Updated Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 11:31 PM
PASADENA, Calif. — A small, bronze plaque embedded in the Rose Bowl's concrete wall greets visitors to the legendary stadium.
It is the first thing Darryl Dunn, the stadium's general manager, points to as he walks through, explaining why an ambitious $152 million renovation project has swelled dramatically in both cost and duration.
The plaque stands as a rather humble symbol for uncommon prestige: a spot as a National Historic Landmark.
Three other stadiums in the country share that designation: Harvard Stadium, Yale Bowl and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Walk inside the Rose Bowl, though, and wear and tear is evident.
In one section, the red paint on rows of seats is fading. In another, the concrete is stained with rusty orange-brown streaks.
"What we're trying to do — what we've been doing, not trying — is making the Rose Bowl viable for the future," Dunn said.
That goal has been delayed by fiscal reality. A gap had opened even before construction began, as fears of inflation depressed an initial bond sale that brought in nearly $19 million less than expected.
When the stadium-renovation project began in early 2011, it had a $152 million budget and a three-year, three-phase timeline. The plan bought 30-year lease extensions for both the Tournament of Roses, which hosts the annual Rose Bowl Game, and UCLA's football team, ensuring both tenants will remain in Pasadena through 2042.
Nonetheless, since its inception, the cost of the renovation has climbed to more than $180 million, according to stadium officials. That doesn't include $15 million in originally planned elements that will no longer be built.
The renovation won't be complete until around 2015 — well after the 2014 BCS National Championship Game and the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl Game.
None of that seems to bother Dunn on this particular morning, as the Southern California sun shimmers on grass that is a week old. As Dunn looks out, his voice is dipped in optimism.
"This isn't just a football stadium," he said. "In many ways, it is hallowed ground."
As the Rose Bowl aged, officials feared it would be left behind in the stadium-building rat race — a fate that had snared other venues.
The Orange Bowl, the longtime home of the University of Miami, was demolished in 2008. The Cotton Bowl in Dallas stands, but lost its game three years ago to dazzling Cowboys Stadium, 23 miles west in Arlington, Texas.
If the Rose Bowl hadn't renovated, Dunn fears it might have lost out on the BCS bowl rotation and UCLA home games.
• Southern Methodist (6-6), coached by former Hawaii coach June Jones, plays Fresno State (9-3) on Monday in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu. Jones had a 76-41 record at Hawaii.
• Ex-Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky maintains his innocence and told the Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he is "trying to learn from ... the struggle and circumstances" as he focuses on an appeal of his conviction on child sex-abuse charges.
Sandusky, in a note to the newspaper from his prison cell, wrote "there is much to learn" and said "nobody who covered the case and reported it has the time or took the time to study the allegations ... Justice and fairness were not a focus."
Sandusky, 68, is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison. He was convicted of abusing 10 boys.
MIKE POWELL / GETTY IMAGES
The iconic Rose Bowl, located in Pasadena, Calif., has been the site of 15 construction projects since 1923.