Stadiums don’t get much more historic than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Host of two Olympic Games, two Super Bowls and the 1959 World Series, the Coliseum could make a strong claim to the title of America’s most storied sporting backdrop.
It’s also true, however, that stadiums don’t get much more rundown than the Coliseum.
It lacks many of the amenities that other top college football programs enjoy, namely luxury suites, adequate restrooms and comfortable seating.
The stadium hosted its first football game in 1923 and it looks every bit of its 88 years of age.
The Coliseum used to be a feared fortress for Trojan football, providing one of the sport’s biggest home field advantages.
In its current state of disrepair, it’s a blight on the university.
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating a move away from the Coliseum.
Tradition is rightfully king in college football and USC should do everything in its power to keep playing at the Coliseum for as long as possible.
The problem, however, is the university’s say in stadium improvements is limited by its current lease agreement.
The Coliseum is jointly owned by the state of California, the county of Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles.
Representatives from each group form the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which runs the stadium’s day-to-day operations, and its track record isn’t pretty.
A February investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed the commission’s former events manager Todd DeStefano had funneled at least $1.7 million in Coliseum event deals to firms he owned.
The investigation also revealed Patrick Lynch, the commission’s former general manager, bought several cars for personal use with the Coliseum’s money.
In the midst of the scandal, finance director Ronald Lederkramer received a $25,000 raise that was later rescinded when the city controller questioned the pay increase.
Finally, this summer brought news that the Coliseum Commission’s cash reserves had fallen from $12 million to $1.6 million in three years’ time, leaving the group unable to pay for $60 million in stadium improvements promised to USC in the two parties’ lease agreement.
The hard truth is that the government can no longer afford to run the Coliseum.
Ignoring the lack of quality concessions and the crumbling seats, the Coliseum Commission instead chose to install a 6,000-square-foot video board this summer, saving roughly $9 million in the process.
So, while you might be stuck eating a lukewarm hot dog on a splintering wooden bench, you can now pass the time between quarters counting the number of dirty blond hairs sprouting out the top of the visor on Lane Kiffin’s massively magnified head.
If you didn’t know any better, the $6-million video board might actually sound like a pretty sizable investment. That’s at least until you hear that the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. is in the middle of a $152-million renovation that will add luxury suites and update antiquated restrooms and concession stands, among other improvements.
The NFL’s proposed move to Los Angeles has ratcheted up interest in the deal between USC and the Coliseum.
If a professional team were to relocate to Los Angeles, a new Downtown stadium wouldn’t be ready to host NFL games for at least a couple of seasons.
The Coliseum and the Rose Bowl would be the top candidates to temporarily house the team, and the city of Los Angeles wouldn’t want to miss out on potential ticket and parking revenue a NFL franchise could bring were it to play in Exposition Park.
Los Angeles city council officials have made it clear that maintaining public control over the stadium is the ideal situation.
There comes a point, however, when a USC takeover of the Coliseum makes financial sense for both parties.
The commission’s financial troubles and a potential NFL move to Los Angeles has given USC a golden opportunity to take over control of the Coliseum.
The university can veto any decision to allow an NFL team to play in the Trojans’ home stadium, which means even if the city can lure a professional team to the Coliseum for two seasons, USC still has the final say.
USC can also take over the master lease of the stadium if the commission is unable to pay for the agreed-upon improvements to the Coliseum.
With total control, the university could make the Coliseum profitable in the long term and implement the changes the aging stadium desperately needs.
Instead of a dreary monument to a glorious past, the Coliseum could once again be a modern, fitting home to one of the nation’s best football programs.
“Sellin’ the Sizzle” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.