (ranked #11 in California) won by Bakersfield 34-21. Memorial Stadium has hosted a high school event like this before in the mid-1990s. A series was created featuring the top three high schools from Bakersfield and the Fresno area. An annual triple header was played twice at Memorial Stadium and once in Clovis at Lamonica Stadium before interest waned after three seasons. This series featured Bakersfield High, Foothill High, and West High from Bakersfield against the Fresno-area schools Clovis High, Clovis West High, and Buchanan High.
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.
The field and stadium are unusual in that it is not on a traditional north-south axis from goal post to goal post. Due to being built into a pre-existing ravine the axis of the field runs at an approximate northeast-southwest angle. The northeast end of the stadium is closed into the top of the ravine which was filled in to build a parking lot with a concourse connecting each side of the stadium. Most football fields are built on a north-south axis with the press box on the western sideline so that the press box is not looking into the setting sun. Memorial Stadium's press box is built so that the sun sets to its left-front. The press box was built on this side so that it would overlook the track's finish line which could only be built on the eastern side of the stadium due to the closed end on the north end of the stadium. If the finish line was on the western side then it would be out of view of most of the spectators and the press box would have an indirect angle of observation. Because of this emphasis on track and field the scoreboard operator was and still is positioned at the finish line on the field near the northern 30-yard line. This necessitates the use of a spotter on the roof of the press box to relay down, distance, and the yard line to the scoreboard operator with a walkie-talkie. Another quirk due to the odd angle of the stadium is the naming of the two seating areas. The campus side of the stadium is officially called the northern side and the Mt. Vernon Avenue side is called the southern side. Most people refer to the campus side as the western side and the Mt. Vernon Avenue side as the eastern side. Because the stadium was built prior to the Americans With Disabilities Act there are no elevators or escalators. It is 64 steps from the bottom row to the top row of the lower deck. From there to get to the press box you need to go behind the superstructure to enter the steps to the upper deck mezzanine, then go up to the entrance to the seating area, then go up the aisle to the press box, a tedious workout! The press box is partitioned into two coaches booths which is separated by the George Pavletich Memorial Radio Booth named for longtime KERN-1410 AM radio play-by-play announcer George Pavletich. The main room is sectioned into an upper and lower seating area for media with the P.A. announcer stationed here. There is a small bathroom on the back side of the press box. The roof of the press box is used to film games from, has been used to broadcast live local television coverage of B.C. football games from, and used to broadcast live internet webcasts by visiting teams.
Adjacent to Memorial Stadium's playing surface, just beyond the open end, is a 100-yard (91 m) long 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.
The field is at an approximate elevation of 684-feet above sea level.
Directions: From Los Angeles take Interstate 5 north to Highway 99 north to Bakersfield. Exit at Rosedale Highway (Highway 58)/24th Street (Highway 178), merge right onto 24th Street going across the Kern River into downtown. You will merge onto 23rd street continuing east. At M Street Highway 178 becomes a freeway, continue east and exit at Mt. Vernon Avenue. Turn left and head north to the stadium (Alternate: From Highway 58 take Mt. Vernon Avenue north); From Fresno/Visalia take Highway 99 south. Exit at Merle Haggard Drive/7th Standard Road and turn left onto Merle Haggard Drive heading east going towards Meadows Field airport. After crossing North Chester Avenue, Merle Haggard Drive will turn into Manor Street and will curve to the south. When you cross the Kern River and start to go up the bluffs at Garces Memorial High School you will exit to your right onto an onramp that will circle back over Manor and put you onto Panorama Drive heading east to Mt. Vernon Avenue.
Parking is on two main large lots off Mt. Vernon Avenue and another off University Avenue. There are no parking fees for events at the stadium. Tailgating is an encouraged tradition
Food businesses nearby include: Tony's Firehouse Pizza, La Pizza Veloz Italian restaurant, Loma Linda Mexican restaurant, Lam's Chinese restaurant, Renegade's Pride convenience store, and Fastrip/Exxon convenience store all located across Mt. Vernon Avenue from the stadium. A mile south at the intersection of Mt. Vernon Avenue and Columbus Avenue near Highway 178 are Rosa's Italian Restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Burger King, Long John Silver's/A&W Root Beer restaurant, Denny's Restaurant, Coco's Restaurant, AM/PM & Arco Mini Mart, City Sandwich Shop, Taco Bell, CVS, and Albertson's Supermarket. Just south of Highway 178 on Mt. Vernon Avenue are Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Panda Express, Sizzler, Starbuck's, Cold Stone Creamery, Quizno's, Ajya Cocina Mexicana, and Jack in the Box. West of the Mt. Vernon Avenue/Columbus Avenue intersection at Columbus Avenue and Haley Street are a Farmer Boys restaurant and a Subway.
- Bakersfield Memorial Stadium. Bakersfield Magazine. October 2010. Accessed: 11-01-2011.