With big soccer game approaching, UC Berkeley addresses impacts from Memorial Stadium

Cal's Memorial Stadium has a a capacity of over 60,000 and regularly draws large crowds to the area. Photo: John Morgan
Cal’s Memorial Stadium has a a capacity of over 60,000 and regularly draws large crowds to the area. Photo: John Morgan

Representatives from the city of Berkeley and Cal invited residents near Memorial Stadium to discuss the impact of upcoming events — including the July 26 International Champions Cup soccer game — on the neigborhood. Fire safety, public intoxication, illegal parking and what to do in case of a significant disaster were among concerns raised by attendees.

Christine Shaff, communications director for facilities services, moderated the meeting Wednesday night, which featured members of the Berkeley Police Department, UC Berkeley Police Department, Berkeley Fire Department, Cal Athletics and the city manager’s office. Councilman Gordon Wozniak was also in attendance.

The meeting began with an overview of the preparations for the approaching soccer game at Memorial Stadium between European soccer clubs Real Madrid and Inter Milan. The 3 p.m. game is part of a larger nationwide exhibition tournament featuring European soccer. Organizers expect to sell out the 63,000-seat stadium.

Gayley Road and Piedmont Avenue will be closed at 1 p.m. on game day, according to Chris Pezman, associated athletics director for Facilities, Operations and Event Management at UC Berkeley. Centennial Drive and Stadium Rim Way will also be closed. There will be construction happening before the game, as it will be played on real grass, he said. The sod will take a day and a half to put in and require 40 truckloads of grass.

The university contracted with a firm to measure noise produced by the soccer game, which will provide data on the impact to surrounding communities, according to Shaff.

Fire, medical and police coverage will all be ramped up during the game, said Lt. Marc DeCoulode of UCPD. The Police Department will deploy more than 35 officers to the surrounding areas and work with the Berkeley Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to ensure maximum security. An outside contractor will be brought in to pat down and search every attendee prior to the game, Lt. Matt Morizono of the Berkeley Police Department said.

Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong added that Berkeley, Piedmont and Alameda County will all contribute ambulances, and that two fire patrols will be on duty as well.

Several neighbors raised concerns about parking during the event. Some who live close to the stadium often have to deal with attendees parking in front of their driveways during other large capacity events. Morizono responded that four officers would be dedicated to parking enforcement, including one assigned specifically to the nearby Panoramic Hill neighborhood.

Other neighbors noted that the crowd at the upcoming soccer game will likely be different from crowds attending seasonal football games, and that many outsiders will not be aware of the laws and standards of conduct, including fire prevention practices. DeCoulode said signage around the area would be enhanced to remind people of the rules, in addition to the extra officers on duty. Shaff added that the university is trying to reduce fire hazards by trimming vegetation in the area.

The city and university were less clear in their response to one neighbor who wondered how they would deal with an evacuation of both the stadium and nearby neighborhoods if a catastrophic event were to occur during a full-capacity event — which the soccer game is expected to be.

DeCoulode said the evacuation procedure would depend on the nature and location of the incident and that evacuating everyone at once “wouldn’t necessarily be practical,” as the streets can only hold so many people. Jim Hynes, assistant to Berkeley’s city manager, said the city actively monitors emergencies as they unfold to determine the best response. The city should, however, run more simulations of disasters nearby the stadium to see how an evacuation would play out, he said.

This fall’s football season was also on the agenda. City and university representatives indicated that safety measures would largely be the same as during past football seasons. In response to one neighbor’s grievance, Morizono is considering adding another patrol to surrounding neighborhoods during games played later in the day to curb the alcohol-fueled unruliness that often occurs.

Shaff closed the meeting with a overview of construction that is set to take place in or around the stadium. The Maxwell Family recreational field and parking structure is currently under construction on the north side. Parking will be open by mid to late November and the field is scheduled to be complete by February.

Inside the stadium, Shaff said the university is planning to add a campus visitor center, academic facilities and a bookstore. Construction for these projects will begin sometime this fall and is not expected to have a significant impact on nearby residents, she said. The updates are slated to be complete next spring.

Drew Jaffe is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the East Bay and now attends Occidental College in Los Angeles. He can be reached at djaffe@oxy.edu.

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Interview: UC Berkeley’s new Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks (08.22.13)
Cal Memorial Stadium unveiled after 21-month renovation (08.27.12)
With Stadium reopening near, Cal revamps ticket sales (08.07.12)
Old Cal Memorial Stadium for sale, one bleacher at a time (06.27.12)
Final section of press box is installed at Memorial Stadium (10.13.11)

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