BERKELEY -- It wasn't just another practice Thursday morning for the Cal football team.
"I had goose bumps coming out here," senior running back Isi Sofele said. "I feel like it's my freshman year again. This is better than what I thought. Everything ... wonderful."
The Bears practiced on their home field for the first time since renovation of Memorial Stadium began 21 months ago. Cal opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Nevada.
"Believe it or not, the project team is actually counting it in hours now," said assistant athletic director Bob Milano Jr. "There's nothing that's going to stop us from having a game on Sept. 1."
"It feels like so long since we've been in here, feels like forever," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We always talk about owning our house. It takes on a new meaning when you actually get in your house."
The Bears spent just over an hour on the field, testing its footing and discovering its nuances.
"It feels pretty fast," star receiver Keenan Allen said.
"I felt a lot faster today," Sofele added.
The Bears will hold several more partial practices at Memorial Stadium over the next week before moving in permanently on about Aug. 24. In the meantime, crews will complete concrete work in several areas, including the north tunnel entrance onto the field.
But on game day, Milano promised, everything will be ready. Only a few decorative elements will remain unfinished.
"We're hoping our fans show up and they don't notice things that may not be quite exactly right or completely done," he said.
Bud Turner, beginning his 43rd season working for the football program, was 11 when he saw Cal beat Navy 14-7 as part of a record crowd of 83,000. "The first time I saw this place in '47, it was awesome," said Turner, who works with the Bears' football operations. "Now it's awesomer."
That was essentially the universal sentiment Thursday.
"Some of the workers say their grandfather worked on the original stadium," Milano said. "They do a lot of commercial buildings, and to be part of something that's on television and in the newspaper and in people's hearts every Saturday in the fall is really special."