The venues aren't identical, but they could be cousins.

Cal's Memorial Stadium has a sensational view of San Francisco Bay, opened in 1923 and sits atop the Hayward Fault.

Washington's Husky Stadium has a glorious view of Lake Washington, opened for business in 1920 and resides in one of the most seismically active areas of the country.

Both relics needed remodeling, but the schools took different paths to the same end.

Washington is retrofitting Husky Stadium and building an 80,000-square foot football facility for an estimated $250 million.

Cal retrofit Memorial Stadium and added a 140,000-square foot training center for $474 million -- the most expensive facility upgrades in college sports history.

Bears athletic director Sandy Barbour said she had no regrets about the scope or the price tag. She called the stadium renovation a "no brainer" and said of the training center: "We kept the costs incredibly low relative to square footage and the construction site."

Barbour added that the athletic department is using features such as the luxury seats to generate revenue that will help service $445 million in bonded debt.

Critics note that if the Bears had spent less, there wouldn't be as much debt to service.

"I wouldn't put Cal in the same category as Alabama or Michigan," Stanford economist Roger Noll said, referring to the teams' tradition and fan bases. "But their financing plan is more ambitious."

The Bears were forced to spend nearly as much on seismic-related construction ($225 million) as Washington did on its entire project.

But Cal also spent $250 million on amenities, including new weight and locker rooms, offices, luxury seats, concessions and restrooms.

That's more than the entire cost of similar endeavors at Michigan ($226 million), Texas Christian ($164 million) and Alabama ($80 million).

Was the project overly ambitious?

"Good question," said John Wilton, Cal's vice chancellor for finance. "But when you build facilities, you're building for 25 or 30 years."

Cal's project differs from Washington's in more than cost.

The Bears partnered with Stadium Capital Financing Group to create a high-risk financing plan in which fans purchase long-term rights to premium seats. Like a mortgage, payments can be made up front or over time. Unlike a mortgage, there is no penalty for backing out.

The Huskies listened to Stadium Capital's pitch but ultimately opted for a more conventional approach to financing their $200 million in bonded debt: Selling luxury seats on a year-to-year basis.

"We listened to proposals, but (long-term seat rights) wasn't something we wanted to do," athletic director Scott Woodward said. "I met with our donor groups and it didn't suit our sensibilities."

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.