Extra Innings: Coliseum renovations don’t harm historicity

Every change is undoubtedly going to be met with supporters and haters. However, it seems as if the ongoing changes to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum have overwhelmingly drawn criticism.

I attended the media tour of the Coliseum renovations on Aug. 15 and was fortunate to see some of the changes USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann eagerly announced. A lot of what I saw and heard interested me — viewing terraces, new seats, better press area, new food options — all of these changes sounded pretty good. But when I wrote the article reporting on these changes, commenters on the Daily Trojan site were not shy about their disapproval.

“Could be worse, although not sure how,” one commenter wrote. “What kind of institution REMOVES 10,000 of the BEST SEATS in the house — forever!”

Growing up in a Michigan suburb, I never had the pleasure of regularly enjoying a historic stadium. Those in Detroit aren’t necessarily recognized as “must-see” stadiums. My relationship with the Coliseum only began last fall when I stepped inside for the first time to watch the USC vs. Western Michigan game last season. I didn’t grow up watching Reggie Bush, OJ Simpson, Matt Leinart or Troy Polamalu tear it up on the Coliseum turf. I didn’t watch “The Comeback.” I wasn’t alive for the two sets of Olympic Games it hosted. The Coliseum’s illustrious past was virtually invisible to me and perhaps that’s why the renovations don’t bother me that much.

Nevertheless, I do recognize that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of the most renowned stadiums in the world. Its name is on the same level as venues like the Rose Bowl, Wrigley Field and Madison Square Garden. After all, how many stadiums have hosted two Olympic Games and two Super Bowls? The answer is only one: the Coliseum. It is USC and the city of Los Angeles’ duty to preserve the history and integrity of this monumental venue. However, that doesn’t mean the stadium should stand stagnant.

First and foremost, there was a lot of hardware that needed to be updated. Electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems all needed to be replaced, and thank God they have improved the Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the stadium. I don’t think any of those changes are being questioned.

However, as mentioned by the commenter, the real point of contention is replacing all the seats. USC football games hardly ever sell out. It’s a hard issue to pick a side on. On one hand, you lose 10,000 prime seats. On the other, you gain a great concourse area with loge areas and suite-style seating.

I stand with USC on this issue. It’s imperative that the Coliseum receives updates, and I think the soon-to-come concourse area and terraces will only enhance fan experience. The Coliseum didn’t lose the Olympic torch, the massive arches or the grand entrance. Those aspects of the venue are essential to its identity and should never be taken away. In the grand scheme of things, the changes to the Coliseum do not affect its historicity. The 10,000 seats lost have a minimal impact on the stadium. I’m willing to sacrifice a few thousand seats if it means improving the fan experience.

However, I still can’t get over the name change. I understand that the naming rights were sold in order to fund the much needed renovations, but unlike a lot of unsponsored stadium names, the name “Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum” has significance. The stadium was first dedicated to the L.A. veterans of World War I, before it was rededicated to include all World War I veterans in 1968. Adding the United Airlines name taints the sanctity of this memorial act. I have no doubt that fans will still refer to the soon-to-be United Airlines Memorial Coliseum as “The Coliseum.” I won’t enjoy seeing the new name plastered on the Coliseum walls.

All in all, I think fans will warm up to the changes. It will take some getting used to, but it’s a small price to pay for the advancements that will renew our beloved Coliseum while preserving its legacy.

Sam Arslanian is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.