The decrepit seats and decaying walls of the historic Yale Bowl will undergo a multi-million dollar facelift come April.

The renovation project — estimated at $17 million — was approved Wednesday night by the New Haven City Plan Commission after more than five years of University planning. Because the Yale Bowl is one of two Yale buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, University officials said they aim to maintain its traditional appearance but restore its deteriorating facilities.

Among other improvements, the project will replace 19 miles of wooden bleachers, patch the exterior concrete wall, replace the interior concrete wall, and put in new drainage lines that will prevent waste from flowing into the river. Project manager Terry Roye said he hopes the new stadium will be ready for spectators and athletes to enjoy by the fall 2006 football season.

“The basic scope of the project is to restore the character that was once the Yale Bowl,” Roye said.

In order to move forward with the project, Yale drafted a report and submitted its application to the City Planning Commission, which reviewed and unanimously approved it Wednesday night. The commission’s only concern came from local residents who wanted to ensure they could still walk or jog around the bowl, a privilege that Yale has agreed not to take away.

City planning director Karyn Gilvarg said the commission is glad to see the University repairing such a historic facility, although she hopes Yale will eventually renovate some of the ancillary buildings as well. Currently, no work is scheduled to be done on the field, restrooms or concessions areas.

“Yale is being very cautious about how far its current funding will go,” Gilvarg said. “Although they are not there yet, we will be very happy when they attack those other buildings that are highly visible from the street.”

Built in 1914, the football stadium has not been renovated. Athletic Director Thomas Beckett said he is glad the process is finally coming into fruition after several decades of talk about improving the bowl, emphasizing that the project is more a restoration than a renovation.

“After 90 years, the bowl is experiencing a lot of decay,” Beckett said. “It is still a sound structure; it has just fallen into a state of disrepair and needs a face-lift.”

The money for the project will be completely provided by Yale alumni, many of whom are former varsity athletes or loyal fans, Beckett said. Led by former varsity football player Charles Johnson ’54, the class of 1954 donated close to $12 million toward the project.

“That donations of this magnitude have been raised for the project is a testament to the hard work of many people, but also to the respect and admiration with which Carm Cozza, the long-time football coach at Yale, is held by his former athletes and the whole Yale community,” University Provost Andrew Hamilton said.

Head football coach Jack Siedlecki said although the project has a long way to go before completion, he is already excited to experience the upgraded facility.

“It is an exciting time for our players, coaches and fans,” Siedlecki said. “The class of ’54 has certainly been the leader in this project, and everyone associated with Yale football certainly owes them a huge thank you.”

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