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History of Rose Bowl Stadium

The Rose Bowl Stadium from the front. NCAA

Celebrate the storied history of Rose Bowl Stadium with a trip to this iconic venue. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., was built in 1922 with the intention of hosting the annual college football Rose Bowl Game. Now, more than a century later, it has become a cultural hub for the city, playing host to games, concerts and other events throughout the year. 

What is Rose Bowl Stadium?

Rose Bowl Stadium is an outdoor sports stadium located in Pasadena, Calif. It primarily serves as the home field for the UCLA Bruins football team. The Tournament of Roses Association advocated for the stadium to be built after the city of Pasadena bought the 10 acres of land in 1897. 

The Tournament of Roses committee introduced football into the Rose Bowl in 1902 and drew a crowd of more than 8,000 to watch Stanford and Michigan. The main purpose of the game was to raise money to fund the expenses of the Rose Parade. The idea didn’t immediately catch on, but an “East-West Football Game” was held in 1916. 

What is the Tournament of Roses?

By 1920, the Tournament of Roses Association decided the demand warranted a more permanent venue and the construction of Rose Bowl Stadium began. After its completion in 1922, The Rose Bowl hosted its first college football game with the University of California (Cal) Golden Bears defeating the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans. It was dedicated on New Year’s Day in 1923 ahead of the first Rose Bowl Game

The grand tradition of the Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses actually predates the first Rose Bowl and the formal game of American football. The first Rose Parade, formerly known as the Battle of Flowers, was held in 1890 with members of the Valley Hunt Club decorating buggies and local men competing in various athletic events like foot races and chariot races. As the parade grew, it was moved to the nearby Tournament Park, which is now part of the California Institute of Technology campus. 

The Tournament of Roses is directed by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. In the present day, the parade will typically have around 60 floats, all elaborately decorated with flowers and designed based on the year’s theme. In between the floats, parade watchers will be entertained by the costumed horses and riders and several marching bands. And no parade would be complete without a Rose Bowl queen and a grand marshal.

Origins of the Rose Bowl Game

The Rose Bowl earned itself the nickname, “The Granddaddy of Them All,” for being the oldest bowl game that is still being played today. The 109th Rose Bowl Game took place on Jan. 2, 2023, with the Utah Utes taking on the Penn State Nittany Lions. While it was initially known as the “Tournament East-West football game,” the Rose Bowl has been an annual tournament since 1916. For the first Rose Bowl Game, Washington State went up against Brown University, and defeated them 14-0. This particular game is also noted to be the first to have an African-American player, Fritz Pollard, compete in the Rose Bowl Game history. 

Historically, the Rose Bowl Game has featured opponents from the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences. As of 2023, USC leads all teams with 34 appearances in the game and holds a 25-9 record. Michigan, Ohio State, Washington and Stanford have each played in more than a dozen contests. 

One notable Rose Bowl Game occurred in 2018 when the Georgia Bulldogs overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners in double overtime and advance to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game. It was the first Rose Bowl game to go into overtime and set a scoring record with 102 combined points. 

Rose Bowl Stadium is a monument to sports with more than 21 Heisman winners, 30 national champions and 130 iconic figures in football inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. A few of those most-recognizable names include Bob Griese, Dick Butkus, Knute K. Rockne, and announcer Dick Enberg. Former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who helped to create the BCS and CFP, was inducted in 2021.

Seating at Rose Bowl Stadium

The stadium originally held 57,000 and featured a distinct “horseshoe” design. In 1929, renovations were made to close the stadium’s south end and give it an elliptical shape. Rose Bowl Stadium now holds more than 89,000 fans.

Terry Donahue Pavilion is dedicated to the most successful coach in Pac-12 and UCLA history. The pavilion was part of a $152 million renovation for the stadium, with construction beginning in 2011. By 2013, the 185,000-square-foot pavilion was complete and was seven stories high. In each of the 28 seating sections, there are lettered and numbered rows. Terry Donahue Pavilion contains approximately 1,200 Club Seats, 48 Loge Boxes and 54 suites. There are also Club Lounges on the North and South ends as well as the Blue Moon Club which sits on the 50-yard line.

