For over 100 years, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has stood as one of the city’s greatest symbols of sports culture and history.
Adding to its historicity, the building is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Since it opened its doors on May 1, 1923, the Coliseum has played many roles throughout the years, serving as home to much more than just the Trojans football team.
The Coliseum is currently under renovation to prepare for more USC football and the 2028 Summer Olympics. For some, it may be hard to accept the changes coming down the pipeline for the historic venue, including the reduction of the number of seating and expansion of the box suites and press area.
The renovations come with a $270 million price tag, as well as the renaming of the historic building as the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. Nonetheless, it is likely that most fans will continue to call the stadium what they have called it for almost a century: “The Coliseum.”
“When construction is complete, our home field will be the best it’s ever been, for our players, our students and our Trojan fans, and that’s thanks to the contributions from founders and alumni and partners like United Airlines,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann.
When it was opened, the Coliseum was dedicated to the Los Angeles veterans of World War I and rededicated to all veterans in 1968. Five months after opening, the first football game was hosted in the Coliseum on Oct. 6, 1923, featuring a showdown between Pomona College and USC. The Trojans prevailed with a score of 23-7 in front of a crowd of nearly 13,000 people.
Countless other historical matchups have taken place in the Coliseum. In 1946, Kenny Washington and the Los Angeles Rams broke the NFL color barrier in a 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Just three years later, the Coliseum hosted the first contest between the NFL and AFL champions, now known as the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl returned to the Coliseum in 1973 when the Miami Dolphins bested the Washington Redskins 14-7, making the Dolphins the first NFL team to achieve an undefeated season and take home the national title — a record that holds to this day.
On an international scale, the Coliseum has been renowned for hosting not one, but two Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, and plans are already underway for its third in 2028. Many of the stadium’s most iconic features were added to the building for the 1932 Olympics, including the Olympic rings over the entrance and the Olympic Torch, which is now lit during the fourth quarter of USC football games and during the Olympics no matter where they are being held.
Additionally, the seating capacity was raised from what was already one of the largest stadiums in the United States at 75,144 seats to 105,574 seats for the 1932 Games. The famed bronze athlete statues were erected for the 1984 games.
The Coliseum has also hosted countless events in various forms of entertainment. Religious personality Billy Graham’s Southern California Crusade drew in the Coliseum’s all time attendance record of 134,254 people on Sept. 8, 1963.
In 1985, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played four nights in a row at the venue. Eight of the songs performed throughout the stint were recorded and immortalized on their 1986 box set “Live 1975-85” as well as in the “War” music video.
The Coliseum has also hosted more recent musical affairs. The world famous music festival Electric Daisy Carnival was held in the Coliseum from 2008 to 2010 before making its permanent home in Las Vegas. The stadium was also used as a speaking venue for former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1990, and the site of John F. Kennedy’s nomination acceptance speech for president at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
It is easy to tell why Southern Californians have a special affinity for the massive sports arena in USC’s backyard. It has been around for nearly every visitor’s lifetime. For USC students in particular, this stadium is the backdrop for many Trojans’ greatest memories.