Tue, May

If You Renovate It, They Will Come

LEANING RIGHT-The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, colloquially known as just “The Coliseum,” is one of the most beautiful and storied outdoor sports stadiums in the world. It is centrally located and now, more than ever, it is more easily accessible to all Southern California thanks to two recently completed stations of the Metro Exposition Rail Line.

The Coliseum is the first stadium to have hosted the Olympic Games twice, in 1932 and 1984. I remember being in a distant foreign country in 1984 and having to watch the 1984 games in a public bar. I was careful to contain my exuberance as we dominated the summer sports. Overseas it is a case of constant vigilance and always watching your back. 

It has also hosted Super Bowl football games and World Series baseball games. It has been declared a National Historic Landmark and what a beautiful location across the street from the University of Southern California and next to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Exposition Park. In fact, as a kid, I attended The Coliseum for the first baseball game of the former Brooklyn Dodgers when they relocated to Los Angeles in 1958. They left per plan when the beautiful Chavez Ravine was completed. 

The first professional sports team to move to Los Angeles was the Rams. In 1946 the Cleveland Rams was denied a request to move to Los Angeles and to the 92,000 seat Coliseum. A settlement was reached and the team later transferred to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Rams also signed the first Black to play in the NFL, Kenny Washington.   

Of note the 1960 Rams were defined by Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy. They were dubbed the “Fearsome Foursome.” It was a group who restored the on-field luster of the franchise. 

The third professional sports team to trek west was the Minneapolis Lakers who became the Los Angeles Lakers and began playing at the Sports Arena adjoining The Coliseum in 1960.  They were attracted by the weather, the scenic vistas of the snow-covered mountains during the winter, and the growing population base. They departed first for the Fabulous Forum and later for the Staples Center.

Next it was the Los Angeles Raiders. In 1982 the Raiders moved to The Coliseum and played there until 1995 when they returned to Oakland. They missed the rough and tumble and returned to Oakland.  

In the meantime all manner of stuff has been going on here in Los Angeles to get another NFL team. Business groups and city officials intent on getting an NFL team to come to Los Angeles have been competing for years to outshine the Grand Avenue Committee. 

The Grand Avenue Committee has squandered $120-million and a decade in a misguided effort to transform Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue into something resembling the Champs Elysees of Paris. They have nothing to show for it. Grand Avenue ain’t no Champs Elysees.  

Los Angeles politicos have been breathlessly following the efforts of the Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a downtown Stadium of Champs to encourage the return of an NFL team.

AEG has expended money, planning, and much effort to build a downtown Stadium of Champs. They have nothing to show for it. AEG ain’t going to build no Stadium of Champs. 

It seems that for years the Grand Avenue Committee has been trying to out-do AEG and other city politicos. AEG has been trying to out-do the Grand Avenue Committee. Nobody has anything to show. 

The solution has always been right here under our noses. Let USC perform renovations to the Coliseum.   

 The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which has board members drawn from the three ownership interests, provides public oversight of the master lease agreement with USC. Under the lease the University has day-to-day management and operation responsibility for both the Coliseum and Sports Arena. 

The 98-year lease took effect on July 29, 2013 and was signed by the parties on September 5, 2013. The agreement requires the University to; make approximately $100 million in physical improvements to the Coliseum, pay $1 million a year rent to the state of California, maintain the Coliseum’s physical condition at the same standard used on the USC Campus, and assume all financial obligations for the operations and maintenance of the Olympic Coliseum and Sports Arena Complex. 

An NFL team does not define a city but a renovated Coliseum will have a big impact. 

If you renovate it, they will come.


(Kay Martin is an author and a CityWatch contributor. His new book, Along for the Ride, is now available. He can be reached at  kaymartin@hotmail.com)






Vol 11 Issue 85

Pub: Oct 22, 2013