USC took another step on Wednesday toward obtaining day-to-day control of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The university, along with the Coliseum Commission, the stadium’s nine-member governing body, released a list of terms outlining modifications to the existing lease, which was enacted in 2008.
The 16-page terms sheet outlines major provisions that would be included in an amended lease. If agreed upon, the term sheet would be transferred into an amended lease document subject to the commission’s vote.
“We are moving toward entering into a long-term master lease with USC, where USC would be the master tenant at the Coliseum and be responsible for operating and maintaining the stadium,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a member of the commission. “In exchange for this long- term lease, USC will be obligated to undertake several tens of millions of dollars in improvements to the stadium that the Coliseum desperately needs.”
Under the proposed list of terms, USC will have the exclusive right to manage the Coliseum, the adjacent Los Angeles Sports Arena, as well as other facilities around Exposition Park. It will also hold first refusal rights to lease the 88-year-old facility and be afforded the opportunity to extend the deal as far as 2054.
In 2007, the university lobbied for control of the publicly-owned venue before eventually agreeing upon the current 25-year lease that stipulates that the university annually gives eight percent of ticket sales and $1.8 million to the commission provided the commission supports upgrades to the stadium.
The commission, however, acknowledged in June it would be unable to make nearly $60 million in necessary renovations, breaking the terms of the original lease, which has led USC to seek day-to-day operational control of the facility.
“Primarily, we believe this facility needs to be improved,” said Tom Sayles, USC’s senior vice president for university relations. “The Coliseum currently has the obligation to make those improvements. We are willing to invest the money to make those improvements.”
Under the released terms, USC will be responsible for completing a list of renovations by the end of 2021. The exact cost is unknown.
“The Coliseum is at a crossroads,” Yaroslavsky said. “We can either make it a functioning, viable venue for athletic events, or we can make it a museum piece. We don’t want this to become like the Roman Colosseum. We want this to be the 21st century Los Angeles Coliseum.”
To help pay for the renovations, the school would be given the option to sell the naming rights of the stadium to a corporate sponsorship provided “Memorial Coliseum” is included in the name.
Under the terms of the master lease, USC can also make the Coliseum available to no more than one NFL team for up to four seasons, and outside of football season, the commission can reserve eight days to hold public events such as graduations or Fourth of July celebrations.
“What we want to make sure is that the public can continue to have access to this venue,” Sayles said. “They would have the right to come in and utilize the facility for a period of time.”
Coliseum Commission Vice President Don Knabe said he was optimistic about successful negotiations between the university and the commission.
“At the end of the day, hopefully we can negotiate the terms that are fair to both, fair to the public and preserve this wonderful facility for many years to come,” Knabe said.