The Yale Bowl is one of the most important landmarks at Yale. But 90 years have passed since it last received extensive renovations. 2004 hopes to be the year that the Yale Bowl finally gets the makeover it so sorely needs.

Spearheaded by collegiate football legend and former Yale head coach Carm Cozza, fund-raising efforts to renovate the Bowl complex have drawn donations from former players, alums and even casual fans. An exact timetable for the renovations is yet to be determined, but all parties involved hope to see the first phase begin this spring with the construction of a decorative fence around the Bowl. Additional renovations in the first phase include restoring the iron gates of the bowl, creating a drainage system and restoring the panels surrounding the Bowl.

Cozza has been the main engine behind the restoration project. Cozza, the winningest coach in Yale football history, retired in 1996 after 32 seasons and now sees the renovation project as a way to keep himself busy in retirement.

“This has been great for me and has helped me keep in touch with my former players,” Cozza said. “It’s been a great journey for me.”

But Cozza’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Other members involved in the project were more than willing to applaud the legendary coach’s role in the process.

“Coach Cozza has been a champion in this effort,” Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said. “He has been tireless in his efforts to communicate with former players about helping with the project — It’s been remarkable.”

Cozza, however, has laid the majority of the credit at the feet of his former charges. Cozza has received $2 million in donations from former players so far.

“My former players have rolled their sleeves up and got after it,” Cozza said.

Harvard, Princeton and Pennsylvania have recently had their stadiums renovated, and many feel that the time has finally come for the Yale Bowl to follow suit.

“Renovations — are overdue and will help recruiting and the image of the [Yale] football program in general,” current head coach of Yale football Jack Siedlecki said. “They will also restore a historical monument that Yale and New Haven can be proud of.”

Dr. Patrick Ruwe, captain of the 1983 football team and president of the Yale Football Association, sees the renovations as restoring the past glory of the Bowl.

“The goal is to make the Bowl once again the pre-eminent showpiece of college football on the East Coast,” Ruwe said. “It’s time for Yale to step up and put us back on top.”

Phase I will cost approximately $7 million, with the total process expected to cost around $30 million. The project has now moved into the hands of the Facilities Office, which will decide on all aspects of the project, like picking the architect and negotiating with the city of New Haven.

After completion of Phase I, future renovations hope to include the creation of “Bulldog Plaza,” which will be home to all the names of former Yale football players, as well as a new scoreboard, upgraded press boxes and a revamped interior seating area.

But Ruwe is quick to reassure the Eli faithful that the renovations will keep the Bowl largely the way it is now.

“We don’t want to take away from the original vision,” Ruwe said. “We just want to enhance it without detracting from the history or the original architect’s design.”

While final renovations will not be completed for some time, the process has given players both past and present cause to reflect on their memories of the Bowl.

“My most vivid memory is of the ’81 Yale-Harvard game,” Ruwe said. “We must have had at least 75,000 people in the stands. They had to add extra bleachers in the end zones. It was amazing to be out there and see the whole Bowl filled.”

Alvin Cowan ’04, 2003 football captain, shared similar sentiments about the Bowl.

“I don’t know that there’s really any memory that can compare to walking down the tunnel on the day of The Game,” he said. “It just doesn’t get any better than seeing the stadium full, with the H and Y painted on the ground, band playing and just knowing that this is as good as it gets.”

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