North of Olsen Road, the newest symbols of CLU are a 70-foot clock tower and a 7-foot-2-inch bronze football player. The specially commissioned statue, titled “Heading for the End Zone,” greets visitors to CLU’s new $8.9 million stadium and art gallery.
On Oct. 29, Bill Rolland participated in a Homecoming pre-game ceremony dedicating the construction. A real estate developer and decorated former firefighter from Westlake Village, Rolland contributed $5.45 million to the effort, the largest single gift in University history.
“Coming from a humble background and serving as an L.A. firefighter, I believe in giving back to the community,” Rolland said. “I feel like my passion for building great facilities, higher education, athletics and art have come together perfectly in this new space.”
President Chris Kimball welcomed the William Rolland Stadium and Gallery of Fine Art as marking a new phase in CLU’s history.
“This new facility is more than a stadium and more than an art gallery; it is a centerpiece to all that we want for our students,” Kimball said.
The stadium is already changing the atmosphere on campus. The carillon chimes, songs and call to service that used to emanate from the Pederson Administration Building were silenced one late October day and soon heard again from across Olsen Road, amplified by speakers.
Since the beginning of October, the facility has hosted football games and several Kingsmen and Regals soccer games. The Regals added five victories to a 16-game regular season winning streak on the new field.
By all accounts, Mount Clef Stadium had served CLU as long as it could. The stadium built in 1963 for a fledgling Kingsmen football program and the Dallas Cowboys’ summer training didn’t have outdoor sports lighting or a usable concession stand, and wasn’t up to National Collegiate Athletic Association standards. The Kingsmen football squad earned Division III playoff berths the last two years but lost out on bids to host the games.
Now CLU’s home turf is the same stuff used in National Football League stadiums, which ought to inspire grads at the spring commencement ceremonies it will be hosting.
Seating capacity has gone up from more than 1,500 at Mount Clef to a calculated occupancy of 1,998, according to Valerie Crooks, project manager for this and other new constructions on campus. That’s not counting the portable bleachers for visitors.
The 6,000-square-foot space within Rolland Stadium’s energy-efficient bronze-tinted glass includes coaches’ offices, a press box, meeting rooms, home team locker rooms and, best of all, a bright and roomy art gallery located just past the tall bronze ball carrier.
The William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art may be the country’s only dedicated art gallery inside of a stadium. It initially houses pieces of Rolland’s own extensive and eclectic collection of bronze statuary, paintings and high-performance automobiles.
The collection “is an appreciation of what the human being can accomplish,” Rolland said. In that sense, it’s a wholly appropriate addition to a building that celebrates athletic excellence.
Rolland got started as an art collector in the mid-1950s, buying a 500-pound bronze statue of a boy on an electrical generator by turn-of-the-century German sculptor Hugo Kaufmann. The work, a tribute to Germany’s power industry, spent the war years in a rotunda at Luftwaffe headquarters and was eventually picked up by American troops, Rolland explained.
He sized up the statue and his later acquisitions not only as art but also “by the number of hours, how long it would take the artist to create such a work.” In the case of his bronze sculptures, the oldest of which are from the 18th century, countless hours were spent on a “lost-wax” mold for casting and a “chasing” process for fine details.
Besides bronzes – including some muscular male forms that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor – the collection has Murano glass, oil and watercolor paintings, winning Indianapolis racecars from three eras and such curiosities as a letter penned by Mark Twain.
The gallery contains only a small part of the collection, which Rolland and his longtime companion Kay Green are still assembling. He intends to donate the entire collection to CLU over time.