Community members say they approve USC lease

USC’s quest to obtain management control of the 88-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is long overdue, according to some residents and other members of the community.

The university has been in negotiations with the Coliseum Commission since September, and last week, the commission — the nine-member governing body for the stadium — released a modified lease agreement to the public.

Lease · Community members say they approve of USC gaining managerial control of the Coliseum, but they hope the university will consider public opinion in its decisions. - Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

Under the proposed lease USC would control the Coliseum, Los Angeles Sports Arena and adjacent parking lots for the next four decades.

“They have proven to be of public service — in the neighborhood and in the hospital,” said Joe Essi, a nearby resident. “Wherever they go, people want them there.”

The lease, which requires USC to make annual rent payments of $1 million, will be subject to a vote later this year, possibly as soon as May 2.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for everyone,” said Charmaine Jefferson, executive director for the California African American Museum in nearby Exposition Park. “[USC has] been a fantastic neighbor and a fantastic partner for us — and I believe here in the Coliseum.”

The Coliseum sits just one block south of USC’s campus. The Trojan football team has played at the venue since 1923 and has been the sole tenant since the mid-1990s after the then-Los Angeles Raiders moved to Oakland, Calif.

One concern raised, though, has been event scheduling and whether public events will continue to be held regularly at the venue.

As outlined by the 92-page document, USC could limit the use of the facility for public interest events, which include the annual Fourth of July celebration, to eight per year.

Cornell Ward, a local resident involved with A Better LA, a non-profit group devoted to preventing gang violence started by former USC coach Pete Carroll, raised this concern with the commission during its monthly meeting April 4. Ward specifically asked that the fireworks celebration be allowed to continue — an event put on in recent years by A Better LA.

“I would hope that we can continue to host that event,” Ward said. “It’s been a fabulous event without one incident.”

Last July, 40,000 people attended the event, Ward said.

The school’s pursuit of the master lease has been, perhaps, most enthusiastically greeted by fans of the football team, who remain optimistic that USC can stay true to its word to renovate the stadium.

“The Coliseum needs a lot of improvements from parking to seats to concessions and bathrooms,” said Matthew Lowry, who has lived in Los Angeles for the last 21 years. “The Coliseum Commission has really done a poor job with USC and the Coliseum, and I feel USC needs to get the master leasing in order to make the upgrades needed to satisfy fans, alumni and themselves.”

USC would be required to make those renovations, according to the proposed lease.

Under the outlined provisions, the school must make various upgrades to the stadium by 2021 — the Coliseum’s 100-year anniversary. Those costs have been estimated at $70 million.

“Arizona State is doing something similar in upgrading Sun Devil Stadium and you see the praise it’s getting now,” Lowry said. “Overall, I’m thrilled about this and it brings nothing but good things not only to ’SC, but L.A. as well.”

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