A day after Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck defended the organization that oversees the Rose Bowl — and a renovation budget that has ballooned by $40 million — expectations among City Council members about what a pending review should entail appear to be split.
Terry Tornek — the lone City Council member who originally voted against the massive renovation of the Rose Bowl — says all options should be on the table, including assigning oversight of the stadium to another entity.
Focus on the scope of the review intensified after an independent analysis of the project ordered by stadium officials determined that the Rose Bowl Operating Co. made risky decisions and relied on a flawed cost estimate that ultimately led to what was billed as a $152 million renovation ballooning to nearly $195 million.
Councilman Steve Madison, who is calling for an additional third-party review of renovation cost overruns, said he hoped the city would examine the board’s effectiveness and consider whether City Hall should have a more direct role in stadium affairs.
“The review is intended to examine the efficacy of the current governance structure,” Madison said. “Is that model the most effective one, or should we be exploring some sort of consolidation or other economy of scale to save costs, improve efficiency and perhaps have greater oversight by the city?”
But other council members said disbanding the board is not and never was up for discussion.
City Council members asked for a review of stadium governance last month after approving $30 million in new borrowing to cover spiraling costs for the over-budget project. A city official said last week that review would include the option of disbanding the Rose Bowl Operating Co. — an agency appointed by the City Council — so that the city could more directly manage the venue.
On Sunday night, though, Beck issued a statement backing the Rose Bowl Operating Co., saying it has played a “diligent and responsible role in the management of this complex and essential stadium renovation.”
Beck went on to say the review would focus on making the agency more efficient and effective in the future, a sentiment echoed by Councilman Victor Gordo, who is also president of the city-appointed Rose Bowl Operating Co. board of directors.
Gordo added that he and fellow stadium board members had already recommended evaluating how the Rose Bowl is managed, but did so in terms of readying the stadium for future revenue opportunities made possible by the renovations.
Councilman Gene Masuda said he did not intend for the review to include the possibility of disbanding the Rose Bowl Operating Co., but instead to solely focus on renovation cost overruns.
“Getting rid of the Rose Bowl Operating Co., that’s never been the intent,” Masuda said. “It’s not about the RBOC, it’s really about the project. Just trying to work together and make sure that going forward we learn something from it and we do better.”
Madison said officials did not mandate that the report explore doing away with the Rose Bowl Operating Co., but “tell us how this [current] governance structure works, and from that we can each make our own determination about whether we should explore alternatives.”
Madison, whose council district includes the Rose Bowl, wants a new third-party investigation independent of stadium officials “with an unconstrained mandate to run to ground the issues around cost overruns and give an independent assessment,” he said.
Tornek, who ultimately voted in favor of $30 million in new borrowing for the project, said that if the review won’t consider using a management structure other than the Rose Bowl Operating Co., “I don’t know what the point of the review is, then. Everything’s on the table.”
He added that he did not have any preconceived notions of how management of the Rose Bowl should change, but said it was important to leave all options open.
“I just think it’s a healthy thing to do,” Tornek said. “It’s not intended to insult the service of the [Rose Bowl Operating Co.].”
But, he added, “When you have this kind of problem and series of questions being raised, you step back and take a look at problem. There is no sacred cow, and that includes the role of the [Rose Bowl Operating Co.]."
-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News
Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @joepiasecki