SAN FRANCISCO - The California football team is moving across the bay for its 2011 home season: to the San Francisco Giants' waterfront ballpark.
The Golden Bears will play up to six home games at AT&T Park in 2011 while Memorial Stadium's long-awaited retrofit and renovation is finished in Berkeley. Cal also explored using the Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park — the homes of the NFL's Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers, respectively — for its temporary home.
It didn't hurt that Giants president Larry Baer is a 1980 Cal grad in political science. Or that Cal beat Miami in the Emerald Bowl here in 2008.
"Go Bears!" Baer said. "In many ways for us it's a neighborly act. We do not plan on being a football venue that is longterm every year. But certainly if we can help out, we can help out the University of California in 2011 in a way that allows for a compelling football experience. This is not unprecedented."
While sideline bleachers will be added in the baseball outfield, fewer Cal fans will be able to attend games. Memorial Stadium holds about 71,700, while the football capacity for the 2011 campaign will be just over 45,000. Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour believes the school will be able to accommodate its approximately 38,000 season ticketholders.
"We know our most serious and committed fans will be season ticketholders in 2010, giving them a chance to be season ticketholders in 2011," Barbour said.
There will be significantly fewer tickets available for the visiting teams — and the purchase of single-game tickets will be tough.
A field alignment change will allow team benches to be on opposite sides of the field, something Cal coach Jeff Tedford wanted and a shift from how bowl games have been played here. Tedford walked around the ballpark and measured different areas of the field, including where the end zones will be in proximity to the left-field wall to make sure it's a safe environment.
"The Giants have been very helpful in this process to have us out to look around," Tedford said. "This provides us a great home-field advantage similar to Memorial Stadium."
The Giants will strive to simulate the stadium experience Cal expects its fans to have upon the completion of Memorial Stadium's facelift.
Barbour called Baer "a great Cal guy."
During Monday's on-field announcement, the main center-field scoreboard read: "2011 CALIFORNIA FOOTBALL" with an image of AT&T Park with Cal's logo beneath it.
"AT&T Park provides a perfect bridge for Cal football and the University of California into the 2012 season," Barbour said.
She acknowledged that the Memorial Stadium project to make the venue safer and upgrade it with the addition of premium seating won't be fully complete heading into 2012, but the goal is for Cal to be able to host games again by then while finishing touches are made. Several sports will begin moving out of their offices in the stadium to temporary headquarters in nearby Strawberry Canyon as soon as next week — along with the move of sports medicine and the weight room.
Preliminary work on Memorial Stadium will begin in June, though Cal will still play its home games there this season.
Negotiations between Cal and the Giants took place over the past few months, though the other two venues were still being considered.
Barbour said the ballpark's proximity to Berkeley, with public transportation options, stadium amenities and opportunities for pre- and postgame activities in the city made AT&T Park the "clear choice."
If the Giants make the playoffs in 2011, Cal might have to find an alternative venue for October home games.
Transforming the field from baseball to football and back is about a 24-hour process, though Baer said a more durable Bermuda grass turf will be used.
The Bears still have a couple of open dates to fill for 2011.
"This is the first step to get that finalized," Tedford said.
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