Date: Nov. 24, 2004
Record crowds attended evangelist Billy Graham's Greater Los Angeles Crusade, held Nov. 18-21 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. More than 1,400 churches representing 100denominations participated in the yearlong preparations, mobilizing over 20,000volunteers from their congregations.
The size of the stadium and potential audience attendance played a strong role in selecting the venue, said Jeff Anderson, spokesman for the Billy Graham Crusade. “We looked at where the best place would be to hold an event of this magnitude, and the Rose Bowl was a great fit for us,” he said.
“The stadium is a great place to have a meeting,” added Anderson. “Billy gives people an opportunity to come down and go forward as he is speaking. “In other tiered multi level venues, we would have to go out and then come back in. But the Rose Bowl, we can easily flow right onto the field.”
Initially, the event was scheduled for the summer, but Graham was injured in a fall in May. “Unfortunately, we had to look for other available dates; we were thrilled that mid-November was available,” Anderson explained. The Bowl meetings drew more than 300,000 over four days.
The Crusade was heavily advertised through outdoor billboards, newspaper, radio, and television. “We also did a lot of advertising pieces that were distributed in mass through the churches we worked with in the area,” said Anderson. “We were very impressed with the broad spectrum of participation involved.”
Local key leaders from the community surveyed the stadium several months ago for all their needs, said Anderson. “It took six months of planning for a facility the size of the Rose Bowl. There is so much involved – everything from staging, the sound, lighting, etc. We had an elaborate team of professionals involved in that,” he said.
Security issues were handled by the stadium and the Pasadena police department. “What really helped to blend the team together was the 600 ushers who helped serve those coming in,” said Anderson.
Parking was a bit of challenge. “The stadium has 20,000 spaces, most of which are on the golf course,” said Anderson. 'It was tough being able to accommodate that. Due to the rain on Sunday, we lost 30 percent of the parking places due to flooding. Parking had to take place in the streets, which was problematic,” he said.
Of the parking issues, Charles Thompson, corporate communications manager of the Rose Bowl responded: “There is no other stadium that has residents that live as close to the venue. There are major challenges in bringing 60,000 to 70,000 people into the Pasadena area. Still, we always notify local residents to make sure they have passes, so they can enter their neighborhood and exit at will.”
With the Crusade event, Thompson worked to encourage the churches throughout Southern California to bus people in. “That greatly assisted us in keeping traffic to a minimum,” he said. “This was a wonderful event and we hope it can happen again in our venue.”
Food and drink was not a predominant issue, noted Thompson. “Since most events took place in the evening, people had the opportunity to eat before they came to the event. We just utilized the basic concession area; there was no need to bring in a greater variety of food.” On Saturday, 6,250 hungry and homeless people attended a VIP tailgate party in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, and were then escorted to special seating for the Crusade meeting.
Interviewed for this story: Charles Thompson, (626) 577-3154; Jeff Anderson, (626) 793-8000