Design and Construction

Rose Bowl Stadium has been a staple presence in Pasadena for more than a hundred years. The stadium’s construction began in 1922 and would be finished by its opening on Oct. 28, of the same year. Architect Myron Hunt designed the future stadium in 1921, making sure to incorporate design influences from the Yale Bowl by making the Rose Bowl structure in an open, horseshoe shape. By 1928, the stadium was enclosed in a bowl shape after the construction of the stands on the stadium’s southern side was completed. 

The stadium underwent several renovations throughout its history. One of these expansions included the construction of the 1922 Locker Room Museum. In 2017, the stadium converted the old locker room into a small museum with information on the Rose Bowl and its construction, as well as the Bruins football team and other high-profile sporting events that have taken place at the Rose Bowl.

History of The Court of Champions and Rose Plaza
The Court of Champions can be found on the southern end of the stadium. It holds Rose Bowl game records, including names of MVP players and coaches, along with the stadium’s history displayed on plaques. A renovation in 2014 helped increase the number of plaques on display. In June 2013, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to commemorate the debut of the pavilion. Visitors coming through Rose Plaza will walk across the thousands of commemorative bricks that fans and visitors have purchased as part of the Rose Bowl Brick Campaign. 

Football at Rose Bowl Stadium

Since 1982, the Rose Bowl has been home to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and its Bruin football team that competes in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. UCLA and USC are positioned to move to the Big Ten Conference in 2024.

The stadium has hosted five NFL Super Bowls since the late 1970s. The last Super Bowl hosted at the stadium was in 1993 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 52-17 to earn the coveted Lombardi Trophy. 

In 2014, the Rose Bowl joined the newly-established College Football Playoff as a host venue. The CFP replaced the somewhat ambiguous Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which started in 1999, by instituting a formal four-team playoff for the top NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams. The Rose Bowl is one of six stadiums on rotation for the College Football Championship semi-finals. These are also referred to as the “New Year’s Six” and include the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl and Sugar Bowl in addition to the Rose Bowl. 

The final BCS championship game was held on Jan. 6, 2014, at Rose Bowl Stadium. Florida State beat Auburn University 34-31, in front of 94,208 fans, one of the bowl’s higher attendance events. 

In 2015, Oregon and Florida State met at the Rose Bowl for its first semifinal game. The Ducks won 59-20 and then fell to Ohio State in the championship game.

Notable Rose Bowl Sports Events

Taylor Swift singing powerfully into a microphone during a preformance.

Aside from college football, the Rose Bowl has served as host to several high-profile soccer matches like the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where Brazil beat Italy 3-2 in the final. In 1999, the Rose Bowl hosted the final match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which the U.S. Women’s National Team won in a memorable fashion, topping China 5-4 on penalty kicks in extra time. 

Brandi Chastain hit the back of the net with the US’s final shot and ripped off her jersey to reveal her sports bra underneath. It is still one of the most iconic moments in women’s sports history, immortalized on the cover of newspapers and magazines like Sports Illustrated. A bronze statue of Chastain celebrating the win was unveiled on July 10, 2019. That game also set an international attendance record for a women’s sports event with 90,185 spectators. 

Rose Bowl Stadium was also the site of the 1932 Summer Olympics’ cycling events and the 1984 Summer Olympics’ soccer tournament, where France beat Brazil 2-0 to take home the gold. 

Other Rose Bowl Events

Along with sports events, Rose Bowl Stadium has seen concerts from artists and bands like Gun N’ Roses, Taylor Swift, Metallica and Beyonce and Jay-Z play for packed stands. In Sept. 2014, One Direction sold out tickets three nights in a row at the stadium. This marked the first music act to accomplish such a feat. In 2019, BTS became the first South Korean music group to perform at Rose Bowl Stadium.

For the Pasadena community, Rose Bowl Stadium has hosted its annual Independence Day celebration, Americafest, since 1927. The fireworks display is one of the best in the country and the largest fireworks show in southern California. Another recurring event at the stadium is the Rose Bowl Flea Market, which takes place on the second Sunday of each month. The flea market is a site to see with more than 20,000 visitors every month shopping for products from 2,500 vendors. 

Find Rose Bowl Tickets

Catch the next big game at “America’s Stadium” with Rose Bowl tickets from TicketSmarter, the official ticketing partner of the Rose Bowl Stadium. If you’re visiting from out of town for a Rose Bowl event, browse the exclusive travel deals for TicketSmarter customers on HotelPlanner. 

Save yourself some stress and buy parking passes along with your ticket to park at the Rose Bowl, especially if it is your first time at the venue.