Renovations bring needed improvement to Coliseum

The improvements at the Coliseum are set to be completed by the Rams’ first preseason game in late August. Despite looming criticism, USC agreed to a field sponsorship with United Airlines. (Photo by Ling Luo)

Trojan fans will soon be able to enjoy the new and improved Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as its renovation draws to a close.

Exposition Park’s most treasured commodity has undergone many changes over its 96-year history. Today, it resembles a shell of its old self as it proceeds past the latest big change. This most recent upgrade carries a budget of $315 million, some of which USC has received from its 10-year field naming deal with United Airlines.

USC and United agreed that in addition to the airline’s partial funding of the renovation, the Coliseum’s field would be renamed the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The early June compromise came after many local veteran groups opposed the original plan of naming the entire stadium the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. 

The renovation process started back in 2013 when USC took over the Coliseum’s master lease. The lease stipulated a major renovation project for the historic home of Trojan football. On Oct. 29, 2015, USC unveiled a project with a privately funded budget of $270 million for massive restoration of the Coliseum that included dramatic upgrades to the stadium. 

The renovation will decrease the Coliseum’s seating capacity by about 16,000, which will allow for wider seats and increased leg room for spectators. The project will also add cup holders, Wi-Fi, two high-definition video boards, improved stadium and field lighting, and will restore the Coliseum’s peristyle to resemble the original design. 

Ken Mulvey, a Marines veteran and local business owner who now works on construction for the renovation, expressed his appreciation of the project. 

“This is a job I’m proud to be part of,” Mulvey said. “The Coliseum is better than ever. It stands as a memorial to World War I veterans, a community landmark and a great place to watch the Trojans play.”

The Coliseum will also introduce Scholarship Tower — a seven-story structure on the south side of the stadium that will include suites, loge boxes, club seats, a new concourse and a new press box. 

In recent months, because of weather conditions and the substantial work still to be done, concerns arose surrounding whether the stadium’s renovations would be completed by the designated date. However, the stadium is still scheduled to reopen in time for the Los Angeles Rams’ first preseason game on Aug. 24.

In response, the project budget ballooned from its original price tag of $270 million to $315 million to ensure that construction finishes in time. In the last month, the exterior of Scholarship Tower started to take shape, and the majority of the seats have been replaced with new and improved Cardinal Red seating, leaving the old ones to be auctioned as souvenirs for Coliseum faithfuls and offered to USC season ticket holders. 

More than 2,600 employees have been working on the renovation since January 2018 to keep the project moving toward its targeted finish date. The project has employed many local residents and veterans as part of USC and United’s commitment to give back to the Los Angeles community. 

The renovation to the legendary stadium has given hope to many L.A. natives in the job hunt. Because of the project, hundreds of jobs were provided for workers looking for sufficient living wages. 

“We diligently reached out to engage the whole community to participate and to gain the benefits of meaningful careers that pay living wages with benefits,” said Theodora Oyie, senior manager of community engagement for the project’s managing general contractor. 

The Coliseum isn’t just a venue for athletic competition. It’s a tribute to thousands of World War I veterans, and now it’s providing job opportunities for southern Californians eager to work. 

Thanks to the newest Coliseum renovations, the symbolic venue should stand tall on South Figueroa for decades into the future.