BERKELEY, Calif. — When David Ortega played football for the California Golden Bears from 1986-1989, Memorial Stadium was already more than 60 years old. “It was a big, decent stadium,” said Ortega, “but it had lots of wear and tear.”
The California Athletic Hall of Fame linebacker now works as the director of operations and alumni relations and is a big supporter of the renovations to the stadium. He said the upgrades have been “well-recieved.” More club seats have been added and bigger seats with more legroom have also been constructed. On top of this, the stadium now has many new amenities, such as added bathrooms and concession stands. But the seating capacity of the stadium has been reduced by about 9,000 seats. The plan now, according to Ortega, is to sell seats for more money in exchange for more amenities.
With the renovations close to completion, the Golden Bears are looking to return to Memorial Stadium after a 7-6 season that ended with a hard-fought loss to the Texas Longhorns in the Holiday Bowl. Still, Ortega defended the 2011 team, saying he was satisfied by having a winning season and a bowl berth.
The Bears called AT&T Park in San Francisco home last year because of the ongoing renovations. Ortega described playing at AT&T as playing “basically 13 away games.” He said that working under those circumstances was like having a portable office, and he personally is glad to be back at Memorial Stadium.
Ortega is optimistic about the upcoming football season, especially given the recent addition of linebacker Khairi Fortt, who transferred to Cal from Penn State earlier this week. The incoming junior from Stamford, Conn., was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school and was expected to compete for a starting job in Happy Valley this season.
Fortt told John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle that “[Cal] was actually my first choice, but then I was a little younger, and it was far from home. I was a little afraid of being so far away from home.” Ortega is glad that Fortt finally came to Berkeley. “Anytime you get a good linebacker, it’s great,” he said.
In addition, Ortega said that the Bears’ return to Memorial Stadium should bring both fans and good fortune. “People like coming back to Berkeley. This is our home.”