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USC appears close to winning control of Coliseum

LA Memorial Coliseum Trojan game Sept 2011

USC appears to be close to winning substantial control of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which could place day-to-day management of the stadium in private hands.

If successful, the move could help pave the way for USC to invest millions of dollars in improvements to the site.

It could also allow for the Coliseum to be used as a temporary NFL stadium while a downtown site is built, should a team be placed in Los Angeles.

Kristina Raspe, USC associate senior vice president for real estate and asset management, said in a meeting of the state-run California Science Center museum board Wednesday that its negotiations with the Coliseum “are going so well and both parties are working in good faith to move forward with a better relationship that ensures the long-term maintenance, repair and viability of the Coliseum.”

USC had been previously unhappy that the Coliseum could not afford to make tens of millions of dollars in promised improvements to the 88-year-old stadium, whose primary tenant is the school's Trojan football team.

The master lease is opposed by some residents who testified at Wednesday’s meeting of the Coliseum commission, voicing fears that USC would puts its own interests ahead of the public’s in how it made the stadium available to the community.

“You cannot reconcile private interests with public interests,” said Leon Jenkins, president of the L.A. branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

“I don’t think the Coliseum commission has any right to sell something that was built with public funds,” said Pat Hemphill, a neighbor.

Raspe said the university was committed to making the Coliseum available for public use, and several other people testified on USC’s role in funding neighborhood programs.

Elva D. Sandoval, executive director of Kids in Sports, credited the university with its financial support for her program that provides sports programs for local youth.

Bertrand Perdomo, a graduating senior, talked about how USC mentored him and other local middle and high school students in a special academic program that seeks to place talented South L.A. students on the path to USC.

In an interview, Coliseum Commission President David Israel voiced support to give a master lease to USC.

Without such a master lease, and the deep pocket book USC can tap to fund renovations, “within 20 years the Los Angeles Coliseum will be as useful as the Roman Colosseum."

"That’s clear," Israel said. "It needs to be refurbished. It needs to be renovated. It needs those funds to come from somewhere.”

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-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the California Science Center and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Photo: A color guard stands for the national anthem before the game last month between the Syracuse Orangemen and the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

 
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